ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Indian Public Health Associations on COVID-19

Leading Indian professional associations of public health have released a second joint statement on 25 May 2020, on the COVID-19 pandemic and its management in the country. The central issue they raise is the ignoring of technical advice of the country’s leading experts and institutions in decision-making about strategies for handling the pandemic. The larger politics of knowledge in public health and its interdisciplinary requirements are discussed.

Why Bihar’s Record in Handling COVID-19 Is Dismal

Among the states, Bihar faces the greatest challenge, particularly in terms of the reverse migration occurring from the lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the poor state of its health services infrastructure, the state government should have taken urgent and appropriate measures to screen, test and quarantine the returning migrant workers. This article takes a look at the trajectory of the government’s response to the health crisis.

Underestimation of the COVID-19 Burden

The number infected with SARS-CoV-2 in early May in India is estimated by a method utilising the unequivocal number available, namely deaths due to COVID-19. The estimated numbers are far in excess of reported numbers and indicate the systemic flaws in reporting deaths in India, augmenting the extent of underestimation. Additionally, there is the overestimation of the doubling time of infection. A realistic picture of the epidemic at the community level is presented, which informs us about the level of preparedness required to deal effectively with the epidemic.

A Dilemma for the Government

The response to the pandemic has aggravated both the economic as well as the health crises.

Economic Implication of a Novel Disease Outbreak

Novel disease outbreaks have a history of ravaging the regional economies. The world economy has taken a massive hit due to COVID-19 and is expected to go into a recession by the next quarter. As such, it has become highly imperative to invest in total epidemic preparedness involving health and non-health interventions, research and development as well as capacity building at all levels.

Challenges in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a rethinking of the contours of state intervention, especially in social sectors like health. The argument for rolling back the state has become questionable even among mainstream commentators. Kerala’s experience shows how public investment in healthcare and a participatory mode of governance with empowered local governments can help in pandemic mitigation. A truly federal set-up with shared responsibilities between the centre and states is better suited to deal with situations like the present one rather than a centralised system.

Health and Nutrition of India’s Labour Force and COVID-19 Challenges

Can the “post-COVID-19 normal” emerge better for India’s food supply and demand management, with a clear goal of zero hunger? Presently contributing one-third of the global undernutrition burden, a daunting challenge that the country must overcome now is of resuming broader based economic growth with a healthy labour force. Given this, India needs a data-driven exit and post-exit strategy from the COVID-19 lockdown that will not only mitigate the immediate food crisis faced by millions of poor households, but also reduce the long-term structural bottlenecks that limit poor households’ access to food.

COVID-19, Public Health System and Local Governance in Kerala

Kerala has been successful in containing COVID-19 and in achieving a low rate of spread, high recovery, and low fatality. The importance of the public health system, social capital and the active involvement of the people through local governments that played a significant role in Kerala’s success is highlighted. A brief historical review of the evolution of public health system and local governments in Kerala is also attempted.

Mumbai’s Struggles with Public Health Crises

The economic catastrophe precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the response of the dismal public health system has actually led to the heightening of the public health crisis. If the migration of workers from cities is not stopped through appropriate economic support measures, the public health crises will worsen because most migrants are returning to states that have very poor healthcare systems with limited capacities to deal with such crises. This pandemic also offers a political opportunity for governments to focus on strengthening the primary healthcare and public health systems through bold experimentation and strategies.

Catch-22 with COVID-19: Health or Economy?

How can India's economy grow in the midst of a pandemic, without compromising the health of the working population and aggravating the transmission of COVID-19?

Significance of Testing for Identification of COVID-19

The official and media discourse in India often focuses on the cumulative or daily detection of infected cases irrespective of the number of people tested and thus confuses the issue of disease progression. Based on the analysis of the number of infected cases identified and the number of people tested in eight states in India, it is emphasised that identification and quarantine of those who are infected slows down the spread of the disease. Mobilising resources towards the primary healthcare system for expanding contact tracing and investing in additional facilities to quarantine and treat infected patients is suggested.

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