Management Challenges COVID 19? Where are We Headed?

1.            Background. China witnessed the first case possibly in early Dec 19, by the time it realized that it was facing a crisis of an unknown and unparalleled nature it was middle of Dec 19. The world formally realized the problem in the first week of January and it was finally declared as pandemic on 11 Mar 20 by the WHO president. By this time China had already flattened the graph of growth in its country and the virus had started playing havoc in the rest of the world. Some figures taken from Worldometer, the website displaying the CORONA data will make these statements amply clear. See graph below.

Data from Worldometer extracted on 31 Mar 202.

2.  Management Challenges. Important takeaways from above graph are firstly, the disease has spread exponentially as time passed. Secondly, the period of exponential growth commences from the third week. Thirdly, in case of China the growth has come under control with effect from 15 March 20. Assuming that the cases started surfacing in large numbers around mid-January in China, it has taken them eight weeks to stem the onslaught of COVID-19. So what is so dramatic that China was able to do which, the developed countries with excellent medical facilities and low density of population are unable to do. Is it that it was a bio weapon plan of China that prematurely got initiated and given China’s advance knowledge they were able to deal with it very effectively? Bio weapon theory is not being considered any further based on two major considerations as also suggested by  Capt Raghu Raman (retd) former Secretary of NATGRID. These are firstly the uncontrollable nature of a bioweapon and secondly the tendency of such agents to mutate into hardened strains making it further difficult to manage. Also 182 nations including China have either signed or ratified the Bio Weapons Convention, which would result in violation of International Treaty. Any violation with such a horrendous outcome as the world is witnessing will make the defaulting nation face unacceptable consequences by major powers.[1] So if it was not a bio weapon then was it the ruthless manner in which China managed the isolation and quarantine that led to slowing down of Corona cases to almost being negligible.

3.            The graph is also throwing up a question in respect of India? Cases of Novel Corona started getting detected in India around the same time as rest of the world less China but unlike others India did not see an exponential growth till Nizamuddin incidents. The challenge for us is to determine whether we are still at the second stage or our method of tackling the Pandemic has been better? Is it due to better preemptive measures such as early lock down? Or our figures are low due to lack of reporting or lack of testing facilities? Whatever be the case, one thing is for sure, preemptive action by the Government of Indian in timely evacuation of Indian citizens from other countries, prompt lock down, cancellation of air and rail services mobilization of medical resources, prompt economic measures especially for the poor amounting to setting aside of Rs. 1.78 lakh crores, assuming regional leadership role by activating the SAARC and creating 10 million dollar COVID-19 fund may just have done the trick. Too early to say, but most importantly the positivity displayed by PM Modi seems to be at the root of success and above all the population appears to be mostly in league with the government in making the lock down a success. The only doubt that remains is the exponential growth of COVID-19 that may take place due to the Tablighe-e-Jamat, Anand Vihar incidents and detection of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai slums. Handling of exponential growth as a result of these incidents of uncalled for huge public gathering may affect a very large section of the population and appears to be the most important challenge? This issue needs to be managed with iron hand, with active intervention of administration, police and society at large without playing politics.

     Data extracted from Worldometer on 02 April 20    
                                   Data extracted from Worldometer on 02 Apr 20

4.            Stemming the tide of COVID-19. As the above graphs show most of the countries are managing the incident defensively. This will not lead to a lasting solution to the problem. For an effective solution we need to look at Graphs 2 & 3 in detail. What do they reveal? Firstly, that barring China, the rate of increase in new cases in respect of rest of the world is in the exponential stage. The death rate is constant but the numbers are increasing. Which throws up a question for how long will this trend continue? The answer lies in the graph. Growth of new and death cases have to not only be flattened but eliminated. India’s situation has also become grim thanks to Tabligi Jamat incident. The graph below highlights this aspect.

Data Extracted From Worldometer on 02 April

5.            It now appears that China like measures are needed for India to prevent a US and Europe type of trajectory. Some suggestions are: firstly, ensuring a strong regime to ensure proper lockdown. Proper immigration forms at Ports and Airports must be filled to ensure future tracking if required. Secondly, finding a quick medical line of treatment that cures the disease rapidly. Thirdly, creation of mass isolation camps within each city and state to confine the cases. While we cannot and should not replicate China in totality, we can make these isolation camps as comfortable as possible. (This suggestion must be validated by medical and psychological experts) We can also make use of Armed Forces (Engineers & Medical Corps and other forces to ramp up quarantine camps and temp treatment hospitals. Fourthly, we also need to put our scientists to work on a war footing to develop effective clothing and equipment to be worn by medics, paramedics and volunteers involved in providing essential services for protection against the novel corona virus. Fifthly, there is an urgent need to distribute the five minute testing kit in large numbers for screening the suspect population by creating regional, district and block level screening centers. Sixthly, a vaccine has to be developed by adopting a whole of world approach under the leadership of WHO within two to three months or else the situation will go out of control especially in countries with large population density like India and Bangladesh. Lastly empowering National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). empowering NCDC India with the following:-
a.            Active control of immigration data in case of an epidemic
b.            NCDC to become an active working staff of the PMO & Health Ministry in case of an epidemic reporting directly to PM. This would avoid any delay in decision making. This policy change would make the nation better prepared for any future epidemics.

6.            Conclusion. In conclusion what emerges clearly that post COVID – 19 crisis, the world will not be the same. A number of questions will have to be answered by China. There are likelihood of major repercussions on the dream projects of China such as OBOR and other infrastructure projects in various countries. The trade wars are likely to intensify between West and China. Russia and India may become the beneficiary of this trade war. However, the immediate need is to fight COVID-19 through a collaborative approach taking China also on board as hinted by India’s Foreign minister in his tweet a few days back.[2] COVID -19 is a global tragedy and needs to be dealt as such or else we are in for a long haul and struggle whose outcome remains hazy.                                                        

[1] Raghu, Raman, ““Is COVID-19 a Bioweapon created by China?” (accessed on 31 Mar 20)[2]

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