We must be optimistic in times of distress. As the world struggles to contain the novel coronavirus, do we have any other choice?
Some would say that comfort must be sought in the projected numbers of improving recovery rate. The Union Health Ministry has been reminding us that India is doing better, which is meant to spread hope.
The national average is 63.02 per cent, suggesting that the virus can be tamed with timely intervention. One may add those who aren’t elderly or don’t have co-morbidities should feel even more secure. Others belonging to high-risk groups should be less uneasy.
The news for Assam, Tripura and Mizoram seems more reassuring. Assam has recorded a recovery rate of 64.87 per cent, Tripura 69.18 per cent and Mizoram 64.94 per cent. However, these numbers must not generate complacency among those who have been circumspect all this while.
What is of significant concern is that the RO value of Covid-19 is unclear. Early studies suggest that its value is between two and three per cent, the implication being that one infected person can transmit the virus to that many people. A specific answer, however, seems some distance away. That is the real worry.
The notion of recovery rate makes sense only if we are somewhat sure that the rate of testing has generated meaningful conclusions. The United States, the worst-hit nation, has reportedly conducted 130,645 tests per one million of its population. That explains why any stats of recovery rate in the United States can suggest whether or not the impact of the virus is on the decline.
India, on the other hand, has reportedly conducted 8,552 tests per one million of its population. That is woefully insufficient. Even a middle-school kid can infer that such a pathetic rate of testing will result in senseless data of recovery rate.
Neither the establishment nor the healthcare system should be made to shoulder the entire blame for the low rate of testing though.
It is true that the resources needed to carry out quick tests aren’t available in every nook and cranny. When reasonably privileged individuals with symptoms are frequently unable to get timely reports, expecting the same for the average person is hoping for a miracle.
The bigger problem, however, is that a sizeable percentage of India’s population hasn’t understood the importance of precautions. The sight of people roaming the streets without masks in areas where there is no lockdown is common. Social distancing goes for a toss repeatedly. There is overconfidence in the air, which can be a silent killer.
The media has been reporting on unsupervised places that are witnessing the assembly of people for whom the establishment’s advice and personal health do not matter. Covid-infected individuals must be part of many such gatherings. Are they spreading the virus? They are.
Clinical trials to find a solution that can tame the virus are being conducted worldwide. However, science cannot conjure miracles as godmen pretend they can. Finding foolproof rational answers takes time.
As India battles a dreaded novelty, what it desperately needs is a much higher rate of testing. Besides, we also need far better social behaviour. Until that happens, let us not take the well-marketed facts of improving recovery rate with the kind of seriousness it ‘doesn’t’ deserve.