On April 2, the number of novel coronavirus (SARSCoV-2) infections in 181 countries/regions crossed one million, and deaths passed 50,000.
On April 3, the total number of cases and deaths stood at 10,39,166 and 55,092, respectively.
With 2,45,646 cases, the U.S. accounts for 24% of the global total, while Italy, with 13,915 deaths, has over 26% of total mortality.
Four countries — the U.S., Italy, Spain and Germany — have more cases reported than China.
The exponential increase becomes striking considering that the time taken to report 1,00,000 more cases has been reducing.
If it took 12 days to double to 2,00,000, it took just three days each to cross 0.3 and 0.4 million.
Thereafter, 0.1 million more cases have been reported every two days except on two occasions — the increase from 0.6 million to 0.7 million and 0.9 million to 1 million happened in a single day.
The main limiting factor in knowing the true spread has been the restricted number of tests done in most countries, India included.
The Washington Post, as on March 28, only 2,250 tests per million were performed, which is twothirds of what South Korea did three weeks earlier.
Most countries have not made attempts to test those who do not showsymptoms.
There is accumulating evidence suggesting that a “substantial fraction” of people infected with the virus are asymptomatic.
For instance, in South Korea, more than 20% of asymptomatic cases did not develop symptoms during hospitalisation.
If in Italy the virus was spreading silently for about 50 days before the first case was reported on February 20, in Iceland, nearly half of the 20% who tested positive for the virus were either asymptomatic or showed only mild symptoms.
Since April 1, China has been reporting new cases that are asymptomatic.
The World Health Organization maintains that the virus mainly spreads through droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces, and the risk of getting infected by an asymptomatic person is “very low”.
In India, it is important to test travellers and trace and monitor their contacts.
The spectre of a post-COVID-19 world
China battled another coronavirus epidemic in 2003 — the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
China’s growth rate has further plummeted.
The consequences for the global economy of China ceasing to be the world’s biggest exporter of manufactured goods are considerable, and with no country in a position to replace it, this development will precipitate a further economic downturn internationally.
It is important to think of what lies ahead.
The COVID-19 pandemic could not have come at a more difficult time.
The world was already having to contend with an uncertain economic environment, with industries in turn facing newer challenges such as having to adjust to a shift from cost efficiencies to innovation and breakthrough improvements.
Added to this were: a global slowdown, increasing political and policy uncertainties, alterations in social behaviour, new environmental norms, etc.
Newly emerging economies, such as India, were even more affected by all this, than some of the older established ones.
A recent industry estimate pegs the cost of the lockdown at around $120 billion or 4% of India’s GDP.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) had at one point warned that the COVID-19 impact, and the existing stress in the financial sector, meant that India would require up to six months even after the entire course of the COVID-19 epidemic is over to restore normalcy and business continuity.
India has, no doubt, acted with speed in the wake of the pandemic and declared a lockdown early on.
The prognosis as to what lies ahead is indeed bleak.
On the economic plane, according to most experts, a global recession seems inevitable.
To compensate for this loss, massive inflows of government funds would be needed, but most governments, India included, might find it difficult to find adequate resources for this purpose.
Post COVID-19, U.S. may opt for neutrality in global affairs.
China and Russia have strengthened their relationship, and improved their asymmetric capabilities.
These shifts cannot but, and are likely to, have a direct impact on the liberal international order.
Psychologists are even talking of an ‘epidemic of despair’ arising from a fear of unknown causes, resulting in serious anxiety and mental problems.
Another fallout from the current epidemic might well be the extent to which inequality in incomes impact segments of the population, facing a common malaise.
Countries lacking a comprehensive nationwide health system would find this an even more difficult situation to handle.
Meantime, as the economy weakens, accompanied by job losses, those without high levels of skills would fall further behind.
Mass migration in India: Out of work migrant labour, unable to find new jobs since they lack the necessary skills, are attempting to return to their normal habitat, bringing in their wake untold suffering and, perhaps even the spread of the virus.
It could even lead to a major law and order situation.
China’s authoritarian methods seem to have helped it to contain the spread of the virus — at least for the time being.
In turn, leaders across many nations may find China’s methods, and the embracing of technology to refashion authoritarianism for the modern age irresistible, and a standard to be adapted, even if they profess to be democratic.
The rise of digital autocracies could lead to digital repression, and in the age of AI-powered surveillance, create a capacity for predictive control, or what is often referred to as ‘social management’.
Only through the prism of science
On Friday, April 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his third COVID-19 address to the nation.
Yogic ‘principle of collective consciousness’
At no point in its modern history has India needed its people as now to urgently understand how microbiology impacts public health.
The Central and State governments are making huge efforts to give us a crash course on the spread and arrest of COVID-19. .
How has Mr. Modi fared as a promoter of scientific temper?
PM Modi: the Mahabharata war was won in 18 days and India would win its war against the virus in 21.
In his English translation of the epic, Bibek Debroy, the Chair of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, doubts that the war of the scale described in the epic took place. Or that “miraculous weapons and chariots were the norm”.
In 2017-18, the then Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Satyapal Singh, called the theory of evolution ‘scientifically wrong’ and demanded its removal from the school curricula.
Dozens of pseudoscientific solutions to the pandemic are floating within this ecosystem.
After Mr. Modi’s Friday morning address, claims about the prowess of light to fight the virus have begun circulating on social media.
We are confronting a pandemic that only science and technology can fight in an ecosystem rife with belief in pseudoscience.
PM: on Sunday, light lamps for 9 minutes from 9 p.m
On the 10th day of the nationwide lockdown imposed due to the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the countrymen to demonstrate a collective will to fight coronavirus, a token demonstration of which, he said, would be to light candles, lamps and hold mobile phone torches for nine minutes from 9 p.m. on April 5.
In an address to the nation, he noted, “There is no bigger force than our conviction and resolve. There is nothing we cannot achieve with these forces.”
Mr. Modi made it very clear that the coronavirus threat could only be combated with the full cooperation of the people, and that the collective strength was what would take the country out of what he termed “darkness that engulfs us” in the form of coronavirus.
The plight of the poor, with the grinding halt of all economic activity, was also foremost in the Prime Minister’s speech. “We have to take our poor brethren towards the light and certainty. To defeat this darkness, we have to shine the light in every direction,” he said.
“Either stay at your doors, on your balcony, etc., but please do not cross the ‘Laxman Rekha’ of your home,” he said. “Social distancing is the only Ram Baan [weapon] we have to combat coronavirus.”
NSA to be filed against 6 for harassing nurses
The Uttar Pradesh government has said that six persons associated with the Tablighi Jamaat who have been accused of misbehaving with women staff at the district hospital in Ghaziabad will be charged under the National Security Act (NSA).
Though the government is yet to issue an official statement, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi attributed the direction to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Dr. Singh said the six were using obscene language and were making vulgar gestures at the staff. His letter said that some of them were moving around in a state of undress and were demanding bidis and cigarettes.
Doctors who escaped mob return next day
A day after they were heckled, pelted with stones and chased away from a locality in Indore, doctors Trupti Katdare and Zakiya Sayyed returned to the same spot. Back to finish an incomplete task, they refuse to abandon the role that could help save lives.
Ensure that basic needs of poor are met: President
Taking note of the problems faced by the homeless, the unemployed and the weaker sections of society during the COVID-19 crisis, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Friday that the country would have have to be extra sensitive towards their needs and ensure nobody is left hungry.
Stating that people had set an example by “showing exemplary courage, discipline and solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”, the President expressed concern over two incidents — the gathering of migrant workers in Anand Vihar and the congregation of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin — that caused a setback to the efforts.
Cuban doctors fighting virus around world
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a reversal of fortune for Cuban medical diplomacy, as doctors have flown off on new missions to battle COVID-19 in at least 14 countries, including Italy and the tiny principality of Andorra on the Spanish-French border, burnishing the island’s international image in the middle of a global crisis.