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India Coronavirus Dispatch: Many take loans to buy food as incomes dip

60% of Karnataka cases in came August, spurt in Kerala numbers after lull, and Why people are hesitant to admit infection--news on how India is coping with the virus

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | healthcare

Shreegireesh Jalihal  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Shutterstock
On September 1, however, Kerala had 76,525 confirmed cases, 31% of which are active. Photo: Shutterstock

Incomes dip: People in areas like UP’s Sonbhadra district have been skipping meals to compensate for the extreme decline in incomes since the pandemic hit. Many of them are availing loans just to be able to buy food. These families were among those surveyed to find out the impact of lockdowns and the relief, if any, they got from the government’s stimulus package. About 68 per cent of the respondents have reported a fall in their incomes. Economic distress, the report says, has become a reality across states and sectors. Farmers are complaining about low prices and markets being shut, while shipowners rue slowing businesses and daily wage earners say they haven’t had any income in months. About 20 per cent of the respondents said they had to resort to selling durables so they could afford food. Read more here.

The story: By April-end, had only a couple of dozen active cases and barely 500 new cases since 30 January. The state had claimed to have flattened the curve even while the rest of the country was seeing a steady surge in cases. On September 1, however, had 76,525 confirmed cases, 31% of which are active. The proportion of active cases is higher than that seen in Maharashtra. Among the major reasons for this ‘new spurt’ is the fact that the state has ramped up testing by large numbers. Secondly, most of the cases early on in the pandemic were those with travel history and their primary contacts. By September, travel history cases accounted for only 19 per cent of the total cases as the pandemic shifted largely to local transmission mode. Another phenomenon the state has seen is of cluster transmissions. Further, Kerala’s famed grassroots level administration lowered its guard even as the pandemic marched forward. Read more here.

In Numbers

60% of Karnataka’s cases in August: is among the seven states that have accounted for 70 per cent of the country’s total caseload. The state’s caseload is at 11.27 per cent of the country’s. The startling fact, however, is that over 60 per cent of the state’s cases and nearly 57 per cent of its fatalities were reported in August alone. The state witnessed a four-fold spike in cases in April and a six-fold one in May compared to the 101 cases it reported in March. The number of cases have been growing steadily since June. Since May 24, the state has had a doubling rate averaging at three days. It’s the state’s capital, Bengaluru that has been driving the pandemic in the state. Read more here.


Why people are hesitant to admit infection: A pattern witnessed across the world is that people wait hours and in some cases days to inform others that they have tested positive for the virus. In the case of the pandemic, this is crucial time lost as people who may have been in contact with them remain unaware of the risk. One reason for this behaviour, experts suggest, is that it’s an emotional diagnosis and not just a medical one. Patients display a wide range of emotions from shock and disbelief to anger and guilt. To add the emotional turmoil that most undergo is the fear of judgement. The fact that the pandemic is being discussed heavily in public fora adds to a sense of shame since it’s mostly understood that contracting the infection means the person let their guard down and in the process endangered other lives with their own carelessness. For many patients, financial implications add to their worries and they could actually retreat into a temporary state of denial as a means of escaping stark reality. Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

Mask study: Experts have been studying the use of masks in the battle against Covid-19 for quite some time now. A study has since established that fitted, multi-layered N95 masks without valves are the most effective. All the past research on face masks only looked at the effectiveness of the mask from the perspective of the individual wearing it and not from one that looks at community safety at large. Gaiter masks — the kind that are worn by joggers — are the least effective since they are porous. The study also found wrapping your face with a bandana is not very effective in dealing with the virus. Apart from the N95 mask, the three-layer surgical mask, cotton/polypropylene masks and two-layer polypropylene apron masks also performed relatively well. For non-professionals, however, a two-layered cloth mask works well enough. Read more here.

How safe is your hand sanitiser? India still does not have a database on spurious hand sanitisers despite other countries having done it. A recent Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) report should as an alarm bell. 59 of the 122 samples picked up by CGSI did not meet the standards mentioned on their labels. Further, 5 of them were found to contain methanol which is not an acceptable ingredient for a hand sanitiser. Further, the columnist points out that the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) website has ‘hardly any’ guidelines on the composition of a hand sanitiser. The fact that the business has now become lucrative and many people have taken a plunge into manufacturing and distributing sanitisers, it’s time to set the record straight for what is good quality hand sanitiser and what is not. Read more here.

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First Published: Thu, September 03 2020. 15:08 IST