COVID-19 cases may peak in India as early as mid-September provided strong public health measures are in place and people behave in a responsible manner to contain the virus, President of Public Health Foundation of India, Prof. K Srinath Reddy, said on Saturday (July 18).
As confirmed infections and deaths crossed one million and 25,000 respectively in India earlier this week, he expressed concern over the virus spreading with renewed vigour. “Ideally we could have and should have prevented it reaching this level, but even now we should try our best and contain it as quickly as possible”, the public health expert said.
“Different places (States) would peak at different times”, Reddy said on the rising COVID-19 cases. He, however, added that India may see COVID-19 cases peaking as early as in two months if there are strong public health measures and people take all precautions like wearing face masks and maintaining physical distance. “It depends on public and government action,” he said.
Reddy, who formerly headed the Department of Cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said the strict control measures dwindled post the second lockdown when relaxations began on May 3. “Strong levels of public health activities like household survey for any cases with symptoms, quick testing and isolation and vigorous contact tracing, among others, should have been maintained,” he said.
He said all the precautions and public health measures that were in place up until then started slipping and “slipped further after lockdown was fully lifted.”
“So it appeared as though we were in a “sudden release phenomenon,” said Reddy, who presently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard, said.
He said we contact tracing was left essentially to policemen and not seen as a public health function and people spent too much time focusing on hospital bed capacity.
“Our main thing now is to prevent the virus getting deep into rural India. Small towns and rural areas must be protected as much as possible, particularly rural areas because that is where two-thirds of India is. If we can prevent that, we can still prevent the damage”, Reddy added.