Most of you are probably working from home, as are hundreds of people across the globe. All of this because of a tiny virus that has gripped more than 300 people across our country so far and the numbers are just rising by the minute.
If you are a millennial who thinks that nothing will happen to you cause you are in the prime of your youth, you are in for a surprise. Some experts believe that almost 70% of the world’s population will be affected by this virus, so it’s not really a question of ‘if you will catch the virus’, but more of ‘when will you catch the virus’? Wait, don’t be disappointed so soon. While chances are that you may get the virus, but the probability is that you will not die of it because based on what we’ve seen so far, those of us below 60 aren’t really at risk of fatality.
So, why are all us being asked to practice social distancing? Surely, all the elderly and young children should be asked to stay at home, while the rest of us should be allowed to live our lives normally, right?. Well, that’s not exactly how this works.
Currently, India is in phase 2 of the Coronavirus Outbreak - where there is a local transmission from infected people - for example, relatives or people who come in direct contact with those who’ve travelled abroad. In India, so far 341 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and 6 have died. That's less than 3%.
Apart from this, thousands of people are under community surveillance in India presently because even those infected can be seen as not having symptoms (asymptomatic) for days while being highly contagious and spreading the virus to those they come in contact with.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Not very. Just enough to affect 70% of the global population.
Coronavirus’s rate of transmission stands at R3. (Those of you who watched Contagion will be familiar with this). An R3 rate of transmission means that for every one person infected, they will potentially infect another 3. This is double the rate of transmission of the seasonal flu which stands at R 1.4.
A vaccine must be on its way, right?
One way to combat the spread of infections is through vaccination, but there’s a problem. To reach community immunity for Covid-19, we’d need to vaccinate 2/3rd of the world population and the best estimate is that we won't have a vaccine before 12 to 18 months.
So, all our hopes of getting vaccinated are down the drain.
Is there anything that can be done?
Actually, yes. What all of us should try to do right now is to slow down the rate of infection in order to ensure that our healthcare system can cope and doesn’t get overworked. In the news cycle, you will hear the phrase “flatten the curve” which means precisely this.
At the end of the day, while us millennials might get off easily with just a viral fever, from what we’ve seen globally, our parents and grandparents might not.
A situation in Korea can help you understand this better. In Korea, death rates jumped from 0.1% for those below 50 to 1.5% in the 60 to 69 bracket, 4.3% in 70 to 79 bracket and 7.2% in the above 80 age group. So, while you can go unscratched, it is truly a difficult time for our elderly citizens.
How ready are we to face this pandemic?
Another reason why we must need to delay the spread so that extreme cases are staggered over a prolonged period of time is that in India, we are simply not prepared.
Delhi, with a population of 20 million has only 8000 ICU beds and as a result, some experts feel the death rate might just shoot up to over 10% in the high-risk brackets. According to the world bank, in 2011, India had only 0.7 beds per 1000 people. In the same year, China, the epicentre of the virus, had 3.8 beds per 1000 people. In 2017, India recorded to have 0.8 doctors per 1000 people. While Italy had 4.1 the very same year.
As depressing as these figures sound, they are unfortunately true and might prove to be a big set back in our road to fight Covid-19.
How do millennials come into the picture?
Millennials make up 70% of the country's population, we should get through this pandemic fine, but how we act will impact those most at risk.
The virus spreads through contact, so quite simply reduce the contact. Practice social-distancing, which means isolate yourself as much as possible. If possible work from home, don’t take public transport, don’t go to crowded places, which might mean shopping online or going to the market at non-peak hours. Also, of course, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap obsessively.
This is your time to sit back and relax and also fight this pandemic. Ask your grandparents, it doesn’t get easier than this.