UN praises

Indian municipality workers sprinkle anti-bacterial powder around Dinkar Golambar on Day 2 of the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed by the Narendra Modi government over the coronavirus pandemic; in Patna on March 26, 2020. (IANS photo)

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations welcomes India's efforts to fight the coronavirus epidemic and is ready to serve those hardest hit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said March 26.

"The UN in India remains active and is determined to deliver for the people they serve, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, who may be among the hardest hit," he said.

Dujarric said that the UN Resident Coordinator in India, Renata Dessallien, welcomed the steps taken by India, and has said the UN "is fully mobilized and ready to further support the government of India to fight Covid-19."

"She believed that if we worked together we can overcome one of the greatest health threats of our lifetime," he said.

Dujarric said that UN agencies are working with the Indian government on preparedness and response measures like e-surveillance, lab and research protocols, risk communications training on infection prevention and control and cluster containment plans, as well as surveillance and tracking of travelers.

India is under a 21-day curfew-like clampdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It is the world's biggest anti-coronavirus effort covering 1.3 billion people.

IANS adds in related news from New Delhi: In what could spell real trouble for the country in the next three months, a new report from Johns Hopkins University and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy has predicted that the 21-day lockdown may be ineffective to stop the COVID-19 peak arriving in April-May-June – infecting over 12 crore Indians in an optimistic (low) scenario.

In a high scenario (trajectory with current lockdowns but insufficient physical distancing or compliance), the total number of cases (asymptomatic, hospitalized and symptomatic) can even touch a massive figure of 25 crore.

In the most likely (medium) scenario with moderate to full compliance but no change in virulence or temperature/humidity sensitivity, the numbers of total cases can swell up to 18 crore.

The optimistic (low) scenario constitutes decreased virulence and temperature/humidity sensitivity.

To reach these numbers, Johns Hopkins and CDDEP – a public health research organization – used IndiaSIM, a well-validated agent-based model of the Indian population which has been published widely over many years and has been used for government decision-making.

According to the report, hospitalized cases can reach up to 25 lakh people in the high scenario, 17-18 lakh people in the medium scenario and 13 lakh people in the low scenario.

According to the report, delays in testing are seriously reducing the ability of the population to protect itself.

"This is the most important way in which we can contain the epidemic. An increase in the official number of detected cases in the short term could encourage the population to take distancing more seriously and will reduce panic compared to a big spike later," the findings showed.

"Border closures at this stage have little to no impact and add further economic disruption and panic. While international transmission was important in the first stage, domestic transmission is now far more relevant," it warned.

A national lockdown, said the report, is not productive and could cause serious economic damage, increase hunger and reduce the population resilience for handling the infection peak.

State-level lockdowns in the most affected states could change the trajectory of the epidemic and should commence immediately. Any delay allows for more secondary cases to emerge.

Evidence from China indicates that higher temperature and humidity are likely to lower the transmission rates but it is unclear "how this will translate to the India context.”

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