China ‘secret’ could explain why Covid barely spread beyond Wuhan, says Apollo’s Prathap Reddy

At ThePrint's Off The Cuff, Apollo Hospitals chairman Dr Prathap Reddy said Covid was defying normal virus behaviour, and hoped China would reveal how to control it.

Dr Prathap Reddy, chairman Apollo Hospitals Group | Source:
Dr Prathap Reddy, chairman Apollo Hospitals Group | Source:

New Delhi: China might be holding on to “some form of secrecy” given that the Covid-19 disease hasn’t particularly spread to any of its regions other than Wuhan, the original epicentre of the pandemic, said Dr Prathap C. Reddy, chairman of Apollo Hospitals.

“I think that should make us realise that there is something to it. Except the Wuhan region, the virus didn’t spread to any other part of China… Meanwhile, it has spread to almost every village in India. There were 21 cases in my district alone,” he told Shekhar Gupta, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief at the digital edition of Off The Cuff on 10 July.

Discussing the virus, Dr Reddy also noted how this was “not an ordinary virus” and it was “defying the normal features of a virus”.

If not the medicine, Dr Reddy hoped the Chinese would reveal how to control the virus at least. “I wish they were this large-hearted. They should care for humanity,” he said.

In China, where the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 first emerged, Covid-19 cases have hovered around the 84,000-mark for months now while the global count has surpassed 1.3 crore. In India, the caseload crossed 9.6 lakh as of Thursday.

Also read: How decades of work on elusive HIV vaccine has given hope for a ‘quick’ Covid vaccine

‘Not an ordinary virus’

The Apollo Hospitals group chairman said the novel coronavirus is a different kind of virus because it’s been killing people in winter as well as summer. But he clarified that he couldn’t “speculate” if the virus came from a lab.

“This virus is killing people in the winter and summer. So, it is a different kind of virus which we need to watch carefully. But I can’t speculate that it came from a lab,” he said.

There remains speculation over the origin of the virus as scientists across the world try to determine where it came from, and when and how it was transmitted to humans. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French virologist and Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier had claimed that the virus was made in a lab. This theory gained some currency, but studies have shown that the virus couldn’t be man-made.

Asked for his views, Dr Reddy said, “I won’t definitively say it is a lab virus, I don’t have the proof to say it is … All I can say is that it is metamorphosing so fast that it is not an ordinary virus.”

Reddy further said he has been “baffled” by the nature of this virus.

“I remember when the Ebola virus outbreak (occured) in Africa, which killed over 30 per cent of the patients. However, the moment the temperature went up, it became normal,” he said.

He also recalled the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, where he had sent a team of people to assess the intensity of the outbreak. MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, killing almost 35 per cent people who contracted it.

“The team I sent set up a process protocol and in five days the number of deaths dropped. It did so not just because of us but also because the temperature went up till 30 degrees,” said Dr Reddy.

The coronavirus is acting “very aggressively and is defying the normal features of a virus”, he said, adding that all the other viruses either lived or died but this one has been changing its morphology rather quickly.

Also read: Coronavirus infection transmitted from mother to foetus in France