NEWS
17/03/2020 7:01 PM IST | Updated 23/03/2020 8:58 AM IST

Coronavirus: India Could Be Making Same Grave Mistake As US

“Community transmission of the coronavirus is everywhere you look.”

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Airline passengers wearing masks at Mumbai airport on Monday.

NEW DELHI — While the Indian government has amped up efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus across India, concerns are still being raised about the limited number of tests being conducted. For a country with a population of 1.3 billion, the number of reported COVID-19 cases — 126 at the time of publication  — is significantly low.

HuffPost India asked Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the John’s Hopkins Center for Health Security, about the lessons to be learnt from the spread of coronavirus in the United States—over 4,000 people have been infected in the country and more than 60 have died. Adalja has been a part of various US government panels responsible for developing guidelines to fight several infectious diseases and emergency outbreaks.

Edited excerpts:

As of now, India is only testing people who are returning from international travel and the people they have come in contact with. Do you think that is adequate?

This infection should no longer be considered a travel-related condition anywhere in the world. It has been spreading since at least November in China, so there are unrecognised chains of transmission in every country by now.

What mistakes did countries like the US make and India should ideally try avoiding?

The United States’s major mistake was framing this as a travel-related infection and artificially limiting testing protocols to those who travelled to China. Widespread testing is what is necessary to identify cases, connect them to care, or self-isolate them.

So what should India be doing? What are the chances of community transmission?

There is a community transmission everywhere you look. Testing should not be restricted to just travellers. It should be based on symptoms that are consistent with coronavirus irrespective of travel.

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Patients are being tested only at some government hospitals. When should privately owned hospitals be allowed to test?

I do think that privately owned hospital should be authorised for Immediately. There should really be no barriers to testing

Does every patient need to be isolated in a hospital?

Not every patient needs to be isolated in the hospital. In fact, the majority of patients do not need to be hospitalised, they can be self-isolated at home.

Does every patient need a ventilator?

No, it is indeed a very small fraction that needs a ventilator.

There has been some assumptions and messages that claim that a vegetarian diet is more effective in fortifying the body against the virus. Is there any logic to support such a claim?

No.

Can the disease be treated with Ayurveda or homeopathic medication?

No.