(This copy was last updated on 27 November. The reported number of coronavirus cases is according to the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.)
New Delhi: India is currently the second-worst hit country by the Covid pandemic, in terms of the total number of infections, after the United States.
However, India’s reported mortality rate — calculated by the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases — is low compared to other countries despite its high caseload.
On 9 October, the number of active cases in the country fell below the nine-lakh mark, for the first time since 9 September. In the second week of October, India recorded the highest number of recoveries in the world, and has maintained its global lead since.
The government began its phased ‘unlockdown’ from 8 June, with extensive relaxations including opening of religious places, shopping malls and restaurants. Metro services were reopened under Unlock 4.0 guidelines issued on 29 August.
Cinemas, theatres and multiplexes have been permitted to run with up to 50 per cent seating capacity and states can allow gatherings of more than 100 people.
The Unlock 5 guidelines have been extended until 30 November. Schools largely remains shut, with the Centre leaving it up to states to decide on allowing them to reopen.
However, India’s R value, which had dipped to below 1 for some weeks, climbed past 1 in the last week of November.
An R value of over one means that one person is currently spreading the disease to more than one people and the pandemic is increasing in size.
Here is a quick reckoner of the pandemic — from information about the virus to safety measures and FAQs.
The Ministry of Health has set up a telephone and email helpline for any queries and emergencies related to coronavirus.
Number: +91-11-2397 8046
For a list of helpline numbers of States & Union Territories, click here.
Symptoms to watch out for
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to flu, and can often go undetected for days. Typically look out for fever, common cold and other respiratory illnesses: dry cough, exhaustion, fatigue, breathing difficulty. The symptoms are generic, with nothing identifiable as being specific to COVID-19.
The virus usually incubates for 2-14 days.
DOs & DON’Ts
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for 20 seconds — long enough to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice — at least 3 times a day.
- Regularly use hand sanitiser
- Avoid touching your face
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Discard any tissue used
- Avoid sharing water bottles and personal hygiene items like towels
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Don’t overburden healthcare systems. Take precautions against the common flu. Preventing a flu outbreak could help diagnose coronavirus patients faster
- Wear a mask whenever possible. Experts have determined that even DIY cloth masks are better than no mask at all.
- Stock up on regular and essential medication, especially the ones that require prescriptions
- Prevent the spread of medical misinformation
- There are no known cures or preventive medicines for coronavirus. Do not forward messages that advise medicines (modern, homeopathy, natural, or herbal) for the virus.
Home remedies like soups and ginger water can help ease sore throat but cannot prevent or cure coronavirus.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is coronavirus and COVID-19? Where did it come from?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that we have known about since the 1930s. They were first found in humans in the ’60s. Two or three of these viruses are in constant circulation among human populations, causing common cold and other related illnesses. The latest pandemic is due to the spread of a new virus strain, thus called ‘novel coronavirus’. It is similar to SARS (also a type of coronavirus), and is called SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV). The illness it causes is referred to as COVID-19.
The coronavirus is suspected to have come to the human population from animals, most likely from bats.
How does it spread?
The novel coronavirus spreads from human to human, though cough droplets. These can also remain on surfaces. This is why it is essential to maintain personal hygiene by washing hands, especially after going to public or crowded places.
R0 (pronounced R-naught) is the basic reproduction number that indicates how many other people an infected person can spread it to. It varies with time and human efforts, and is currently between 1 and 2. The lower it is, the better. Once it falls below one, the disease is no longer progressing like an epidemic and will naturally die out if the same measures are sustained.
Where do I go if I’m feeling ill?
Upon displaying symptoms, it is advised to get an RT-PCR test to determine if a person is Covid-19 positive. If they are and the person has no comorbidities, i.e., underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease and especially breathing-related illnesses, home quarantine is advised and all contacts are to be tested. Testing might require a doctor’s referral in some states.
How does the virus affect the body?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and its focus of attack is usually the lungs. It seems to be very similar to SARS in how it infects and spreads.
There are two kinds of lung cells — mucus cells that protect our passageways and cilia cells, which are hair-like structures that beat around the mucus to clear out dust and pollen. Just like SARS, Covid-19 seems to be killing the cilia cells, which end up filling a patient’s airways with debris.
Our immune system then kicks in, flooding the lungs with immune cells to repair lung tissue. When done optimally, the immune response helps. But often, the immune system goes into overdrive and can kill in a cytokine storm or cause permanent lung damage.
Inflammation also enables the absorption of fluid into lungs, causing pneumonia. This in turn leads to shortness of breath and painful coughing, and can progress to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), and can sometimes lead to death.
Covid-19 patients have also experienced multiple organ failures, thickening of blood, or blueing of toes during infection, and long-lasting lung damage after recovery.
How long do people typically remain ill?
According to WHO, people will mild symptoms are expected to recover within 2-3 weeks while more severe cases can take up to 6 weeks.
What is the mortality rate of the disease?
The rate is currently thought to be around 3 per cent, but varies by region and human behaviour. An accurate number can be determined only much later.
Are there any medicines — preventative or cures?
No. There are no medicines or remedies that can help prevent or treat Covid-19 yet, although there are many promising trials that have been designed to identify potential drugs.
Should I travel?
It is advisable to curtail all non-essential travel, both within cities/towns and to other cities. Employers are advised to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.
How long will the virus spread?
The virus will continue to spread until a sufficient threshold of the population has immunity, either from recovery or from vaccination. This is called herd immunity and can be achieved safely by avoiding lakhs of preventable deaths only through a vaccination drive.
Functional vaccines could take up to a year to be developed, and a drive that can immunise populations across multiple countries could take another year after that, say experts.
For more information on the virus, click here.
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