Article 1

COVID-19 Pandemic – Surpassing China, India’s Case Trajectory Racing Towards That of Europe!

Dr P.S. Sahni, May 15, 2020

India has crossed 80,000 cases with no peak in sight in the near future after fifty-two days of lockdown; phase IV of lockdown will become effective from 18 May, 2020 onwards. The daily increase of cases even as of today is 5 %; with no hope of reaching under 1% in the foreseeable future. It means that unlike China, Indian health authorities did not do aggressive and adequate testing; so asymptomatic cases could not be detected and the infection continued to spread. Delay in adequate testing raised the number of cases in India; this could have been prevented. India could have just followed the Chinese template of management. Indian Government did not.

China reached its peak of 80,000 cases within 40 days of clampdown (22/23 January – 1 March, 2020). About 20,00,000 tests were conducted in these 40 days. In the next 81 days the daily increase of cases stayed under 1%, nay a fraction of 1%. China continued the lockdown for a total of 77 days. When it lifted the lockdown the daily increase of cases was 0.08%. Thus at a total of 81740 cases on 6 April, the increase was by 62 cases on 7 April!!

After reaching 40,000 cases China doubled to 80,000 in 20 days (Doubling rate 20). India reached 40,000 cases on May 3 and doubled to 80,000 cases in 12 days on May 15. Our daily increase is 5% on 15 May. It is 5 divided by 0.08 or 62.5 times the Chinese growth rate on reaching 80,000 case mark!

China offered help by way of sending medical experts; the Indian Government did not care to accept. The Indian Government all along took solace from the fact that a dozen odd countries mainly in Europe as also the USA were doing worse; whereas comparison should have been between the four Asian countries – more so China, South Korea, India. The Indian Government failed to learn from both the Chinese and South Korean experiences of managing the COVID-19 Pandemic faster and much better with less morbidity and mortality.

[Dr. P. S. Sahni is an independent medico-legal researcher and member of AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA). This article is an extract from the original article.]

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Article 2

New Covid-19 Guidelines: Is India Preparing for Herd Immunity Against Coronavirus?

Prabhash K. Dutta, 11 May 2020

The government (has made a) … subtle change in (its) Covid-19 strategy. The health ministry has now relaxed the norms for the discharge of Covid-19 patients from hospitals if they have mild or moderate symptoms.

Such patients need not be tested for discharge from hospital. Earlier, a coronavirus patient needed to test negative for two consecutive samples taken 24-hour apart to earn a disharge slip. This decision is also linked with shortage of testing kits in the country.

For severe cases – not requiring ICU or oxygen support – the patients could be discharged after one negative test for coronavirus. These patients can now be discharged after 10 days from the onset of Covid-19 symptoms – not from the date of hospitalization – if there has been no fever for three days.

Earlier, no one was to be discharged until doctors were convinced based on test of samples that the patient has recovered from Covid-19.

Discharged patients — under modified norms — are required to follow a 7-day home quarantine/ isolation. Earlier, patients were to be in quarantine/ isolation for 14 days.

This opens up the risk that some of the Covid-19 patients discharged from hospitals may spread the virus to new persons. Since more and more patients are recovering and being discharged every day from hospitals, this strategy is building the case for herd immunity.

Further, parks are being allowed to open in Delhi. They had been shut since March 25. Delhi parks have been the meeting ground for all kinds of social activities for the residents. This decision comes within days of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying people will have to learn to live with coronavirus.

But the biggest of all indications that the government may be preparing the country for herd immunity against novel coronavirus came from the railways. The government has decided to restore train services, though cautiously.

Trains connecting 15 big cities with Delhi are to begin their round-trip from May 12 – five days before the third phase of coronavirus lockdown ends. Cities to be connected include Mumbai, Howrah, Patna, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad – all in states on coronavirus watch.

On Monday, even the guidelines for Shramik Special trains were modified. Now, the train can run to its full berth capacity and also stop at three stations. Earlier, these trains operated on soure-to-destination mode.

(Prabhash K Dutta writes for India Today. This article is an extract from the original article.)

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Article 3

Humans are Not Herds: WHO Thrashes Brutal Arithmetic of Herd Immunity to Beat Coronavirus Pandemic

Countercurrents Collective, May 12, 2020

In the absence of a vaccine, the increasingly discussed idea of beating the coronavirus pandemic through achieving so-called herd immunity could be a disastrous miscalculation, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has warned.

“This is a really dangerous, dangerous calculation,” Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing on Monday.

“Humans are not herds,” Ryan said, warning that applying the same standards to humans “can lead to a very brutal arithmetic which does not put people and life and suffering at the center of that equation.”

He said: “This idea that may be countries that had lax measures and have not done anything will all of a sudden magically reach some herd immunity – and so what if we lose a few old people along the way?”

The term originated from veterinary medicine and initially referred to a concept focusing on the overall health of the population, with little regard to individual animals. The idea is based on a premise that when a large part of the population is immune to an infectious disease, it is less likely to spread to the individuals who are not. However, without a vaccine, that means that most people have to beat the illness to develop such immunity – and the price could be too high.

Herd immunity is only applicable to humans when scientists need to calculate how many individuals should be vaccinated for a society to reach proper herd immunity, Ryan said. The assumption that a large portion of the global population has already been infected and had gone through a mild form of Covid-19 have been proven wrong by preliminary epidemiological studies, he added.

“The proportion of severe clinical illness is actually a higher proportion of all those that have been infected,” Ryan said, warning that the novel coronavirus turned out to be much more “serious” than initially thought.

The WHO official did not call out any state in particular, but his statements were seen as a dig at Sweden and other nations that had been reluctant to impose strict lockdown measures, because local health experts argued that herd immunity could be achieved instead.

The idea of herd immunity remains popular in some U.S. media outlets, with no shortage of articles discussing the concept, and some even calling on state governments to drop all restrictions and push populations to develop natural immunity to the disease in lieu of a vaccine.

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Article 4

Fauci Warns Against Swift Reopening of Economy

Julia Conley

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday agreed that the official death toll from the coronavirus in the United States is likely undercounting the real number of deaths attributable to the virus and warned against a too-rapid reopening of the economy by lawmakers.

Asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during a Senate hearing conducted via video conference if the actual figure was higher than the more than 80,000 Americans listed as having died from Covid-19, Fauci said, “I think you are correct that the number is likely higher. I don’t know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly is higher.”

Sanders noted that some epidemiologists believe the actual number of deaths so far may be as much as 50% higher than the official count, which was 81,805 as of Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center tracker.

Fauci’s testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday coincided with the release of new polling that showed a majority of Americans do not believe the federal government is doing enough to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents surveyed by CNN said the government’s approach will not help the U.S. to avoid a second spike in nationwide cases. The vast majority of the 1,112 people polled said they are either “afraid” or “concerned” about a second wave; just 18% said they were unconcerned.

More than half of the respondents said they did not approve of the federal government’s attempts thus far to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Fauci’s testimony and the new polling came amid an aggressive push by many Republican leaders to send Americans back to work—and to daily life—as quickly as possible, with several GOP-run states threatening to end workers’ unemployment benefits and classify them as voluntarily quitting if they don’t return to their jobs once their industry opens—regardless of whether case numbers in their communities are rising.

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s Labor Department is urging states to help employers report workers who stay home, as Ohio began doing last week.

Fauci told senators that as of now, due to government shutdowns and strict social distancing measures, he believes “we are going in the right direction” in terms of containing the virus, but warned that the progress could be erased if the country attempts to reopen businesses, schools, and public venues too quickly.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control,” Fauci said. “Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to get economic recovery.”

(Julia Conley is staff writer for Common Dreams, a US non-profit news portal.)

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Article 5

Reopening the Economy is a Death Sentence for Workers

Negin Owliaei, May 15, 2020

Every morning for the last two months, I’ve checked the news in my home state of Florida with growing concern.

First came the photos of unemployed people lining up to file for benefits in person, denied access to an overburdened system. Then came the news that only a tiny percentage of unemployment claims were paid out by late April.

Now, barber shops and nail salons are reopening, even as the state saw its deadliest week yet. Altogether, the news paints a horrifying picture of a government cruelly uninterested in protecting human life.

The overwhelming majority of Americans continue to support social distancing and stay at home orders. But right-wing forces across the country are demanding an end to life-saving lockdowns, cheered on by a White House well aware of how devastating the loss of life could be.

The government estimates a death count as high as 3,000 people a day. Despite those horrifying numbers, some states are encouraging employers to report workers who are afraid that returning to their jobs could amount to a death sentence, kicking them off unemployment.

As other countries have shown with far more grace, the alternative isn’t shutting down forever — it’s investing in testing and social safety nets.

Senegal, which has 50 ventilators for its population of 16 million, is building more through 3D printing, all while it trials a $1 testing kit. The world took note of South Korea’s quick and vigorous testing system. Countries across Europe have relied on existing social safety nets to prevent the mass layoffs we’ve seen here in the U.S.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo provided necessary perspective: “We know how to bring the economy back to life,” he said. “What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.”

By contrast, the Trump administration’s callousness has become more evident than ever.

Experts have been sidelined in favor of fumbling volunteers from private equity and venture capital firms, who botched the procurement of medical supplies. And when Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act, it was to force meatpacking workers — who are mostly Latinx and Black — to work through unsafe conditions at the very plants that have emerged as outbreak hotspots.

Indeed, those demographics may help explain the government’s willingness to risk lives.

It seems like no coincidence that the far-right pushback became stronger as evidence mounted showing the virus disproportionately killing already marginalized people of color, especially black Americans. And it was hard to miss the Nazi slogan prominently displayed at a “re-open” protest in Illinois, or the Confederate flags featured as far north as Wisconsin.

Government disregard for vulnerable lives is hardly new. Who can forget the New Orleans residents stranded on their rooftops after Hurricane Katrina? Or the disabled New Yorkers left stranded for days after Hurricane Sandy?

Every level of the U.S. government has shown, time and again, that the default setting is to leave the vulnerable behind. But Americans themselves are challenging that approach.

Workers at General Electric protested to switch production to ventilators, a move that could save jobs and lives. Teachers have promised more strikes if schools open against medical advice.

Nurses, in addition to treating the sick, have faced “re-open” protesters head on. And they’ve stood outside the White House, reading the names of their colleagues killed by government inaction and demanding more protections.

Add these actions to the wave of strikes and sickouts from essential workers across the country, and a clear picture emerges: The wealthy may be fine with sacrificing the vulnerable. But workers understand the sanctity of human life, and will fight for it.

(Negin Owliaei is a co-editor and researcher at IPS’s Inequality.org.)

Courtesy Janata Weekly