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…
- 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.