At a time of panic and paranoia over the corona fuelled lockdown, the internationally renowned medical expert Dr D Nageshwar Reddy has some good news to share in the hard times. He assures that a COVID-19 outbreak is something which can be easily conquered and there is no reason to panic, as the current lockdown should not prolong beyond 3-4 weeks.
Padma Bhushan Awardee – Dr. D Nageshwar Reddy
The Hyderabad-based gastroenterologist, who serves as the Chairman of Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2016. He has shared key findings that will give India a ray of hope. First is an emerging study on genome sequencing and the other is from research on the impact of temperature on the virus. He has elaborated on why he abhors the term social distancing and how staying positive can prove beneficial. Here is a small video with him in an interview with Indian Express.
COVID-19 & The Risk to India
The virus that originated in the middle of December in China, travelled from Wuhan to Western countries like Italy, USA and Europe. After a lag of 2-3 weeks, it came from these areas to India and this is when we had a gap of 3-4 weeks to study the RNA virus COVID-19.
This strain seems to be in bats, but there is still no surety about it. A small mutation occurred that allowed it to get transmitted from bats to humans. Sequencing of the whole virus was done in four countries, first in the US, second Italy, third China and fourth India. And when this virus spread to Italy or the US or to India, the genotypes of this virus turned out to be different. In the Indian virus, there is a single mutation occurring in the spike protein of the genome.
In the Italian virus, three mutations have occurred, which makes it more deadly to people. Whereas in India, in the USA and in China, the mortality is only about 2%. There is variation in mortality and infection rate depending upon the genome of the virus. There is a definite difference in the gene sequence in India and we are hoping that will result in the virus being less harmful because its attachment to the cell is not as good.
Impact of Temperature on COVID-19
According to a paper published by MIT, USA, they have explained the heat-sensitivity of this virus. COVID-19 is unable to exist for long periods above 32 degrees. In India, this means that as we progress to May, when the sun is at its peak, the virus transmission may come down. However indoors, where air-conditioning is there or temperature levels are cool, the problem may still persist. So, temperature may play a role, but it might have an effect only after May.
Complete Lockdown Or Just Shut the Red Zones!!!
These are two extreme situations, one is complete lockdown and the other is to keep everything open and test everyone, just like South Korea did. South Korea did extensive testing of the population and isolated the infected ones quickly, which is called the red zone or selective isolation. In India, extensive testing is not feasible, because of the demographics and the scale involved. For us, complete lockdown is a better solution, which is already done. But after the lockdown, the crucial question is what will be our plan-to-action in future?
In a situation like this, we should follow a more balanced approach. Now that the test kits are becoming cheap and easily available, we should do more testing. People above a certain age and with comorbidities must be extensively checked and isolated. A younger population who do not have comorbidities can be left a little more free after the lockdown is over. In a country like India, it is quite difficult to have a complete lockdown for long periods because social unrest will increase.
Right now, the government’s actions have been positive and this will also lead our government to develop a basic infrastructure to deal with epidemics like this in the long term.
Learn more about zero plans to extend the lockdown beyond 21-day timeline.
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