The Moving Curve: Episode 27

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist based in Chennai. Every night on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m considering an extension of the asymptomatic question that I dealt with yesterday, and it’s this — given what we know now, how should we move forward?

Yesterday’s press briefing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2nTpvM3a_U

Today’s press briefing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4cNbhY2cIQ

Chetan Chauhan of the Hindustan Times put together the share of confirmed cases who are asymptomatic in ten Indian states, and they’re all in the same range — I’ve linked to the piece. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/coronavirus-latest-update-asymptomatic-covid-cases-between-50-to-82-highlight-the-threat-from-silent-carriers/story-sC6bMC5NPELoC1AowuiLQL.html

Dr. Gangakhedkar’s assertion is that in the early days of being infected, a person is less likely to show up as positive in an RT-PCR test, and so it doesn’t make sense to do a test until they show symptoms. But this isn’t very well established, and some people never show symptoms at all but are infectious. I think the second part of what he says reveal an important truth when he uses the phrase “cost-effectiveness”. There is a global scarcity of testing kits, there is scarcity in India too, and conducting the test is expensive in terms of money, time and human and technical resources. With all of that in mind, the government is putting its eggs in a more reliable basket — symptomatic people and their close contacts.

As I’ve said about many such things, these aren’t easy decisions. But as always, let’s be real about what’s driving them.

Thank you for listening etc. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. Tomorrow — a new question.

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I am a data journalist based in Chennai, India.

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