New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in an interaction with public healthcare expert Dr Ashish Jha, described the coronavirus pandemic as “a new book” and said it would change life as we know it completely.
In a video interaction, which was released Wednesday morning, Gandhi held discussions with Dr Jha from Harvard University and Johan Giesecke, professor of infectious diseases at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, on the issues of testing for the virus as well as easing out the lockdown.
“People called 9/11 a new chapter. But this is a new book. Life will change completely after this … I hope that this disease will bring people together and bring them to the realisation that you can’t fight this disease as different religions, or different communities, different castes, different genders,” Gandhi said.
He added that while the pandemic will take a hit on globalisation, there is potential for people coming together to fight the virus.
“There is an opportunity that in fighting this disease we are able to start a conversation, we are able to understand that everybody is required to fight this disease and we are able to work together to get out of this,” Gandhi added.
This dialogue came nearly a month after Gandhi’s interaction with former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, and weeks after his interaction with Nobel-winning economist Abhijit Banerjee.
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Entering an age of pandemics, says Jha
Addressing Gandhi’s concerns about a changing world order, Jha said this isn’t the last pandemic of our times.
“We are entering an age of pandemics. I am confident that this is not the last large global pandemic you and I are going to see in the next 20 years,” Jha said.
Jha said in an era of globalisation, any virus will spread very quickly.
“All this economic growth is great for lifting people out of poverty… but has also led to deforestation, encroachment into areas where there are more animals. Most diseases come from animals to humans,” Jha added.
He also raised concerns over India’s present testing rates. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said India now conducts 1 lakh Covid tests daily, and over 2,536 tests per million population.
“In generic terms, you should be testing anybody with any kind of symptoms… My feeling is that anybody who gets admitted to a hospital for almost any reason in an area with any kind of outbreak should be tested. They could spread it to 30 healthcare workers, 70 patients and that could be a disaster,” Jha said.
“I am not convinced that India could not do much more testing that it does right now,” he added.
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Skip lockdown, take care of the old, says Giesecke
On the question of the grave consequences of the lockdown, professor Johan Giesecke said no country put in any real thought on an exit strategy for the lockdown.
“I don’t think at that point they thought about how to get out of it. Now everyone is asking the same question — how do we get out of this,” Giesecke said.
He also suggested taking a one-step-at-a-time route to ease the lockdown.
“You take all the restrictions you have in India, you take one away, you soften one restriction. You wait two-three weeks and see what happens. Do we have more spread of the disease? If yes, then we take one step back and try another restriction,” he said.
Gandhi raised concerns on the economic impact of the lockdown in the country, and how one can potentially mitigate it. Giesecke recommended Sweden’s model, where the country’s government emphasised on taking care of the old and the frail, but keeping the restrictions minimal.
“I think it’s better to skip the lockdown, take care of the old and the frail, and let the other people have the infection. Most people will not even be sick,” Giesecke suggested, adding that a severe lockdown will ruin India’s economy.
Coronavirus cases in India crossed 1.51 lakh Wednesday, with over 4,000 deaths.
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Dear Indian friends,
Giesecke is one of the people behind our failed corona strategy here in Sweden. It’s a cruel joke that he is invited by your leaders as an “expert”.
We are by now the corona capital of the world. Sweden has four times the number of casualties as all of it’s neighbouring countries combined. All thanks to
Giesecke. Don’t let him in, save your country and your loved ones.
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