Despite a million confirmed cases, the third-highest in the world, the government of India denies community transmission of coronavirus. COVID-19 cases cross 12 lakhs in India and the government to date reconfirms ‘’no community spread’’.
No Community Transmission of Coronavirus
The Health Ministry has ruled out the possibility of community transmission amid the confusion. However, it confirmed localized transmission, as there have been clusters of cases in several states. Rajesh Bhushan, the officer on special duty in the health ministry, explained that the WHO gives its member states the liberty to define the stage of community transmission. The Health Ministry adds that 80% of the cases are from 49 out of 733 districts which makes the discussion of community transmission unjustified.
The scientists believe that the confusion about the community spread is absurd when more than 12 lakh people have got the infection. Shahid Jameel, a virologist, and chief executive of Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance which funds health research in India highlight that it is better, to be honest in science-related matters. Further, he added that India’s situation isn’t that bad compared to its population size. However, not confirming the community spread of the virus is not helping in any way.
Opposition Asks Government to Accept COVID-19 Community Spread in India
Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said that the government needs to ramp up testing. Explaining the community spread, he said that the virus is in the community spread phase as officials are unable to identify the source of infection. He further said that the government must accept this fact and subsequently make arrangements for testing kits. Singh mentioned the testing capacity of India that is 9000 to 10000 per million, which is not enough to handle the situation.
Responding to this, Delhi BJP general-secretary Rajesh Bhatia alleged the AAP government for running away from its responsibility. Further, he added that the COVID situation slipped out of the state government’s hand and was bought under control by Union Home Minister.
Denying Community Spread Affects the Economy
Community spread of a virus occurs when a COVID positive patient has not been in contact with another COVID patient. In other words, it is nearly unfeasible to trace the virus.
Balram Bhargava, director-general of ICMR reported on 11th June that India is not in the community transmission stage. Some states, including Kerela, West Bengal, and Goa have confirmed community spread in some pockets of the state. On the other hand, Karnataka has denied attributing the latest spike in cases to the community spread. The Centre has not yet confirmed community transmission. Health experts say that admitting community transmission makes policymakers uncomfortable. However, this should not be the case. The quarantine and isolate strategies will remain in place as the virus advances. Along with this, the government will need to focus on aggressive testing and campaigns for making people aware of mask use and hygiene.
What if Community Transmission?
The onset of community transmission will not require the government to change any containment efforts. It will continue to focus on encouraging behavioural changes along with contact tracing and testing. However, there is a need to utilize the limited healthcare resources optimally. The authorities should deliver a clear message of hospitalizing the severe COVID cases. The ones with mild symptoms can recover at isolation at home. Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist at Christian Medical College, Vellore said that the process would prevent the sensitive COVID cases falling from cracks. He added that the government must move on with imposing lockdown in the clusters of COVID-19.
Much Needed Transparency
The government’s second last briefing about the COVID situation was on June 11. That is almost after one month on July 9 that the government addressed media. This depicts a lack of transparency in the proceedings of the government. Moreover, the ICMR did not reveal details of the serosurvey conducted in April based on which it declared of no community transmission. There have been some cases where people refuse to seek care due to quarantine confusion, thereby creating hostility among the public.
In all, transparency in the COVID figures is the key to establish trust between the government and the public. As experts say, nothing needs to be changed in community transmission. The government can continue to follow the same procedure of testing, isolating, and tracing to contain the spread. Then why is this reluctance of not admitting the community transmission?