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I’ll keep it short in this week’s intro as there’s again a tsunami of Covid-19 related information, updates & analysis awaiting you. Earlier this week, UN Secretary general Guterres called the current times “humanity’s worst crisis since WW II”, and I’m afraid he’s not exaggerating. Now that the third wave of Covid-19 has really started, we are also increasingly witnessing how important it is to “include wider social, economic, and clinical consequences of public health actions” in our strategies, modelling and approaches… even if that’s easier said than done in the complex systems that are our societies and (interconnected) economies. As for global health, planetary health, global health governance & diplomacy … it feels like every day one or another paradigm is being shifted (see the ongoing “(face)mask diplomacy” as just one example), even if too many still want to “save” a rotten system. For all these reasons, there’ll be a big focus on Covid-19 in the newsletter. We hope that in a few months, we’ll be able to again offer you a more balanced global health reads’ “diet”.
To assist you in navigating the tsunami, from now on, the Covid-19 section will be split up more clearly, in: (1) resources; (2) key updates & WHO messages/guidelines/reports…; (3) funding & new initiatives; (4) science; (5) Analysis.
As a reminder: the IHP version of ‘Test, track, treat’ is still: ‘skim, scan and savor’ (but with an important add-on these days, “while you try stay safe’ 😊).
We leave you with the tweet of the week: “If Capitalism is so Great, Why does it Need to Be Bailed Out by Socialism Every ten years?” Exactly.
Enjoy your reading.
For a view from the other side of the world, do check out alsoIHP editorial member Deepika Saluja’stake, as of April 2 (Delhi, India):
“In India, we are now 10 days into the three-week lockdown announced by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The lockdown started on 25th March, 2020, and COVID-19 figures (although probably underestimated) have already increased more than four-fold since the announcement, from 519 reported cases and 10 deaths (24 March) to 2069 cases and 53 deaths (evening of 2 April). This sharp increase is worrying, more so because the country – like many others, including “developed” ones – is not able to test all the ‘probable cases’. The real impact of the lockdown will only become clear, once we (hopefully) manage to stabilize the COVID incidence rates. In tracing the geographical locations of these cases, the government has identified 10 COVID zones across the country as ‘hotspots’ with the highest number of reported cases, places like Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Nizamuddin Dargah area and Dilshad Garden in Delhi, Noida and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, and so on. The aim is to monitor them closely for contact tracing and testing.
While medical care is obviously the first and most crucial component of the “essential services” that need to remain operational during lockdown, the transportation services needed to help patients reach the hospital in time, although briefly mentioned in the list, are still not readily available. This is particularly important when ambulatory services are limited in the country and (private) hospitals are turning patients away. In addition to this, the limited public health infrastructure, understaffed hospitals and already overburdened public health professionals with no personal protective equipment, means that India has very little margin of error. The Government must be very cautious in its approach, it can no longer afford to goof up as it did when it announced lockdown suddenly, leaving migrants with no time to plan their journeys back home – with no other option, many walked for miles and miles, eventually jamming up the state borders. Time is of the essence here, and while the government is responsible for taking the necessary measures with respect to diagnosing the suspected cases, treating them and containing the spread, Indian citizens also have the responsibility to cooperate with the government and abide by its directives of confinement, physical distancing and maintaining hand hygiene (even if they are somewhat “western & elite solutions”). This is going to be particularly challenging for people living in informal settlements and relief camps, and for the many people living in smaller houses with limited space to maintain physical distancing. And let’s not forget the water and sanitation situation in India. With hundreds of millions of people still practicing open defecation and 163 million people having no access to clean water, containment becomes all the more challenging. Thus, the response to this “pandemic war” has to be well thought out, it needs to be rapid and it needs to take place on multiple fronts.
On the flipside, seeing some of the clearest skies ever and the lowest air pollution levels recorded in the past 10 years, has been the bright spot of the lockdown. Given the lockdown and the fear of contagion however, I’m not sure if all of us are in the mood or have the mental space to enjoy those clear skies… “