‘Don’t bank on summer, remain alert’ - Govt.in - Telling the truth- always!

‘Don’t bank on summer, remain alert’

WHO special envoy for Covid-19 David Nabarro tells TOI testing is key to fightingcoronavirus, but adds that India is doing the right thing by using the lockdown period to enhance its capacity to break the chain of transmission. Excerpts:
Q: Do you think the onset of summer will slow the spread of novel coronavirus in India?
A: I hope so. This is a new virus. It’s only 4 months’ old and we are learning as we go. And there has been transmission in countries like Singapore. We don’t think there will be an absolute reduction in transmission intensity. India’s heat is dry. It may be that transmission intensity will be less and interruption easier. But we can’t assume it will be easier for India. We have to make sure that alertness for Covid-19 is established across the country during this period of lockdown.
Q: India is testing very few people compared to South Korea and Germany. Does this help?
A: WHO’s point is that this is a fight against a virus and it’s quite hard to fight an unseen enemy…if you don’t have tests to tell you who is infected. And so WHO does say that testing is a key part of the strategy to fight Covid-19. But if you got to ramp up testing, there are three important things. First is the test…for virus and not antibodies. Second is the protocol for how the tests are going to be used. And then you got to have people ready to administer the tests in ways that are safe for them and for people coming to be tested. The point is that you could very easily attract people with Covid to a test centre and they could infect the workers and each other. We are basically saying get the system right. And I think the strategy is correct. That the lockdown period is being used to put in place all that’s necessary, including building local capacity, to ensure that those with symptoms can get a test done. This is not a simple process given the size of India and complexities involved.
Q: India says ‘sporadic’ cases of Covid-infected not knowing how he/she got it but not enough to be described as community spread. Correct assessment?
A: Difficult to say that but as somebody who has done this sort of work earlier, the most important thing is to detect these outbreaks early…when you have chains of transmission you can identify. From what I’m hearing, there has been early work in India to identify these chains of transmission. India is on an important cusp of still being able to find chains of transmission before widespread community spread occurs. Prevention of the emergence of widespread community transmission, and suppression of outbreaks as they begin, through a high state of alertness is the way to go about it. India seems to have learnt from European countries and I’m pleased it’s giving top priority to it
Q: How long before India can think in terms of easing the lockdown?
A: I saw the photographs (of people returning home). I don’t know but I’ll say the following. Locking down early when you have only a few cases and using it to become Covid-ready across the country is a very skilful strategy. If you can get it right, it will reduce the period of lockdown. If you lock down late and don’t have the capacity to interrupt transmission, then the lockdown will go on longer. I’m hopeful that this strategy will lead to the shortest possible lockdown. The protection of the vulnerable people is a very important part of the lockdown management and I am seeing signs that this thought is there in the minds of those concerned. The solidarity of Indian people that I know exists will hopefully help India demonstrate the ability to resist big outbreaks and damages that might have occurred if things had been done slowly.
Q: How do you look at the criticism WHO has been facing for allegedly giving a long rope to China?
A: I am an independent person asked to act as an envoy. I prefer to look forward. There are many people looking backwards but I focus on the health of individuals, economy and society.

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