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One ranking we do not wish to top

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As of August 25, COVID-19 recoveries in India have crossed 23 lakh, the tests per million population (TPM) has increased to 26,016 as per Ministry of Health & Family Welfare data. Which is well over the WHO mandated 140 tests/day/ million population.

India’s network of diagnostic labs has improved substantially, with 1520 diagnostic labs approved to test for COVID-19, including 984 labs in the government sector and 536 private labs.

With a test count of 3,59,02,137 as of August 25, more patients seem to be recovering and being discharged from hospitals and home isolation (in case of mild and moderate cases), as per union health ministry data.

With the recovery of 57,469 cases in the last 24 hours, India’s recovery rate of COVID-19 patients has crossed 75 per cent. With over 16 lakh (16,27,264) recoveries, possibly a measure of better treatment protocols and effective clinical management of patients in the ICUs, the active cases has reduced and currently comprises 22.88 per cent of the total positive cases.

The health ministry attributes India’s substantial rate of recovering and declining case fertility rate, in part, to the role being played by twice weekly held national e-ICUs, which link ICU doctors of COVID-19 hospitals in states to AIIMS New Delhi, to answer their queries on COVID-19 treatment. So far 14 such national e-ICUs have been held covering 117 hospitals of 22 states across the country.

But compare India’s numbers globally to get a wider picture.

India has the third largest number of total COVID-19 cases, following the US and Brazil. Thanks in part to increased testing and an increased network of approved diagnostic labs, India’s new cases per day are rising.

As of August 25, India’s new cases per day (59696) are way above Brazil (21,434) and the US (41,484). At this rate, experts estimate that India will overtake Brazil and maybe the US as well, to become the country with the largest number of total COVID-19 cases.

However there is hope. India’s recovery rate is better, which places it second after Brazil, in terms of recovered cases and fourth in terms of number of deaths, after the US, Brazil and Mexico.

Though total number of cases have crossed the three million milestone, experts point out that the overall growth in new cases is on a downward trend, though different states and districts are hitting or yet to hitting their peak infection rates.

Hope also comes from other arms of India’s healthcare system. The WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape as of August 25 lists more than 160 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical or clinical trials, 31 of which are in clinical trials. Six are in final stages, phase-III of human trials

India has the largest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world. Of the 31 candidate vaccines listed by WHO in clinical evaluation across the world, at least eight candidate vaccines are being developed in India. Two of these have entered phase-II trials after completing phase-I. Local production and development generally translates into better availability so Indians stand a better chance of receiving an affordable and accessible COVID-19 vaccine, once efficacy is proven beyond doubt.

India also one of the largest pharmaceutical sectors in the world, so supply of medicines repurposed for COVID-19 are improving, though supply chain issues do still exist. India’s medical technology sector too has stepped up to the challenge and today we have excess production of ventilators and PPEs.

Hospitals in India are yet to see pre-COVID-19 levels of bed occupancy or elective procedures but they are preparing for the ‘new normal’ by investing in tele-consulting, pharmacy and diagnostics plays. While the bigger hospital chains already had such set ups, mid-size players are planning to develop these into standalone revenue streams to complement their existing presence.

All in all, India’s response to the COVID-19 stress test is improving. Let us hope the cost of this pandemic, in terms of lives and livelihoods lost, will not be forgotten. That is the least we can offer to the memories of the ones we lost, not the least our doctors, nurses and paramedics, along with other frontline workers like the police, etc. who fought a valiant battle with this wily virus.

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