Sainka Walia Friday, 31 July 2020

Is the ICMR living in denial about community transmission of Covid-19?

Sainka Walia
Friday, 31 July 2020

Is the ICMR living in denial about community transmission of Covid-19?

With total cases nearing 1.5 million and Covid-19 rapidly spreading in rural areas, ICMR refuting community transmission seems more of a try at withholding information than a logical refutation. Community transmission occurs when a positive patient has not been exposed to another known Covid-19 patient. This indicates that the infection is well-established in the community.

While the Kerala government confirmed community transmission in some pockets, Karnataka has denied attributing its latest spike to community transmission. Kerala was already looking for an indication of community transmission, said Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist and former principal of Christian Medical College, Vellore. “Kerala would be the first state to declare it,” he had told IndiaSpend a few days before the state’s official announcement. West Bengal too followed soon after and confirmed community transmission in some areas.

Meanwhile, neither the ICMR nor the central government has issued an official statement or held a press conference since Kerala’s announcement. What's more surprising is that a lot of leaders who once had hinted towards community transmission have now retracted their statements.

On the heels of Kerala’s admission, the Indian Medical Association too said it was time for the government to accept community spread, a view it has since distanced itself from.

On the evening of June 26, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant acknowledged that community transmission had begun. “We will have to say there is community transmission, we have to accept it,” he was quoted in a tweet by the news agency, ANI. However, a week later, he withdrew the statement. The fear or ignorance of policymakers surrounding community transmission is quite evident in the above lines.

However, they do need to realise that admitting community transmission won’t be treated as a political failure but rather not admitting could result in one, as people will continue to think that things are getting better and take fewer precautions resulting in a vicious cycle. On the other hand, affirming community transmission will not only make the officials even more alert but rather the people too. The above can be seen in the case of the Taiwanese Government who successfully controlled Covid-19 spread in their country by providing their citizens with all the possible data and conceded information.

Now as for tackling the virus, Quarantine, and lockdown, India's primary strategy has become counterproductive. More importance should be given to tracing community-driven behavioural changes. Herd immunity and contact tracing are the only two powerful weapons present along with efficient utilisation of medical resources which will help us in the fight against the deadly Coronavirus.