Noted public health expert, Dr Ashish Jha who is the Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health said that India’s Covid death rates are at least five times higher than official numbers reported. According to the official numbers being reported, India’s COVID-related death rates are about 2,000 per day. Whereas the country is experiencing the worst hit crisis ever wherein the ospitals have run out of beds, ventilators, therapeutics, and most critically, oxygen.
While giving an interview to PBS News Hour he said that, “India is at a very difficult moment. There is a gross underestimate of daily new infections, which may easily be above 1 million per day,” The Indian American physician who has emerged as one of the leading experts on COVID also noted that test positivity rates in India are currently around 30 to 40 per cent. About one of every three people tested is COVID positive. About 20 per cent of new infections are India’s double mutant variant, which is far more contagious and lethal than traditional variants.
He also said that the vaccination rates in the country are low as well and fewer than 10 per cent of country’s population has received the necessary shot. Things may be much worse in second-tier cities, but Dr Jha noted there is little access to gain insight as to what is happening in smaller cities and villages. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, as of April 26, India has reported more than 17 million infections, and about 198,000 deaths.
Dr Jha pointed put that thousands of people showing unmasked at political rallies, sporting events, and the Kumbh Mela have been one of the major reasons for the surge of covid19 in the country. Khumbh Mela, which saw an estimated 50 to 100 million people from across the country gathering in Haridwar, was possibly the largest contributor to the spike in infections.
The public health expert said he was not in favor of a national lockdown in India, and noted that a previous lockdown last summer decimated India’s formal and informal economy. Dr Jha does support curtailing activity at restaurants and shops, and a ban on large congregations of people. He also supports universal masking and believes India’s residents must be equipped with higher-quality masks.
While addressing the inequalities of global vaccine distribution in his interview he said, “Here in the U.S., 16- and 17-year-olds are getting vaccinated, while in India, health workers cannot get a vaccine. You’ve got restaurants opening up in Massachusetts, while in India, hospitals are running out of oxygen. This is a global pandemic. All of us are at risk. I’m thrilled about where we are in the U.S., but worried about pockets in the world where new variants may be growing.”
Ashish Kumar Jha the Bihar-born doctor, moved to Toronto, Canada in 1979. In 1983, his family moved to the United States, where he has lived since. Jha graduated from Columbia University in 1992 with a B.A. in economics. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1997 and then trained as a resident in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Currently he is the Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
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