Panaji: The rise in cases in Kerala and parts of Maharashtra are cause for concern and worst is not yet over, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) director general Shekhar Mande has said.
“This (the rise in cases) might be a reflection of the fact that people have become complacent and probably believe that the worst is behind us. The worst is not over and unless we follow due diligence and all precautions, we will not be able to get over the pandemic so easily,” he said.
“…if more number of individuals are infected there would be more droplet nuclei floating around in the air and therefore, one must avoid gatherings of people. Whatever the function may be, whether religious, social, whatever as long as we are able to avoid gatherings, we will reduce the probability of having this droplet nuclei in the air and therefore reduce the probability of infecting others,” he said.
India’s scientific community had begun preparing itself on how to react to the virus before the WHO declared it a pandemic last year, Mande said during a session of ‘Rise of Indian Science and Technology in the Fight against Covid-19’ organised by International Centre Goa (ICG) on Friday.
India’s first case was detected on January 20 last year, and Mande during a lecture in Pune on February 7, last year, had stated, “We are living in the Corona era.”
Indian scientists had an inkling that something serious was unfolding and a meeting was held of all 37 CSIR directors at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Goa on February 25 and 26, last year, on how to react if Covid became a global emergency.
The WHO declared a pandemic only on March 11 when Indian scientists were already preparing how to deal with it. He said the CSIR formed a strategic group and held daily meetings from March 25 focussing on surveillance, diagnostics and interventions. This was possible because of the investment in science and technology in the country, he said.
“India rose to the occasion as one single country. Everyone worked together and made sure our population was affected to a much lesser extent than many other advanced countries,” he said.
When asked whether he believed that Covid-19 leaked from a lab or was a natural occurrence, Mande said, “The conspiracy hypothesis that there was a deliberate leak or accidental leak is very, very unlikely. Most of the scientific community believes that a random mutation took place and passed on from a bat to a pangolin and then humans.
“At this moment, we don’t believe there was any accidental or designed leak of the virus from the lab. But only the WHO would be in a better position to address this.”
He also said contrary to WHO’s stand that the virus spreads through contaminated surfaces, most scientists believe that the virus is airborne.
Mande said the immune system of people in poor countries is well trained as they are continuously exposed to pathogens and as a result their immune system doesn’t overreact.
The opposite is true for rich countries where lifestyle diseases are more prevalent and where people are used to living in super hygienic conditions which don’t’ see many infections, bacteria and fungi and where these countries also have large number of people above the age of 65.
“All this put together suggests that the immune system of people in poorer countries is better trained because people in these countries are continuously exposed to different kind of pathogens and therefore, their immune system doesn’t hyper react to a new pathogen such as SARSCov2 where as in richer countries it is vice versa,” Mande said.