Is India ready to treat Covid-19 as flu?
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Is India ready to treat Covid-19 as flu?

Several countries have accepted the coronavirus as an endemic and are treating it as flu.

Is India ready to treat Covid-19 as flu?

Are we really going towards an endemic(regularly found among people of an area), or will the world live continuously under the threat of a pandemic? Several countries, particularly the Western Europe, have accepted the coronavirus as an endemic and are treating it as flu.  Among these, the most recent example is Spain.

When the coronavirus pandemic was first declared, Spaniards were ordered to stay at home for three months. They were not allowed to go outside for weeks, even for exercise. Playgrounds were closed to children, and
the economy came to a sharp halt.

On the other hand, medical practitioners credit the harsh measures with preventing the health system from completely collapsing. They argued that lives had been saved.

Nearly two years later, Spain is preparing to implement a new COVID-19 strategy. With one of Europe's highest vaccination rates and one of Europe's most pandemic-affected economies, the government is laying the groundwork to treat the next wave as a chronic illness rather than an emergency. In neighbouring Portugal and the United Kingdom, similar action is being considered.

After two years of curfews, lockdowns, mandatory masks and movement restrictions, the question of whether the world is genuinely prepared to treat Covid as if it were the flu has come up several times.

Also read | Guidelines to contain Covid-19 in Delhi

The World Health Organization (WHO) has vehemently opposed treating Covid-19 as an endemic and urged against removing restrictions, mainly mask mandates. While Omicron is less severe than the Delta strain of the
coronavirus, it still kills and affects people, especially those who have not been vaccinated, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization.

We asked experts if it's a good idea for India to treat COVID as the flu rather than a dangerous disease, in light of the 'treat COVID like flu' approach gaining traction worldwide. So in India, looking at our vast population, are we really prepared to treat Covid as if he had the flu? To understand things better, we asked few doctors and several residents how ready they are to treat covid as regular flu.

Senior cardiologist, Dr Anil Dhall, says," No, I don't think India should start treating covid-19 as flu. It's highly transferable due to its frequent mutations. We all hope there could be good herd immunity after the omicron surge. The immunisation program could lead to a decrease in severe manifestations requiring admission, oxygen, and ventilation. Labels DO NOT matter, it is COVID appropriate behaviour that can decrease the pressure on frontline warriors and their absence in workplaces."

Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Fortis Faridabad, Pulmonologist, says, "Such an approach is not valid for India. During the second wave, disasters occurred in India. Because India is densely populated, mutated coronavirus strains could have major consequences. It can develop an immune escape mechanism, causing vaccine protection to wane and mutate into a lethal variant. If caught off guard, it can be disastrous for a densely populated country like India."

After talking with the doctors, we asked a few residents how they feel about covid-19 as flu.

Dr Akash Verma, 36, PhD Environmentalist, says, "Spain taking the initiative is a good first step, and I think more European countries will have similar discussions. I'm doubtful that Asian countries can follow in their footsteps yet. It will be some time before India can think about declaring covid endemic."

Shrishti Thural, 27, a lawyer, told us, "It's too soon to classify coronavirus infection like the common flu. We've seen that coronavirus has a lot of potential and that it's linked to a lot of post-COVID symptoms. Because flu infections leave no trace, coronavirus should not be mistaken for regular flu and should not be treated as one."

Anuj Kumar, 30, a professional at Deloitte, says, " For India, it is way too early to declare covid-19 as endemic, other than any western country, our population is way too dense. Every year, we face waves that shake the entire economy and cause many health problems. So it's better to treat covid-19 as we were treating early as a pandemic only and try to stay as safe as we can".

Because Spain was the first country to declare Covid an endemic, it's critical to understand how the virus is spreading. More than 100 Covid-related deaths have been reported in Spain in the last week.

In recent days, the United Kingdom, another proponent of the "new normal" strategy, has seen a decrease in Covid infections but reports over 1 lakh cases per day, with over 250 deaths per day. This begs the question: what does it mean for a country to be 'normal' when 100-200 people are dying from the same infection every day? India has lost a lot during the last 2 years, from their loved ones to financial stability, and this pandemic turning into an endemic does not seem very likely in the recent future.