Failure in administration could lead to an “avalanche” of cases in the country, said Dr T Jacob John, senior clinical virologist and emeritus professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore. In a telephonic interview with Chetana Belagere, he says it’s time states take a relook at testing strategy.
India is gradually coming out of lockdown. With people stepping out of homes, migrant movement, liquor shops opening, what should be the states’ next move in containing the disease?
The number of cases will surge. This may be the start of an avalanche, we could see daily large increase in numbers. The way the Centre handled the migrants’ issue proves that it failed to understand how this would turn out. It shows a failure in administration. Now, they should seriously look at a change in testing strategy.
What should the strategy be?
First, insist on wearing of masks, with no exceptions. A helpline number should be set up to complain about people without masks, and they should be strictly fined. It will control the virus and also not affect the economy. Second, they have to do clinical diagnosis of COVID cases.
Could you please explain?
Testing strategy must expand to illness testing as the virus is on the loose in the community now, whether the government accepts it or not. We don’t see it because the majority of people is silently infected and only a few show symptoms. We are not looking at symptomatic people. We are looking at test results, tests based on travel, contacts, SARI etc.
What should health authorities do now?
COVID is a pandemic. The virus will spread to every nook and corner where human beings live. We should anticipate this and ramp up diagnostic testing and cut down on regular testing. Doctors should be given a clinical diagnosis of the disease and how different it is from influenza.
What are the symptoms they should look at?
Anybody with fever and cough must be checked. Additional symptoms like fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, body ache are common to both influenza and COVID. High fever is common in COVID, but not in common cold. If there is a loss of smell or taste, breathing difficulty, it is likely to be COVID, so tests for influenza and COVID- 19 should be done.