Coronavirus Briefing Newsletter – Times of India

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THE COUNT
  • India’s health ministry has confirmed 207,615 Covid-19 cases (101,497 active cases) and 5,815 fatalities. 8,909 fresh cases were recorded on Tuesday.
  • Fatalities across the world are 380,331 (over 6.38 million infections).

The numbers are as of Wednesday, 12:30 pm IST. Check out the latest data here

TODAY’S TAKE
Rural India’s slippery slope
Rural India’s slippery slope
In Rajasthan, rural areas now have more confirmed cases of Covid-19 than urban centres, reports Times of India. In the districts of Jaisalmer, Jalore and Dungarpur, over 90% of the reported cases were from the rural areas; in Rajsamand, Banswara, Barmer and Dholpur, over 80%; and in Sirohi, Jhunjhunu, Churu and Sikar, over 70%. In Bihar, the districts of Madhubani, Bhagalpur and Rohtas have nearly 200 cases each; Patna has reported 261 till date. Of the 3,872 confirmed cases in the state, 2,743 are migrants who have returned after May 3. In Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, a tri-junction that has been the conduit for migrant travel, 261 cases have been reported.

This surge in cases in rural India is only going to get worse, this projection shows, as migrant labourers who were forced to stay put in India’s urban centres without pay or a safety net return home. While urban India accounts for around 90% of all infections today, rural areas will account for as much as 15% of all infections within a month, and 26% by the end of July, the report says. This even as there is only one primary health care centre for every 64,800 persons.

Yet, despite the grim projections and the poor state of the healthcare system, some states are easing the quarantine criteria. Bihar on Tuesday decided not to quarantine or register its migrants returning home. The state has till date quarantined around 130,000 returning migrants in 5,000-odd centres, but these facilities will be closed after June 15, reports the Indian Express. The decision contradicts the advisory the central government issued last week highlighting the rise in cases in 145 Indian districts, mostly rural, saying these could emerge as the epicentres of the outbreak if effective containment measures are not undertaken.

But the expectations of the advisories don’t meet the realities of states with systemic deficiencies in healthcare. Add to this the societal pressure of financially supporting these returnees or offer them employment — the lack of which originally caused the migration to urban centres — or the very least ensure they reach home to their families, rural India is caught between a rock and a hard place.

TELL ME ONE THING
A humidity factor
A humidity factor
  • A study conducted in Sydney during the early epidemic stage of Covid-19 has found an association between lower humidity and an increase in locally acquired positive cases. The research led by Professor Michael Ward, an epidemiologist in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, and two researchers from Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai, China, is the first peer-reviewed study of a relationship between climate and Covid-19 in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • “When the humidity is lower, the air is drier and it makes the aerosols smaller,” explained Ward. “When you sneeze and cough those smaller infectious aerosols can stay suspended in the air for longer. That increases the exposure for other people. When the air is humid and the aerosols are larger and heavier, they fall and hit surfaces quicker.”
  • The team studied 749 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 — mostly in the Greater Sydney area of the state of New South Wales — between February 26 and March 31. The team matched the patients’ postcodes with the nearest weather observation station and studied the rainfall, temperature and humidity for the period January to March 2020. And the study found a 1% decrease in humidity could increase the number of Covid-19 cases by 6%.
  • Previous research has identified a link between climate and occurrence of SARS cases in Hong Kong and China, and MERS cases in Saudi Arabia, and a recent study on the Covid-19 outbreak in China found an association between transmission and daily temperature and relative humidity.
  • “The pandemic in China, Europe and North America happened in winter” Ward said. “When it comes to climate, we found that lower humidity is the main driver here [in the Southern Hemisphere], rather than colder temperatures. It means we may see an increased risk in winter here, when we have a drop in humidity. But in the Northern Hemisphere, in areas with lower humidity or during periods when humidity drops, there might be a risk even during the summer months. So vigilance must be maintained.”
STAY SAFE
Repeat! Stay 6 ft apart and wear a face covering
Might sound like a broken record, but that’s the latest advice based on the “most comprehensive study to date”, which found that physical distance and the use of a mask were the two best ways to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus. The review of various published studies, paid for by the WHO, had three main findings:

Infographic

Source: The Lancet

  • Physical distancing: The chance of transmission at a distance of less than 1 m (3.3 ft) was 12.8%, while that fell to 2.6% at a distance of more than 1 m (3.3 ft). Distances of 2 m (6.6 ft) are most effective. The certainty of the evidence was “moderate”.
  • Face masks: The chance of transmission without a face mask or respirator (like an N95 mask) was 17.4%, while that fell to 3.1% when a mask was worn. However, the certainty of the evidence was “low”.
  • Eye protection: The chance of transmission without eye protection was put at 16%, compared with 5.5% with some form of eye protection as a face shield, visor, goggles or glasses. Again, the certainty of the evidence was “low”.
TIME TO CALL
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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