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Western media outlets are currently paying a great deal of attention to India and the apparent impact of COVID-19. The narrative is that the coronavirus is ripping through the country – people are dying, cases are spiralling out of control and hospitals are unable to cope.
There does indeed seem to be a major problem in parts of the country. However, we need to differentiate between the effects of COVID-19 and the impacts of other factors. We must also be very weary of sensationalist media reporting which misrepresents the situation.
For instance, in late April, the New York Post ran a story about the COVID ‘surge’ in India with the headline saying, “footage shows people dead in the streets”. Next to it was an image of a woman lying dead. But the image was of a woman lying on the floor from a May 2020 story about a gas leak in Andhra Pradesh.
To try to shed some light on the situation and move beyond panic and media sensationalism, I recently spoke with Yohan Tengra, a political analyst and healthcare specialist based in Mumbai.
Tengra has carried out a good deal of research into COVID-19 and the global response to it. He is the co-author of a new report: ‘How the Unscientific Interpretation of RT-PCR & Rapid Antigen Test Results is Causing Misleading Spikes in Cases & Deaths’.
For India, he says:
“We will never know statistically if the infections have really increased. To be certain, we would need data of symptomatic people who have tested positive with either a virus culture test or PCR that uses 24 cycles or less, ideally under 20.”
He adds that India is experiencing mainly asymptomatic cases:
“For example, in Mumbai, they declared two days back that of total cases in the city, 85 per cent were asymptomatic. In Bangalore, over 95 per cent of cases were asymptomatic!”
In his report, Tengra offers scientific evidence that strongly indicates asymptomatic transmission is not significant.