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India Coronavirus Dispatch: Stigma is the main worry for Dharavi residents

Trauma of a JEE aspirant, how erratic weather is confusing Karnataka medics, citizens' woes as Vasco becomes Goa's first containment zone--news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Lockdown

Shreegireesh Jalihal  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Shutterstock

An exam amid pandemic: This story follows the life of a JEE aspirant as he prepares to appear for the ‘most important exam’ of his life. Students across the nation were unhappy with the government’s decision to go ahead with entrance tests during the crisis and their anger only grew after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of holding the exams in under four minutes of the hearing. Repeated rescheduling and looming uncertainty made the situation even more stressful for students. The aspirant, hailing from a lower middle class family, found the lack of arrangements especially jarring as the family had to arrange for private transport which came at a huge cost. For him, as for thousands of aspirants around the country, the JEE journey has been one characterised by turmoil for reasons entirely out of their control. Read more here

Dharavi’s woes: Residents of Mumbai’s are not really concerned about the ‘model’. The people are now worried about job loss, shortage of basic necessities and hunger. This, they say, is not just a fallout of the pandemic but also caused by stigma — of being a resident of amid pandemic. Women from the area who previously worked as domestic helps for Mumbai’s affluent residents are now finding it incredibly difficult to land a job. This experience was echoed by other residents, albeit in different settings. Factory workers, for example, were not allowed to join their workplaces even as colleagues from other areas went back to work. Even Dharavi’s in-house businesses like Kumbharwada, or pottery industry, have been shut. This is the irony of ‘Dharavi Model’ — something that’s hailed across the world even as the people at the centre of the story are shunned by most of it. Read more here

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Confusion in Karnataka: Karnataka is seeing a spell of fluctuating weather conditions and intermittent rainfall. This has led to a rise in viral illnesses across the state. But since the symptoms of a normal flu overlap those seen in Covid-19, this is causing much confusion in the state. This becomes especially serious when people resort to self-medication assuming they're suffering from common cold and cough, which then leads to late reporting of Covid-19. If the virus is discovered too late, doctors can no longer manage the situation. Symptoms like gastrointestinal issues and a complete loss of sense of smell and taste can help distinguish Covid-19 from commonplace illnesses, say some experts. Taking personal care during the monsoon season, therefore, has become doubly important now. Read more here

Stigma in Goa: Residents from Goa’s Vasco are finding themselves discriminated against by people from other parts of the state as the city emerged the state’s first containment zone. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this stigmatisation of Vasco-dwellers has seeped deep into the Goan psyche. This took an ugly turn for some Goans as they were also refused treatment by doctors at the Goa Medical College. This behaviour, the columnist argues, has been noted in past outbreaks as well. This stigmatisation is akin to the behaviour meted out to HIV-positive patients as well. Containing a viral outbreak, experts argue, is a task that can be undertaken effectively by governments. However, the burden falls squarely on the public and especially those who live in poor housing conditions and are thus more susceptible to infection. As a port town, Vasco is known for hosting a wide range of migrants and was the target of state intervention for contains HIV spread as well. Read more here

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Unknowns exceed the knowns: Even today, experts admit, unknowns about the virus exceed the knowns. Further, they say, that uncertainties about the efficacy of vaccines still loom large over the medical fraternity. They say that combatting the pandemic will be possible when a complete understanding of the virus, including its epidemiological and clinical dimensions are arrived at. Till date the duration of immunity persistence against Covid-19 remains unknown. It has been assumed so far that vaccines are the way ahead in battling the virus. However, this assumption can be tested only a few months after the vaccine has been used on different populations. Further, they note the fact that the pandemic has hampered the progress towards Millennium Development Goals which aimed at halting the spread of other diseases such as HIV/AIDs and Tuberculosis. Read more here

On vaccines: Although many vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, have yet to clear the phase 3 clinical trials, it seems like we will soon have multiple vaccines to choose from. It’s also important to understand what each vaccine’s objectives are and what our need is. Among different aims of a Covid vaccine are preventing the disease, cutting the transmission rate and also protecting a vulnerable section of the population. No vaccine should try to achieve all these objectives and the successful vaccines will be able to achieve only some of them. Which endpoint is desirable varies according to region and demography. An effective vaccine with a lower safety profile might be suited for a largely young population like that of India’s while this could be devastating for the ageing populations in the West. To understand the efficacy and need for a particular type of vaccine, it’s also extremely necessary that the trials are ethnically and racially representative of the local population. Read more here

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First Published: Mon, September 07 2020. 15:37 IST