:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/> How dangerous is the coronavirus for India? - Fitness Everyday 360!



How dangerous is the coronavirus for India?

"It is reassuring that at the moment there is no evidence of community outbreak," says Balram Bhargava, director of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). He believes Mr. Ghebreyesus's advice is "premature" for India, and it would only "create more fear, more paranoia, and more hype".


But experts are not so sure.

Many of them believe India is also testing below scale because it fears that its under-resourced and uneven public health system could be swamped by patients. India could be buying time to stock up on testing kits and add isolation and hospital beds. "I know mass testing is not a solution, but our testing appears to be too limited. We need to quickly expand to restrict community transmission," K Sujatha Rao, former federal health secretary and author of But Do We Care: India's Health System, told me.

What India can learn from the deadly 1918 flu
On the other hand, say virologists, random, on-demand testing will create panic and completely strain the feeble public health infrastructure. Increased and targeted "sentinel screening" of patients suffering from influenza and diagnoses in hospitals across the country can provide a better idea of whether there is community transmission, they say. "We need focused testing. We cannot do a China or Korea because we simply don't have the capacity," a senior virologist told me.

In many ways, it is all about India trying to battle a pandemic with limited resources. Experts talk about the country's success in defeating polio, combating smallpox, successfully controlling the spread of HIV/Aids, and more recently H1N1 with rigorous surveillance, sharp identification of vulnerable people, targeted intervention, and early engagement with the private sector to prevent disease spread.

Yet, coronavirus is one of the deadliest transmissible viruses in recent history. Every day lost ineffective response means the looming danger of a surge in infections. India spends a paltry 1.28% of its GDP on health care, and that may begin to bite if there's a full-blown outbreak. Partial lockdowns in many cities - shutting schools, colleges, businesses and suspending some rail transport - proves that the government fears that community transmission of the virus might have begun.

India turns trains into isolation wards as COVID-19 cases rise About 20,000 coaches and several stadiums across the country to be modified into medical facilities, officials say.


India has begun converting railway carriages and sports stadiums into isolation wards to deal with an anticipated surge in coronavirus cases.

Indian Railways on Wednesday said work had begun on modifying 20,000 carriages into medical facilities, with each carriage containing 16 beds.


This means that a total of 320,000 patients could be cared for in the "quarantine coaches", a statement from the railways said.

India is a week into a national lockdown, with 1.3 billion people told to stay at home as the country attempts to check the spread of the virus. But there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases this week, with authorities confirming 1,637 infections and 38 deaths.


There are worries that India's beleaguered healthcare system may be overwhelmed with the surge in cases. The country lacks doctors and paramedics as well as critical medical equipment like ventilators to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.


Apart from converting railway coaches, Indian states have also begun converting sports stadiums into quarantine facilities and temporary hospitals, taking a cue from other countries that resorted to similar measures to cope with the huge number of cases.

In New Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium would be converted into a quarantine center to deal with the rising numbers of COVID-19 patients in the city.

Similarly, the Gachibowli stadium in the southern city of Hyderabad that was used to quarantine passengers coming from abroad, will now have a 1,500-bed isolation and treatment center.

Authorities in the remote northeastern state of Assam that has few cases have converted the Sarusajai stadium into a quarantine center with a capacity of approximately 1,000 people.

In the northern city of Chandigarh, a stadium and sports complex was taken over for a completely different purpose. The facilities have been converted into temporary jails to detain those who violate the lockdown, police spokesman Charanjit Singh said.


Operational since March 24, 600 people have been held in the facility, counseled about sanitization and social distancing and let go by the evening, Singh added.

Medical experts say India faces the threat of community transmissions, particularly since hundreds of thousands of migrant workers made long and dangerous journeys back to their home towns and villages, defying the lockdown.

In the eastern state of Jharkhand, as authorities sealed land borders and roads, desperate workers and their families waded and swam through waters near a dam to reach their villages in the neighboring West Bengal state, local official Vijendra Kumar said.

Similar scenes were noticed in the Haryana state a few days ago, where workers took the river route and used rubber tubes and boats to reach their homes in Uttar Pradesh state, local media reported.

Muslims fear backlash of India’s coronavirus fury


Modi government is accused of stoking religious tension to cover up its own errors Tucked into the narrow lanes of New Delhi’s Nizamuddin slum is the global headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, an influential Islamic missionary movement. Last month, thousands of volunteer preachers from across India converged on the site, known as the Markaz, to eat, pray and discuss their work.

When they returned home, the Muslim missionaries were not merely filled with greater zeal. Indian health officials said many were infected with coronavirus, which they spread to families and communities across India — from mountainous Kashmir to the Andaman Islands to Tamil Nadu.

Some 370 of India’s 2,000 confirmed coronavirus cases have been linked to that March meeting in the slums.

This week, New Delhi police sealed the Markaz and ferried hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat loyalists sheltering in the group’s huge dormitories and residents of the neighborhood to hospitals and quarantine facilities. Across India, authorities have raced to trace other participants, some 1,800 of whom are now in quarantine.

"BJP supporters are still thinking of consolidating their support base around the idea of the Muslim as the threatening other"

But the discovery that a Muslim gathering has fuelled India’s coronavirus crisis has sparked outrage among the country’s Hindu majority. Communal tensions are once again on the rise just weeks after the deadliest sectarian riots in decades claimed more than 50 lives in the Indian capital.

“It feels very scary and will add to the demonization of Muslims. It is as if the entire responsibility of this will be put on every Muslim,” said Nazia Erum, author of Mothering a Muslim, a book about religious prejudice at elite Delhi schools.

As India’s economy has slowed in recent years, Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has adopted more strident sectarian rhetoric, repeatedly depicting India’s Muslim minority as an insidious internal threat.

The fallout from the Tablighi Jamaat gathering, which was held despite a local government order banning religious gatherings of more than 200 people, has reinforced that narrative.

“It does seem like the fodder that people were seeking to continue making Muslims somehow accountable, even for something like the coronavirus,” said Ali Khan Mahmudabad, a political science professor at Ashoka University.

“BJP supporters are still thinking of consolidating their support base around the idea of the Muslim as the threatening other.”

Across Asia, religious groups have played an outsized role in spreading coronavirus with many spiritual leaders ignoring diktats to curb large-scale gatherings.

In South Korea, more than half the country’s 10,000 cases stem from mass gatherings held by a quasi-Christian sect in February. Subsequent Korean clusters have been traced to gatherings at smaller churches.

Two of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in Singapore are also linked to churches.


In India’s northern state of Punjab, the coronavirus death of a Sikh preacher, who had attended several large religious functions, has led to the quarantining of thousands of people with whom he and his 19 infected family members had been in contact.

But it is the large-scale meetings of the Tablighi Jamaat, a Sunni organization that preaches a simplified, dogmatic version of Islam, that have emerged as a super-spreader in several countries. 

Malaysian officials said nearly two-thirds of the country’s cases were linked to a four-day Tablighi Jamaat gathering of 16,000 people at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur at the end of February.

In Indonesia, thousands of people traveled to South Sulawesi province for a mass Tablighi Jamaat meeting, which was only called off at the last minute after pressure from local authorities.

Tablighi Jamaat preachers, who had attended a gathering of 150,000 people outside Lahore last month, are believed to have helped spread of the virus across Pakistan.

But it is in India that the role played by Tablighi Jamaat is causing the most concern. Rightwing television channels have called the meeting “criminal” and the participants “suspects”. Hashtags such as #CoronaJihad and #TablighiVirus have trended on social media. 

“These are dangerous people: these lockdown cheats — they have compromised us all,” television anchor Arnab Goswami fulminated on one of India’s most-watched news channels. “We were just winning when they did everything to defeat us.”

As India heads into its second week of a three-week lockdown that is causing particular hardship to the poor, analysts warned the BJP could stoke anti-Muslim sentiment to deflect public anger from the government’s failings in managing the crisis.

“The big fight after the end of the era of COVID is going to be around who did what and how culpable they were,” said Prof Mahmudabad. “Rather than seeing the pandemic as a moment to be used to seek national unity, there is a continuity of showing Muslims as more culpable and more to blame.”


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