The Moving Curve: Episode 34

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 thinking about this question — what can home quarantining mean for the future of the epidemic?

India has itself said that the share of cases requiring hospitalisation could be as low as 5% in the past: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/only-5-patients-affected-by-covid-19-require-hospitalisation-icmr-dg-11584874708452.html

But up until now, the government’s official clinical management strategy has been to institutionalise all positive persons and those awaiting test results. The most recent such advisory is from April 7: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/FinalGuidanceonMangaementofCovidcasesversion2.pdf

Well that changed in an important way today. In new guidelines issued by the health ministry today, “very mild or presymptomatic patients having the requisite facility at his/her residence for self-isolation will have the option for home isolation.” https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/GuidelinesforHomeIsolationofverymildpresymptomaticCOVID19cases.pdf

This is in line with what many other countries have been doing from the beginning of the pandemic. The US Centre for Disease Control says this, for example: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

I had thought that one of the reasons India was institutionalising everyone was that our conservative testing strategy meant that we weren’t picking up people without symptoms or with only mild symptoms at all. But as I reported in Episodes 26 and 27, after stuttering a bit on it, the Indian government now says that the majority of our cases too are people who are asymptomatic or with very mild symptoms.

India’s first positive case, a medical student who returned to Kerala from Wuhan, told The News Minute that the only symptoms she experienced were a sore throat and a one-day cough. She spent 25 days in isolation in a hospital.

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-inspires-me-indias-first-coronavirus-patient-who-recovered-tells-tnm-118843

According to Atul Thakur of the Times of India, the 2011 Census showed that over 40% of Indian households have either no exclusive room — meaning the house is just one common area — or has just one room. Another 32% live in houses with just two rooms which could include a kitchen. Essentially, a minority of Indian households are likely to have a spare room that a person in home quarantine could use exclusively: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/why-home-quarantine-is-difficult-in-india/articleshow/74704620.cms

Thank you for listening. 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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