Defeating Covid with data PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 May 2020 00:00
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Ishaan edit 

Until last year, Kerala was the only state to have digitised health records for 2.58 crore residents under its e-health programme. While the NITI Aayog had talked about the digitisation of health records and creation of a National Database of Health Records, most states did not pay heed to its call. Now, as the coronavirus pandemic has exposed how woefully underprepared they are to tackle a pandemic, state administrations are drawing up plans to create such databases. Karnataka, according to an Indian Express report, has started a household survey at the election-booth level.

The focus, in this case, is to identify senior citizens and vulnerable sections, who are at a higher risk due to coronavirus. Identifying the high-risk cases at the booth level will help government contain the spread of virus and keep the death rate low. Once somebody is identified with symptoms of the virus, the booth-level officers will be able to keep track of high-risk individuals within that area. The government is also planning to develop a household health-risk assessment app. The state needs to move ahead and digitise these records as well. This would ensure that doctors can correctly assess and prioritise vulnerable patients over others.

Karnataka has been an early mover as far as crisis-planning is concerned. On March 25, when the Centre imposed its first lockdown, Karnataka was one of the few states to have a ready corona taskforce to assess the state’s preparedness. The taskforce suggested that the state needed to prepare for a scenario where cases could cross 80,000. It said that the state would require 12,000 hospital beds, 9,600 ICU beds, and 4,800 ventilators. The taskforce also estimated the workforce needed for the operation of ICUs. No other government has released such detailed estimates of requirements.

A household-level survey can be an excellent solution to identify high-risk cases, and to determine the level of spread. More so, as governments will most certainly not have the ability to test everyone. An analysis in this paper (bit.ly/2YXNVl9) found that India will need 5.5 crore testing kits by June-end if cases double every ten days. This would mean that the government will have to scale up its testing capacity to 4 million tests a day—it is doing 85,000 at present. Only when the government can identify the extent of the spread would it be able to analyse and forecast how much infrastructure it needs to develop. Otherwise, we will end up with more ventilators than required, even as many infected don’t receive the hospital-care they require.


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