Akeel Rashid

Isn’t it dangerous compromise with coronavirus threat?

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Five Kashmiris return from China, after screening at airport, allowed to go home with ‘home quarantine’ advice

Srinagar, Feb 02: Five persons today arrived here from China, who after screening and check-up at the airport have been advised ‘home quarantine’ by the doctors

Though after the check up, the arrived persons, even if nothing was detected during initial screening by health officials, should have been quarantined by the health department, as is warranted to avoid any risks, were allowed to proceed to their homes with an advise of ‘home quarantine’.

Confirming the arrivals from China, Dr. Shahid Iqbal Chowdery, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, said “five persons arrived today, who after screening and check-up have been advised ‘home quarantine’ by the doctors.”

“Rule book says that any person(s) arriving from the affected country are to be isolated and quarantined for at least two weeks. It is only after this observation period, and provided that the quarantined person does not show any symptoms of the disease that he(she) can be discharged and allowed to go home,” said a medical expert who didn’t want to be identified for obvious reasons.

“I wonder what mechanism and methodology is adopted by the concerned health officials at Srinagar airport to arrive at the conclusion that the students and others arriving from China are free of any infections and that they can go home,” the expert added.

Another well-known epidemiologist from the Valley, again on the condition of anonymity, said “by allowing the people arriving from China to go home without quarantining them for a certain period, the authorities are putting an entire population to grave risk.”

Let’s understand, the experts add, the incubation period of the coronavirus, the length of time before symptoms appear, is between one and 14 days.

“So, there is every possibility that people coming here from the infected area – say China – despite not showing any symptoms as of now, but may still contain the virus which will show itself in few days time. Allowing these people to go home right away without quarantining them for 14 days, and merely urging them to go for self-isolation (self-quarantine), the authorities here are showing abject callousness which, God forbids, may prove a very dangerous mistake,” the experts pointed out, adding that the health authorities world-over believe the virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear.

“The consequences of this carelessness can be catastrophic. Once a person, who is not ill yet but if he(she) carries the virus, leaves the airport and goes back to his family, the possibility of others contracting the infection is very high. And then, we do not have any means to sort out or to identify people at risk of transmitting the disease further, leave aside having the necessary wherewithal to treat a large number of infected people.”

If China, given its health system and efficiency at dealing with such challenges, has thus far not been able to do much to save lives, “what makes us think that we will be able to do so?” they question.

It is to be understood that as the virus is an entirely new strain, there is no existing immunity in anyone it will encounter, a senior faculty at Department of Medicine at SKIMS Soura said. Some level of immunity will naturally develop over the time, but as of now this means that those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly or sick, are most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the coronavirus, he pointed out.

Experts here say they are not in know of any procedure with which a doctor could dismiss possibility of a person being infected by simple clinical observation. “Had there been any such method, then the developed countries like the US and Europe or for that matter the World Health Organisation (WHO) would have also adopted it, and not raised the concerns to the level they have.”

The WHO has designated the outbreak with its highest warning level.

Medical literature doing rounds since the outbreak says that restrictions on the free movement of people coming from the infected areas will not stop the spread of the disease entirely, but will slow its progress and buy time for areas that have avoided infection to prepare. It will also limit the strain on health infrastructure by reducing the number of infections at any one time.

But unfortunately all these warnings seem to go unheeded in Kashmir, despite official claims about necessary precautions and facilities being in place to deal with the threat.

Pertinently, more than 14,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus, which continues to spread to more countries since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early December.

At least 304 people have died so far in China, and one in the Philippines. Almost all the fatalities in China have been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

The 2019-nCoV coronavirus spreads from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu.

The disease can be transmitted through sneezing or coughing, which disperses droplets of body fluids such as saliva or mucus.

According to scientists, coughs and sneezes can travel several feet and stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes.

These droplets can come into direct contact with other people, or can infect those who pick them up by touching surfaces on which the infected droplets land, or touching a surface and then their face.

It is not yet known how long the virus can survive on surfaces, but in other viruses, the range is between a few hours or months.

Transmission is of particular concern on transport, where droplets containing the coronavirus could pass between passengers or via surfaces like plane seats and armrests.

Some countries, such as the UK and Nigeria, have advised people travelling back from China to self-quarantine for at least two weeks.

China has placed Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities under lockdown, affecting more than 50 million people, although this has not prevented the virus from spreading to all of China’s provinces.

Several airlines have halted flights to China, from British to African carriers, while a number of European and Asian nations including India are evacuating their citizens from Wuhan.

Person-to-person transmission has been confirmed in Germany, Canada, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, which WHO emergency chief Michael Ryan has called a “great concern”.

Even with recent advancements in medical technology, it is unlikely a vaccine could be available for mass distribution within a year.

No coronavirus case reported in Kashmir so far: Officials

Srinagar, Feb 02: No coronavirus case has been reported in Kashmir so far, officials said, asserting the administration is geared to meet any exigency in case of the virus outbreak in the Valley.

A meeting was convened here on Saturday to review the preparedness of the divisional administration to meet any exigency in case of the coronavirus outbreak in the Valley, the officials said.

They said the meeting, chaired by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan, was informed no coronavirus-infected case was reported in the Valley till date.

“However, the administration has activated rapid response teams and made arrangements to tackle the disease,” they added.

During the meeting, Khan asked the officers concerned to maintain a travel inventory of students, businessmen and traders in each district from December 01, 2019, who have been travelling to China and other reportedly infected countries.

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