Masks, testing, healthcare capacity should be focus areas in coming months

Five months after it commenced its global run, total coronavirus cases reported have crossed one crore and deaths five lakh. The rare combination of infectiousness and deadliness has forced world nations to lock down and unveil social distancing measures. Nearly 5,000 people have died every 24 hours in June, equating to 196 people per hour or one person every 18 seconds, with one-third of the deaths being reported from the US. Yet there is some cause for relief with deaths slowing down a bit, thanks to more hospital beds, know-how on how to treat the symptoms of respiratory distress, and reduction in the median age of those contracting the disease.

The story of the coronavirus pandemic is also one of economic recession as trade, commerce, recreation and travel have slumped. Countries are now opening up fully aware that they could trigger further waves of infection. But not doing so could impose a staggering economic toll for years, leaving younger people greatly disadvantaged. Health experts repeatedly emphasise the wearing of masks. But politicians aren’t helping. Brazilian populist Jair Bolsonaro is appealing a court order directing him to wear a mask, while his US counterpart Donald Trump’s defiance on wearing a mask highlights the poor quality of leadership during the pandemic.

An Oxford University study has revealed that countries testing over 100 samples for every positive case — like Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Cuba, Myanmar and Austria — have been successful in bending the epidemic curve. India, in contrast, is at a minimal 12 tests per confirmed case — raising the possibility of many cases going undetected and spreading the virus. Scaling up of testing, improved access to hospitals, and results from several ongoing clinical trials will slow down both fatalities and cases in coming weeks and months.

Read also: Covid-19: Single-day spike of 19,459 cases takes India’s tally to 5,48,318

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