India says lockdown has spared it from overwhelming number of coronavirus cases

People maintain social distance as Indian paramilitary personnel distributes food for those in need during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Srinagar on April 9, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 April 2020

India says lockdown has spared it from overwhelming number of coronavirus cases

  • The number of people infected with the virus stood at 5,865 including 169 dead
  • Modi’s decision to order 1.3 billion Indians indoors for three weeks in the world’s biggest lockdown

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Thursday claimed initial success in its fight against the coronavirus epidemic, saying it would have been hit with 820,000 cases by next week had it not imposed a nationwide lockdown.
The number of people infected with the virus stood at 5,865 including 169 dead, far smaller than other countries such as the United States, Italy and Spain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to order 1.3 billion Indians indoors for three weeks in the world’s biggest lockdown has helped slow the infection rate, foreign ministry additional secretary Vikas Swarup said, even though it has exacted a heavy toll on the economy and on the hundreds of million of poor.
By the middle of April, the caseload would have touched 820,000, he said, citing an internal assessment of the government’s Indian Council of Medical Research, far more than the country’s underfunded and decrepit public health system could handle.
“We would have gone the Italian way, had we not done the lockdown,” Swarup told reporters.
India, he said began screening people coming from overseas a fortnight before the first positive case surfaced on Jan.30 while Italy started 25 days after its first case.
Swarup said the outbreak was concentrated in about 75 of India’s more than 600 districts, which would help the government manage the crisis better.
Modi is due to take a decision in the next two days over whether to extend the lockdown that is due to end on next Tuesday. Millions of people have lost their jobs, largely those who work on daily wages and have fled to their homes in the countryside.
Several states have called for an extension saying they would not be able to deal with a surge of cases. The eastern state of Odisha announced on Thursday it would remain shut until the end of April, regardless of the federal government’s decision.
“The state cabinet which met today decided that saving the lives of our people is the top most priority at this juncture. Accordingly we have decided to extend the lock down till April 30th,” Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said.

RAMPING UP MEDICAL FACILITIES
The federal government also said it had formally approved an allocation of ($1.97 billion) as part of its COVID-19 emergency response and health system preparedness package.
“This will allow for rapidly ramping up the number of corona testing facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE), isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators and other essential equipment,” a government statement quoted Modi as saying.
According to the government, India has about one doctor per 1,500 citizens. The World Health Organization recommends one doctor per 1,000. In rural areas, where two-thirds of Indians live and rely almost solely on government hospitals, the ratio is one doctor to more than 10,000 people.
India also has 2.3 intensive care beds per 100,000 people. By contrast, China has 3.6 and the United States has nearly 35 per 100,000 people.
But foreign ministry official Swarup said the shutdown had given an opportunity to the government to ramp up facilities through innovative measures such as using coaches of the giant railway network as isolation wards.
India now 520 dedicated COVID hospitals with nearly 85,000 isolation beds and 8,500 ICU beds, he said. The government has prepared 5,570 additional health facilities, which will bring in another 197,400 isolation beds and a further 36,700 ICU beds.
The railways have turned 2,500 railway carriages into 40,000 isolation beds, he said.

Following are government figures on the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia:

* India has 5,865 cases, including 169 deaths
* Pakistan has 4,072 cases, including 58 deaths
* Afghanistan has 484cases, including 15 deaths
* Sri Lanka has 189 cases, including 7 deaths
* Bangladesh has 218 cases, including 20 deaths
* Maldives has 19 cases and no deaths
* Nepal has nine cases and no deaths
* Bhutan has five cases and no deaths ($1 = 76.1040 Indian rupees)


COVID-19 deaths top 4,000 in under-fire Sweden

Updated 25 May 2020

COVID-19 deaths top 4,000 in under-fire Sweden

  • The Public Health Agency said it had recorded 4,029 deaths and 33,843 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country of some 10.3 million inhabitants
  • Sweden’s death toll has far surpassed the tolls in neighboring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has gained international attention for its softer approach to the coronavirus than many of its European neighbors, said on Monday its number of deaths passed the 4,000 mark.
The Public Health Agency said it had recorded 4,029 deaths and 33,843 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country of some 10.3 million inhabitants, with 90 percent of the deceased over the age of 70.
Sweden’s death toll has far surpassed the tolls in neighboring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.
According to AFP’s own database, Sweden’s virus death rate of 399 per million inhabitants is far higher than Norway’s 43 per million, Denmark’s 97, or Finland’s 55.
However it is still lower than for France at 435 per million, Britain and Italy, both at 542, and Spain at 615.
Critics have accused Swedish authorities of gambling with citizens’ lives by not imposing strict stay-at-home measures. But the Public Health Agency has insisted its approach is sustainable in the long-term and has rejected drastic short-term measures as too ineffective to justify their impact on society.
The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, while urging people to respect social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency stressed countries’ death tolls should be compared with caution.
“In Sweden, anybody who has the diagnosis of COVID-19 and dies within 30 days after that is called a COVID-19 case, irrespective of the actual cause of death. And we know that in many other countries there are other ways of counting that are used,” he told AFP.
Tegnell has repeatedly insisted that stricter measures would not have saved more Swedish lives.
Three-quarters of those who have died have been either in nursing homes or receiving at-home care.
Tegnell noted that a ban on visits to nursing homes was introduced in mid-March, but said elderly residents needed regular contact with their carers — who were believed to have spread the virus around many nursing homes.
“I’m really not sure that we could have done so much more,” he said in a weekend interview with Swedish Radio, acknowledging nonetheless that the country had ended up in a “terrible situation that highlights the weaknesses of our elderly care.”
He said care homes had initially failed to respect basic hygiene rules that could have curbed the spread of the disease, but said the situation had since improved.
The Board of Health and Welfare meanwhile insisted Sweden’s nursing homes were functioning well.
It noted that a total of 11,000 nursing home residents died in January-April this year, compared with 10,000 during the same period a year ago.
And Tegnell told reporters Monday that the overall situation in Sweden “was getting better,” with a declining number of people being admitted to intensive care units, a drop in the number of cases being reported in nursing homes, and fewer deaths in nursing homes.