Ours is to question why

Behaviour change is often the best solution, whatever the problem. Especially when the behaviour to be changed belongs to someone else.

In the wake of the steep rise in active Covid-19 cases during the second wave, there has been no shortage of advice on behavioural changes other people needed to make to ensure the whole world was safe.

“I want my courier deliveries to be accepted by the security guard at the reception and not come up to my apartment.”

Of course, I cannot stop ordering delivery service. I have some rights, do I not? Are you telling me even security guards can get infected?

“Can people please ensure that their children are wearing a mask when they go to the playground so that my children don’t catch Covid from them.”

Why should they stay at home to stay safe? Don’t we contribute to the maintenance of the playground?

“I suggest the management committee declare a voluntary shutdown so that all of us stop going and coming as we please.”

Why should I stop voluntarily when my neighbour is still going to work? Isn’t that unfair? Only when he stops will I stop.

Of course, as usual, I exaggerate. I suppose one should also not read too much into these statements and reactions. There is fear. There is uncertainty about what might happen next. Living through a pandemic is a first for all of us. No doubt there is good intent in these statements. For all I know, the solution may lie hidden in these suggestions.

Just when people had started to think about partying and travelling, the surge of infections has played party pooper. The medical infrastructure has been caught off guard with the speed and scale of the surge.

Maybe it is just me, but I find myself struggling with answers even as I see vaccinated folks, who, just a few weeks back, were promoting vaccines as the final solution and encouraging others to go in for it, equally stressed and fearful of catching the virus. When pushed for an answer, the standard reply seems to be, “Nobody is safe.”

In the post titled ‘One FLU over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ published on 30th November, a little over the halfway mark between the onset of the pandemic and now, I had posed some questions on my mind at that time, more to do with Covid-19 as another form of influenza. I am happy to say that I have got no answer to any of those questions. What’s more, I now have even more questions! Without further ado then…

  1. Is it true that every person will fall in one (and only one) of these 5 categories?

A. I am currently infected and have symptoms

B. I am currently infected and am asymptomatic

C. I have previously been infected and have antibodies

D. I have previously been infected and no longer have antibodies

E. I have never been infected

where A+B+C+D+E = 100%

2. What is the best guess at the approximate current number (percentage) in each of these 5 categories?

3. If I am infected but asymptomatic I have no risk from the infection to my own self as I am already infected. Is that correct? Of course, I can infect others.

4. The infection can further spread only in categories D and E. Is that correct?

5. People who get infected can be expected to be in a symptomatic to non-symptomatic ratio as per the population ratio. If today 80 are asymptomatic out of 100, the next 100 people to be infected can also be expected to have around 80 who are asymptomatic. Is that correct?

With the vaccination drive now on, people from all the 5 categories are being vaccinated, whether they have antibodies or not. We know that. The number of susceptible people in D and E will gradually reduce as the coverage of the vaccination increases. That is a reasonable assumption to make I believe.

Vaccinations started at least two months back now. Perhaps it is time to get some data around their performance. There are many who question the need for the vaccine, including me. If there is data that settles the issue why not put it out?

6. Out of every 100 vaccinated people, what percentage got infected, with or without symptoms?

7. How does that percentage compare with the infection percentage for non-vaccinated people?

8. The benefit of the vaccine has been understood (at least by me) to be that the virulence of the infection will be much lesser, as an explanation for the 70% and 88% effectiveness of different brands. Do we now have data on the vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated virulence?

An ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) survey published in February concluded that 21.5 per cent of India’s population showed the presence of antibodies for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A Delhi government survey around the same time had established the seropositivity rate at 56%. There is a wide variance between the two numbers. If the percentage is indeed 56%, it would mean that despite our best efforts most people got infected without realizing that they had been. So, what is the point in following prevention protocols that do not prevent?

9. Before we reach a conclusion, should a wider survey be done to establish the prevalence?

While many of the questions are for a better understanding of the situation, there are some incipient suggestions in there as well. For example, going back to the categories in question 1, would it not be better to complete vaccination of people in D and E categories before moving to A, B and C?

And lastly, what about these mutations of the virus?

10. Does the vaccine cover these mutations or will we be developing a new vaccine every year, to prevent the popular version of last year while this year’s version will be prevented by a vaccine next year by when it would have died out a natural death and made way for a new version?

I know the answer to this one. “We don’t know what will happen in the future.”

Not one to waste a good crisis, the Delhi High Court has promised to hang the people responsible for preventing oxygen from reaching patients, as liberally provided in the Constitution, while upgrading the ‘wave’ to a ‘tsunami’ resulting in no change to the response from any government agency.

With apologies to Lord Alfred Tennyson for mixing up his words in the title.

25 thoughts on “Ours is to question why

    • I suppose you get full marks for honesty 🙂 Unfortunately, because of a sequence of 6 western disturbances (disturbance always comes from the West apparently!!!) we are experiencing the coolest April in living memory. But it will end soon and the joys of summer will be unleashed upon us.

  1. No doubt COVID-19 will remain a mystery for decades to come. What is strange to me is the answer to why do so many people die from this scourge if the incidence among the general population is so low, does it selectively find weak bodies to inflict?

    • According to an estimate in November last year, for India, the deaths in a year identified as Corona deaths were projected to be similar to the number of deaths over a similar period in road accidents and much lower than those caused by common ailments like heart diseases, diabetes and TB. But we seem to be disproportionately worried about it. I have not heard of a call for a lockdown because 200000 people died in road accidents last year in India. To your point, it does seem that weak bodies (aka weak immune system) seem less able to cope with the infection. What I find worrying is that we haven’t been able to gather enough data to understand the behaviour of the virus but we have been able to collect enough data to produce a vaccine.

  2. Disturbing news has come out of India. Every day the crisis is getting worse. There is not enough oxygen to care for so many people affected by the virus. Why all this sudden interest in the tragic events occurring in India? Is it not to tell us another lie that things are not so bad here in Canada? And why are people so reluctant to follow religiously the basic rules that cost very little and are so easy to follow. Mask or no mask, keep your distance. Stay at home and do not invite relatives and friends over, stay away from bars and restaurants if they are still open. Who has the willpower to practice social distancing after a couple of drinks? Of course, I realize that it is easy talking about following simple instructions in a place where dogs and cats outnumber humans in our tiny community.

    • You are right Peter. The situation is pretty grim. Medical oxygen, generally an abundant resource, is not available. Neither are hospital beds. The supply will catch up no doubt, as India is a pretty large and resource-rich nation. However, the people cost will be high. The major issue seems to be that each individual in need of one of these has to go through a long list of dubious phone numbers and contacts to realize most are invalid, and waste a lot of time in the process. Government leadership for allocation of these critical resources, either at a central or state or even city level would be very useful.

    • Thank you John! The situation is pretty grim. Though knowledge has been gained in the last one year about handling the infection, reducing the mortality, at this time, certain critical supplies, oxygen mainly, have fallen short and each individual is wasting a lot of time looking for it. Government allocation, or at least monitoring, for some of these critical resources at this time would have been useful.

  3. Thanks for this post. Watching the news now and even CDC and US government is giving conflicting answers of not wearing mask if vaccinated. Many people from my experience can not be trusted. Honesty rule will not work. Those sick with covid both knowingly and not will mingle in public places. People will get sick or die because of them. I’ve seen people fully vaccinated getting covid though symptoms are milder. Personally, it should be do what feels safe for the individual. If they want to wear mask, they wear mask regardless of what “experts” say because in the end if people get sick, “experts” will simple wash their hands like they always do.

    • Absolutely. We are told that a majority of the cases are asymptomatic. So, like you say, many people could be spreading the virus without even knowing they have it. Each person needs to look out for himself/ herself. And the best method of prevention or cure seems to be good health.

      • Totally agree. Until there’s proof in the next few months that there’s no more surges, I will do what kept me and my family safe. Healthcare behind the scenes are my best teacher. CDC is 1-2 weeks behind even before the rest of America knew COVID is already in its communities. I know because I witnessed it myself. There is a big cover up mistake our CDC and Public Health does not want people to know.

      • Agree. The strategy has to be one that empowers me to keep myself, and my family and dependents, safe. A strategy that makes me responsible for keeping others safe is designed to fail. It might be nice to stay we are in it together etc., but at crunch time that does not work. And then there is the nagging doubt that the complete truth is not being shared. Thank you for your views!

  4. Thks for the news from India which, by the way, echo news from Greece!!!! The pandemic has shown that our public health system needs upgrading, and bureaucracy is still at its best! We also share the same questions …. Keep safe – best regarrds Katy

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