Saturday, June 27

"Covid-19 was in Spanish sewage as early as MARCH 2019, study claims"

June 26, 2020 - 23:23

Traces of the novel coronavirus have been discovered in Barcelona sewage water months before the first case of the dreaded disease was reported in China, claims a new study by a group of Spanish researchers.

Scientists with the Enteric Virus Group at the University of Barcelona detected the presence of the virus in frozen samples of the city’s wastewater collected as early as March 12, 2019. The group, led by Rosa Maria Pintó and Albert Bosch, was exploring the potential of wastewater analysis in early warning systems and the prevention of future Covid-19 outbreaks when it made the surprise discovery.

Initially, the team found the virus in samples dated January 15, 2020 – some 41 days before the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Spain. They decided to check earlier samples, taken between January 2018 and December 2019, and all proved negative “except for the one from March 12, 2019, in which the SARS-CoV-2 levels were very low but were clearly positive,” the team said in a statement, using the official name of the virus.

The researchers came to the conclusion that the virus might have spread around the world much earlier than initially thought.

“Barcelona receives many visitors for tourist or professional reasons,” said Borsch. “It is more than likely that a similar situation has occurred in other parts of the world.”

The group assumed that some early cases of Covid-19 might have been mistaken for a severe flu. While the study published in the medRxiv repository has not been peer-reviewed so far, the revelation was extensively covered by the Spanish media, such as the El Mundo daily.

The virus has spread almost all over the world, infecting more than 9 million people and claiming almost 500,000 lives. Scientists have hypothesized that it originated at a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

The first confirmed European case of the coronavirus was recorded in France in January 2020. Various studies that have appeared since have challenged that, however. Italian research also focused on sewage water analysis said that traces of the virus were found in Milan and Turin samples dating back to mid-December 2019.



Friday, June 26

India increases troop deployment to contested border

I don't know whether the Indian press has reported the numbers.  

India and China deployed in 'large numbers' in border showdown: foreign ministry
June 26, 2020
AFP via Yahoo News

New Delhi (AFP) - India acknowledged for the first time Thursday that it has matched China in massing troops at their contested Himalayan border region after a deadly clash this month.
But India's foreign ministry accused China of causing the tensions by starting military deployments, and warned relations between the world's two most populous nations could be undermined if the standoff continues.
The neighbours have blamed each other for a June 15 battle in the Ladakh region in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered an unknown number of casualties.
While each has said it wants to de-escalate the territorial showdown, India's foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said "both sides remain deployed in large numbers in the region, while military and diplomatic contacts are continuing".
Srivastava said "Chinese actions" on the unofficial border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), led to this month's deadly fight with rocks and batons. No shots were fired.
"At the heart of the matter is that since early May, the Chinese side has been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC," the spokesman charged.
He added that China had obstructed India's patrols in contravention of accords made to avoid skirmishes between their armies, who fought a border war in 1962 and have regularly clashed since.
Srivastava said Chinese forces had built "structures" on the Indian side of their demarcation line in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh where the high-altitude battle was fought.
"While there have been occasional departures in the past, the conduct of Chinese forces this year has been in complete disregard of all mutually agreed norms," the spokesman said.
India had "to undertake counter deployments" because of the Chinese buildup, he said.

Oh, so TIBETANS were to blame for India-China brawl getting out of hand!

From The New York Times, today:
Details of the [June 15] incident remain sketchy and impossible to verify independently, but according to some accounts in the Indian news media, a tense, but manageable situation spiraled out of control because inexperienced replacements from other parts of Tibet did not observe the usual protocols for defusing confrontations.
The NYT report, headlined China’s Military Provokes Its Neighbors, but the Message Is for the United States
 is typed by the paper's Bureau Chief in Beijing, Steven Lee Meyers. As you might imagine, Mr Meyers is in a delicate position, and as you can see from the headline he was focused on painting with a broad brush; he had little to say about the brawl. But I would appreciate it if he had named even one of those Indian news media -- as he does in the next paragraph while discussing estimates of the number of Chinese troops killed in the brawl. 

Absent accreditation, we don't know from the Times report whether any of the sources used by "Indian media" were official Indian ones. I would find that unlikely, unless the officials were carrying water for China or pandering to Indians who don't want the conflict with China to escalate.

It is possible that China's military uses several native Tibetans for border patrol in that region because the natives are fully acclimated to long periods of exertion at high altitude. But we know from photographs of the weapon China's troops used against Indian ones that these weren't devised on the spot, although they were fashioned to look homemade. And it would have taken training for troops to wield such weapons -- iron bars studded with nails and wrapped in barbed wire -- at such close quarters  

So it would be preposterous to claim or even insinuate that "inexperienced" troops were responsible for the deadly assault.

It was a premeditated sneak attack on Indian troops. The tactic was to use the weapons to force as many Indian troops as possible over a cliff before the Indians could rally.     

Finally, for Mr Meyers' benefit, the assault had nothing to do with China sending messages to the USA.


China Strategy: Lay false claim to much then concede most

The following background report, dated June 23, is behind events because the Chinese are no longer laying claim to parts of the Galwan Valley in India's Ladkah; they're claiming the entire valley as theirs. ET has caught up; a June 26 headline reads, China once again claims sovereignty over Galwan ValleyBut the 23rd report is an instructive introduction to how the Chinese operate. Where they have to, they will take tiny bites. 

The report shows why it's folly for India to get entangled in squabbles with China over coordinates and a few square kilometers.  The entire "Line of Actual Control" is a farce, a fraud.  

India digs up old coordinates: China’s Galwan claim of 1960 stopped short of faceoff point
China’s claim on parts of the Galwan river valley was first made in the boundary talks of 1960. 
By Pranab Dhal Samanta
June 23, 2010
Economic Times [India]

NEW DELHI: China’s claim on parts of the Galwan river valley was first made in the boundary talks of 1960 but the coordinates it gave did not include the site of the current faceoff. It, in fact, stopped well short of the point where River Galwan meets the River Shyok, referred to as the ‘estuary’ in Chinese statement of June 19 — better known as Y-Nala or Y-junction to Indian forces.

The coordinates given by the Chinese side in 1960 of the point where it believed its claim line crossed the River Galwan was: Longitude 78° 13’ E, Latitude 34. 46’ N. This was after the Indian delegation led by then Joint Secretary (East) Jagat Singh Mehta and supported by head of history division Dr S Gopal specifically asked the question on the coordinates of where the new claim line passed.

This claim was later opposed by the Indian side as valleys of Galwan and Chip Chap river, among other areas, were not part of the claim line presented in 1956. This was recorded by the Indian team in the joint India-China report:
“The Indian side noted that the Chinese side were unable to explain the discrepancies between the alignment shown in this Sector on the 1956 map and authoritatively confirmed by Premier Chou En-lai in 1959, and that shown in the map provided by the Chinese side at these meetings. The latter map showed an alignment which ran due east from the Karakoram Pass rather than southeast as in the 1956 map, and then, making a sudden turn southward, it cut across the Upper Shyok or Chip Chap river, the Galwan river, and the Changlung river to reach the Kongka Pass.”
The talks were a failure and in the war that ensued in 1962, the Chinese side captured territory up to its claim line of 1960, which in this area effectively became the Line of Actual Control as determined by the conflict.

However, as per that line and the coordinates stated in the 1960 talks, India has control of an area extending a few kilometres east of the of the Y-Nala or the Galwan estuary. These are ridges that include PP14, 15 and 17. And India has been patrolling up to these points without any controversy post-1962. In fact, the differences have been pronounced in Pangong Tso and Depsang, said sources.

The Indian contention, based on recent statements of the Ministry of External Affairs, is that it’s the Chinese who have altered their normal patrolling pattern and challenged Indian patrols. This, followed by a massive standoff, an unprecedented violent skirmish and a claim over the entire Galwan river valley has the Indian side concerned whether China is pushing its claim in a manner to make Y-Nala the new boundary.

This would be unacceptable to India as the 255 km DSDBO road runs on an alignment east of the River Shyok. India, in fact, also rejected the notion that its patrols will not cross the Galwan estuary as claimed by the Chinese side on June 19, where it even alleged that it was agreed to in June 6 Corps Commander meeting.

India has made it clear that it will continue to patrol up to the area east of the Galwan estuary as it has done regularly in the past. It’s in this context that the Chinese claim on Galwan River Valley becomes controversial because it’s unclear if the coordinates meant are the same as 1960 which is also the point its forces roughly came up to in 1962.



Thursday, June 25

China now claiming India's Galwan Valley as Chinese territory

India reinforces flashpoint area as China holds ground: sources
June 24, 2020

AFP via Yahoo News

Indian fighter jets roared over a flashpoint Himalayan region Wednesday as part of a show of strength following what military sources say has been a Chinese takeover of contested territory.
Chinese forces have held onto a chunk of land covering several square kilometres (miles) at the mouth of the Galwan valley following a deadly brawl there on June 15, the Indian military sources told AFP.
The two sides publicly declared they would pull back following the clash, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead after a battle involving rocks and nail-studded batons.
But both countries have maintained troops around the valley, with India deploying more forces and trying to project military might.
Indian jets regularly took off Wednesday from a military base in Leh, the main Indian town in the contested region, and headed towards the mountainous border 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.
There were also checkpoints on main roads out of Leh and a frenzy of military activity around the town, which lies at 3,500 metres (11,500 feet).
Residents reported long lines of military trucks and artillery on nearby roads.
"We now have a good strength present in the area," an official of the Indian army's Northern Command told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to the reinforcements.
Tashi Chhepal, a retired Indian army captain who has served in the area and is based in Leh, said the mobilisation was unprecedented in a sensitive region touching Pakistan as well as China.
"I haven't seen this kind of military movement before," he told AFP.
- China gains -
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday called on India to observe previous bilateral agreements and "work with China to take concrete actions and resume peace and stability in the border areas".
Beijing had made similar calls for resolution after a fist-fight in May that proved to be a warm-up for the medieval-style battle at Galwan.
Images taken on Sunday by the US satellite firm Maxar showed trucks and huts at camps on the river near the scene of the fighting. It was not clear which side they belonged to.
The two countries fought a border war in 1962, but this month's fighting was their deadliest encounter in 53 years.
According to Indian military sources, Chinese troops ambushed Indian soldiers and forced them down a ridge where they had gone to remove a Chinese "encroachment".
A bilateral accord prevents the use of guns, but the fighting was still fierce, with rudimentary weapons.
China has in turn accused Indian soldiers of twice crossing the Line of Actual Control, the unofficial boundary, provoking its troops.
But the Chinese appear to be sticking to their gains at Galwan and the nearby Pangong Tso lake, police intelligence and military sources told AFP.
China is now claiming the valley as its own, in statements that India has rejected.
- Lesson learnt -
Indian analysts are dubious of the chances of a major easing of the tensions or that India will reclaim the territory.
Harsh Pant from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank in New Delhi said: "Anything that the Chinese now say can't be taken on face value. India, hopefully, has learnt its lessons now."
Amid calls for a boycott of Chinese goods, media reports say Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government could make it more difficult for Chinese companies to do business.
But analysts say there is recognition on both sides that their economies need each other.
"There may be some short-term public backlash against China in India, but publicly, Pakistan swamps China as a perceived threat," said Vipin Narang, a security specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"The effects of this crisis, even if it slow burns, may be short lived amongst India's public. And cheap TVs are still cheap TVs."

Wednesday, June 24

"This bewildering virus"

There's a great deal of important information in the following report -- although much of it is probably already known to readers who closely follow Covid-19 news. But I'm going to skip over much in the report to highlight an emerging discovery about what could be as high as 35 percent of recovered Covid patients getting an illness known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.

I also want to emphasize what the report says about heart problems that can accompany Covid even after recovery from the infection.  

By Austin Williams
June 24, 2020
Fox News/Associated Press

[includes video]

Watson said she has had a persistent fever for nearly three months now, along with a handful of other disconcerting symptoms. 

Since the first reported cases of the novel coronavirus, several support groups have emerged on Facebook consisting of thousands of members calling themselves “long haul survivors,” reporting COVID-19 symptoms that they say have lasted for months. 
“Today is day 93,” said Amy Watson, a preschool teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon as she shared a photograph of her thermometer that read 100.3 on June 18. She first tested positive for COVID-19 on April 11,  after falling ill with flu-like symptoms in mid-March. 
Watson said she has had a persistent fever for nearly three months now, along with a handful of other disconcerting symptoms. 
Watson said she first came down with the flu-like symptoms on March 15, when she developed a cough and fever. She felt some of the worst of the illness for about a week, until, she said, she started to feel better, only to have the illness return like “a ton of bricks.”
While she said the initial symptoms of congestion and cough have since subsided, she continues to experience other manifestations of the illness. 
“These other symptoms that have just been hanging on are the ones that nobody knows how to treat and fix,” said Watson. “I’ve got this fever, I got this crazy burning sensation, nerve pain that’s like under my skin, incredible fatigue.” 
Watson, whose only underlying condition before contracting COVID-19 was asthma, added that she has to sit down and rest every time she performs any menial task.  [Pundita note: I read months ago that oddly, the virus tends to leave asthmatics alone, and/or not seriously infect them.] 
Back in March when she first reported feeling sick, it was nearly impossible for her to get a COVID-19 test. She said she called an advice nurse, who told her to assume it was the novel coronavirus and isolate herself for two weeks, which she did. 
“The 14 days passed and I was still sick,” said Watson. She was prescribed multiple rounds of antibiotics after she reached three weeks of being symptomatic with the illness.
Since getting sick [from Covid], Hornig [Dr Mady Hornig, an immunologist and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University] said she’s had to carry a pulse oximeter with her, a device which registers her pulse since she began to have tachycardia episodes when her fever began to decline. Tachycardia is a condition that can make your heart beat abnormally fast, reducing blood flow to the rest of your body, according to The Mayo Clinic.
Her most recent episode was on June 22. Her pulse registered at 135 beats per minute, which she said occurred just from her sitting at her computer. She said a normal pulse for someone her age would be around 60-70 beats per minute.
Amy Watson also said that her heart rate has been known to escalate and drop dramatically since she has been sick, and she said she was forced to go to urgent care after an incident she had last week when she thought she was having a heart attack. 
While it was not a heart attack Watson was experiencing, she was diagnosed with pleurisy, a very painful illness in which tissue that separate the lungs from the chest wall becomes inflamed.
While symptoms like “COVID toes” and month-long fevers have left some medical workers perplexed, some illnesses stemming from the coronavirus are not entirely without precedent. 
Hornig has been researching one particular illness that has previously been linked to other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS. 
According to the CDC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Many people have previously experienced a coronavirus in the form of the common cold. But COVID-19 has not previously been identified in humans
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is an illness Hornig said has been found in patients who have recovered from coronaviruses such as SARS. The CDC cites a 2015 report from the nation’s top medical advisory body, the Institute of Medicine, which says that an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from ME/CFS.
The CDC says that people with ME/CFS experience severe fatigue, sleep problems, as well as difficulty with thinking and concentrating while experiencing pain and dizziness.
Hornig said SARS-CoV-1 and MERS have been associated with longer-term difficulties, in which many people appeared to have symptoms of ME/CFS. 
In April, advocates of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (Solve M.E.) virtually stormed Capitol Hill for the fourth annual ME/CFS Advocacy day, which the organization calls a “national event to educate congress about the neuroimmune disease.”
According to the organization, nearly 35 percent of COVID-19 patients are experiencing ME/CFS adding that the illness typically follows a viral infection. 
“ME/CFS is an urgent public health crisis based on what is happening in our country right now,” says Emily Taylor, Director of Advocacy and Community Relations at Solve M.E. “Evidence suggests that a virus as serious and widespread as COVID-19 could ignite rapid and significant growth in the ME/CFS population in just 36 months ..."
The number of new coronavirus cases across the [USA] per day has reached more than 26,000, up from about 21,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over 120,000 deaths in the U.S. have been blamed on the virus, the highest toll in the world.

Covid mortality rate "already twice as bad as the worst flu seasons"

The following is from the Sic Semper Tyrannis comment section in answer to a post by an anonymous contributor ("Deap") who passed along a summary from an "alleged media research and review organization" on what is currently known about the infection/mortality rates and related data on Covid-19:  

There is a lot wrong with this article. A lot of vague, unsupported, and false statements, no links or anything. "Experts", "Leading doctors", etc., again, who are the people saying these things and what are their credentials? I won't go into all of it since that would be too long, but I'll address one thing.
Regarding mortality rate, the statement "latest immunological and serological studies, the overall lethality of Covid-19 (IFR) is about 0.1%" is utter nonsense. Immunological and serological studies are not used to determine lethality, they look at antibody formation and corresponding viral load.
0.1% number is just made up; current US death rate is 0.035% vs. overall population (so 120,000 deaths over 340 million people), Europe is slightly higher at 0.045%.
For comparison, typical flu season is much less severe, it's 0.01% vs. overall population, bad flu season is 0.02%. So, this is already twice as bad as the worst flu seasons, and it still has ways to go.
And yes, there is a discussion to be had on how deaths are attributed (COVID-caused vs. COVID-incidental), but that cuts both ways. Many people likely died before they were tested, especially amongst the older population.
Posted by: voislav | 22 June 2020 at 07:05 PM
The summary posted by Deap has no paragraph breaks; it was pulled from an earlier comment section at SST. Readers can see the version with paragraph breaks here, fifth comment, also by Deap.

Also, an energetic reader at SST did find some of the sources used in the summary. See the summary comment section, 1:02 AM June 23, Terence Gore.

Also, from another reader in the same comment section:
The 122,000 deaths in the US so far is conclusive evidence that COVID-19 is no ordinary flu, which kills about 40,000 a year. And the toll will be much higher, since cases in many states are spiking.
Posted by: JohnH | 23 June 2020 at 10:24 AM
I note that although infections are spiking in certain American states, this doesn't necessarily mean that deaths from the infections are spiking. We'll just have to wait and see.   


Tuesday, June 23

Made in Mexico: 9 highly toxic hand sanitizers

Months ago after hand sanitizers first became virtually impossible to buy the Babylon Bee, a satirical website, concocted a hilarious post about Mexican drug cartels getting into the hand sanitizer business. I'm no longer laughing after seeing a news report on a FDA warning about hand sanitizers that contain methanol, which is so toxic it should be disposed of at a hazardous waste site.  

Who would do such a thing? A company in Mexico making 9 brands of hand sanitizers is doing it. As of Monday afternoon, the company hadn't responded to questions, so right now all that can be done is warn people against use of the products, which the article lists. 

Before posting the article, I'll mention news about a bottle of 80 percent isopropyl alcohol that burst into flames when it was left on the dashboard in a closed, overheated car.  The owner was using the alcohol she got from her company as a hand sanitizer. From my recollection of the article, it wasn't the first time something like this had been known to happen.

The article didn't say whether it was direct sunlight through the glass windshield or high temperature in the car that caused the alcohol to flame. Nor did it say whether the bottle was glass or plastic.  

Anyhow, everyone who cooks with alcohol knows it's highly flammable even at a low concentration. It's just that one doesn't automatically apply this knowledge to alcohol used for sanitizing, or assume that it can flame inside a bottle, without direct application of fire.  

Word to the wise; avoid leaving the stuff exposed to sunlight or high indoor temperature for any length of time.      

FDA warns consumers not to use these 9 ‘potentially dangerous’ hand sanitizers
Jun 22nd 2020 3:42PM
Daily News via AOL

Monday, June 22

The Dharavi miracle is continuing

"BMC staff in personal protection equipment (PPE) carried out the screenings, often fainting due to the heat trapped in the narrow alleys."

This is an inspiring story, which has received international attention. Bloomberg reported it on June 13 (How Asia’s Densest Slum Chased the Virus Has Lessons for Others). But would Dharavi's amazing success at flattening the Covid-19 curve hold? Fast forward to today; India's Tribune, as well as other Indian publications, reports that the answer is still "Yes." 

The Dharavi story is all the more amazing given the spike in Covid-19 cases and fatalities reported today in India.  See the update from Sputnik at the end of this post.

The best backgrounder I've seen so far is this one from an Indian publication (a lakh in the Indian numbering system equates to 100,00):

How Covid hotspot Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, fought against all odds to flatten the curve
14 June, 2020 8:00 am IST

Home to 8.5 lakh people living in cramped houses, Dharavi was deemed to fail. Yet, in two months, it appears to have turned the story around.

Mumbai: Mumbai’s Dharavi, known as Asia’s largest slum, recorded its first coronavirus case on 1 April, sparking fears of a large hotspot in the city. As it stands, India’s financial capital currently has the highest number of active cases in the country.

Fast forward two months, the virus curve in Dharavi, part of Mumbai’s G North administrative ward, appears to be flattening. In contrast, a few municipal wards of Mumbai’s northern suburbs that had very few cases initially, are now recording a spike of nearly 5 per cent every day.
So what helped turn Dharavi’s story around?
A series of innovative experiments — bringing in private practitioners, isolating vulnerable populations, getting large quarantine facilities and taking over private hospitals for treatment — seemed to have done the trick.

Dharavi’s case timeline

As of 12 June, Dharavi recorded 2,013 coronavirus cases, but its daily growth rate was 1.57 per cent as against the city’s 3 per cent and the 5 per cent in other wards such as P North, R South and S wards (all of these comprise Mumbai’s north-western regions).
There were no deaths recorded between 30 May and 8 June but six deaths have been reported in the last four days, taking the toll to 77.
Overall, Mumbai has recorded 55,451 Covid-19 positive cases, almost a fifth of the total cases in the country. Of these, 28,248 were active as of Saturday.

Turning things around

Dharavi is home to about 8.5 lakh people, all living in very close, cramped quarters within  a 2.5 square kilometre area.
On 11 June, it recorded just 20 new cases. The doubling rate — the time in which the current total number of cases double — for the slum touched 44 days, much higher than the city’s average of about 22 days.
“It was a task that was deemed to fail but we have surprised everyone,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, in charge of G north ward consisting of Dadar, Mahim and Dharavi.
Social distancing and lockdown — the twin strategies that are largely regarded as the only effective ways to counter coronavirus in the absence of treatment or a vaccine — do not work in Dharavi.
With houses just 10×12 feet, providing shelter to large families of seven to eight members, transmission through the community was inevitable. So instead, municipal authorities carried out rigorous contact tracing, testing and quarantining of coronavirus cases as well as cleaning community toilets to maintain hygiene since most of the slum residents depend on them.
“We are reaping the benefits of the absolute rigorous contact tracing done in the initial days,” said Dr Rama Shyam, programme director of adolescent programme at SNEHA, a non-profit that works in Dharavi.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) helpline (1916) had been very responsive in dealing with queries and giving out information, she added.
Dighavkar said the BMC has conducted around 7,000 tests in Dharavi till date, with an additional 2,000 tests being done by the private labs.
Dr Shyam further said with lockdown being lifted and people starting to crowd streets and markets, clear data-driven communication about preventive steps and civic body’s preparedness is needed to keep the cases numbers low.
What has also helped Dharavi’s case is the mass exodus of migrant workers. About 1.5 lakh who live in Dharavi left the city and returned to their native homes, according to BMC officials.
Meanwhile, with cases falling, municipal schools that were converted into quarantine centres are being handed back to school administrations so they can be ready whenever the government allows students to return.
“This will help regain people’s confidence,” said Dighavkar.

Finding more doctors to screen Dharavi 

To screen each of the households in Dharavi was nearly impossible. BMC staff in personal protection equipment (PPE) carried out the screening, often fainting due to the heat trapped in the narrow alleys.
After the initial 47,000 who were screened door-to-door, the strategy changed. People with symptoms were asked to come for screenings and nine BMC dispensaries and 350 private practitioners were roped in along with fever camps to carry out this exercise.
In one such clinic, private practitioner Dr Anil Pachnekar’s clinic on 90 feet Road in Dharavi, ThePrint saw a long queue of patients waiting outside. 
Irrespective of their symptoms, all patients were screened for fever and their oxygen saturation levels were checked. The familiarity with local practitioners meant residents were more forthcoming about their health, said Pachnekar.
Using this strategy, local authorities were able to screen 3.6 lakh people apart from another 1.2 lakh senior citizens, who are more vulnerable to the infection.
Since patients were screened and quarantined early, they were monitored, thus avoiding a drastic rise in the mortality rate due to late admissions, said Dighavkar.

Large quarantine centres to the rescue

While contact-tracing was one measure, setting up large quarantine centres was the complementary factor.
The first large facility that the administration took over in Dharavi was the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex with 300 beds. Soon, municipal schools as well Mahim Nature Park were taken over as isolation and quarantine facilities with a capacity of 3,800.
Until June more than 8,500 were quarantined in such facilities.
Apart from 24-hour monitoring and care, some centres provided more holistic and innovative care. For instance, everyday at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, patients with coronavirus symptoms and those who were asymptomatic were put through aerobics, yoga and breathing exercises. The sessions had a twin purpose — to keep patients active and help them relax.
“Most of the patients in the centre had no symptoms, but dealing with the stress of being diagnosed with Covid-19, they panicked and their health deteriorated,” said Dr Dhananjay More, a private practitioner who was appointed as an emergency medical officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex on 20 April.
He came up with the idea of holding yoga and pranayam sessions. Such sessions can help the asymptomatic to recover and not require hospitalisation, he said. From 100-200 people in May, his facility now has only 45 patients.
For providing critical care, the BMC took over five private hospitals in the area.
“We did not wait for the cases to reach 100 to start acting. The first fever clinic was started three days after the first case; we took over the 200-bedded Sai Hospital to treat serious cases within the first two weeks,” Dighavkar said. This ensured patients didn’t have to search in Mumbai’s crowded public hospitals for beds.
Dharavi has certainly surfaced from what was a potentially really bad case of coronavirus. But there are still issues.
During the lockdown, the municipal corporation sent dry rations to 24,000 families and fed 19,000 people, including 11,000 iftar meals.
However, this was not enough considering the huge population, the fact that most residents were now jobless after the lockdown, and ration shops were only giving out rice and wheat. Instead, it was non-profit and volunteer groups who stepped in and provided dry ration kits and thousands of cooked meals.
Dighavkar said the national media spotlight on Dharavi also helped ensure donations.
However, this avenue is fast drying up.
“The donations are drying up but we are still getting 100-200 calls for food supplies requests everyday,” said Shaheem Shaikh, a volunteer who mans the 24X7 lockdown helpline. Shaikh has been part of the relief work since March, and has given out ration kits to over 900 families in Dharavi.
Some have alleged that hospitals dealing with non-Covid cases were not functioning properly. Raju Korde of Dharavi Bachao Andolan, said, “My friend’s father expired because he didn’t get dialysis for 12 days … the technician at the hospital where he went to did not turn up and other hospitals refused treatment without a Covid test.”
However, Dighavkar refuted the claim that regular health facilities weren’t up and running, and said the BMC was running five hospitals in the area, of which, only one was a Covid-designated hospital.
Then there is the challenge of a possible second wave as migrants slowly return, as well the threat of more diseases when the monsoon arrives. Low-lying areas like Dharavi are especially prone to monsoon-related problems, beginning with flooding.
Dighavkar said they are prepared for any eventuality.
“There is a 1,000 bed quarantine facility at Mahim Nature park as well as 200 bed hospital in front of it, with oxygen supply … so if the cases increase, we have our resources ready.”
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From Sputnik's Live updates today on Covid-19 cases worldwide:
India Registers Massive Increase in COVID-19 Death Toll, Total Cases Now Exceed 425,000
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday reported 14,821 new cases of coronavirus infection, in line with the record-setting number of daily cases registered over the past four days.
This brings the country’s total to 425,282 confirmed cases with some 237,000 recoveries, putting India above previous hotspots such as Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom in terms of total infections.
An additional 445 fatalities since the last update has taken the COVID-19 death toll to 13,669.
According to the ministry’s numbers, the central state of Maharashtra, where the city of Mumbai is located, is the epicenter of the subcontinent accounting for 132,000 of the confirmed cases and 6,170 deaths.
The capital state of Delhi and the southern state of Tamil Nadu share second and third places in infection rates with 59,000 cases each.

The most dangerous time is approaching

The danger is that governments will fight against the onrushing new age, and the fight will be joined by those who profit most from the old ways of doing things.  

How long have we got? I can't name a specific year but I doubt we'll have to wait a decade. What's prevented it from happening sooner is that the new age is an amorphous phenomenon. 

Another factor that's allowed the new age to develop unhindered is that its growth hasn't been fueled by political agendas, although such have attached to various facets. But politics, by its nature, is an organized social phenomenon. There is no telling the politics of the people who are making  this new era.

Where are on the political map do you place building a Tiny House within 24 hours by using a 3-D printer?  Or turning 1/3 acre in a residential neighborhood into an agribusiness that can generate at least $75,000 a year? What about peer-to-peer lending? What's its political persuasion?

And consider telemedicine and telework. The Covid pandemic and government lockdowns in response made it possible for big social changes to advance with head-snapping speed. Americans from across the political spectrum are now taking advantage of a new way of working and getting diagnosed for ailments.   

The list goes on of ways the new age is forming without input from politics.  You may trust that governments, as they exist now, won't take this lying down. I don't foresee blood in the streets but in the guise of helpfulness governments will try to regulate the new age out of existence or least hardly distinguishable from the old age.  

Governments have good reason to fear the new age. The Age of the Masses that arose in the last century was actually the age of the masses ruled over by central governments. A true age of the masses is just emerging, and has far less use for centralized governing than earlier ages.



Thursday, June 18