Ramanan Laxminarayan about Corona In Inda

New Delhi: In an interview that could cause considerable apprehension and even possibly fear, the director of the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and lecturer at Princeton University Ramanan Laxminarayan has said that India could be the next coronavirus hotspot.
Using the United States estimates for itself that 20%-60% of the population could be infected, Dr Laxminarayan said that means in the worst case scenario, 60% of the Indian population could be infected – which is some 700 or 800 million people. However, Dr Laxminarayan added that the vast majority would only be mildly affected. A very small percentage would become seriously ill and an even smaller percentage would, sadly, lose their lives.


  • Affiliate Professor, Global Health Director and Senior Fellow,
  • The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy

1616 P Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Phone Number: 240-643-3491


THE WIRE: welcome to a special interview for the,wire the subject today is the,coronavirus in part one how serious,could be the threat India faces and how,effectively is the government responding,and in part two a question that perhaps,everyone wants the answer to what can we,ordinary people do to protect ourselves,I guess does a man who clearly has the,answers he’s the director of the Center,for Disease dynamics in Washington and a,lecturer at Princeton University in,America ramana Lakshmi Narayan,dr. Lakshmi Narayan let me start with a,simple question as of 12:00 noon today,the 18th of March the official website,of the Health Ministry says we have a,hundred and thirty active kovat cases,not counting the 14 who they say have,been cured and not counting the three,who’ve died and many people look at that,favor and say that must be too small how,can a country of India size have only a,hundred and thirty active cases and I,got an expert do you believe that figure,a hundred and thirty or do you have,serious doubts

Doctor: so the government’s,website is giving you the number of,confirmed cases and by that definition,that number is exactly right now if your,question is are there other cases out,there in the community that have not,been confirmed by testing I think any,infectious disease expert will tell you,that’s almost certainly the case so most,countries are under counting cases the,UK for instance admitted yesterday that,they probably have upwards of 10,000,cases although they’ve counted only you,know probably a thousand or so and,that’s because testing has been really,inadequate and that’s globally,everywhere in the US the UK and India as,well but India’s just not tested enough,

THE WIRE: so if you apply the UK example to India,and you quiz on the counting by a factor,of say 12 then India’s 130 on that same,ratio becomes over 1500

Doctor: I think that is,a safe assumption to make based on what,our models would predict and perhaps,it’s even more than that because you,have to remember that the other way to,look at it is that the UK has 10,000,cases for a population of about 60,million people we are 20 times that,population,so we’re potentially looking at an even,larger number and we just haven’t tested,enough people to know that

THE WIRE: so it’s quite,possible that we actually may have,something like ten or fifteen thousand,cases without knowing about them,

Doctor: Possibly and in in a country the size of,India ten thousand cases are not that,easy to find,

THE WIRE: let me ask you this what is your,assessment as an expert of the way the,Indian government has so far responded,to the coronavirus crisis

Doctor: So Indians,done some things well India was amongst,the first countries to shut borders they,did that proactively before anyone else,did,India has been you know doing the,contact tracing of people coming back on,planes quite early what India has not,managed to do is test enough people and,it does not leverage a significant,capacity that exists in the private,sector as well for testing or nearly,even the government labs so the only,labs that have been allowed to test,until as of yesterday I don’t know if,it’s changed today are really the ICMR,labs there are many government hospitals,that are capable of testing there’s a,whole private sector that actually,handles much of the clinic the the,testing workload and normal times in,India and we have not deployed that,capacity

THE WIRE: let’s explore this issue of,testing because it is one of the most,critical key concerns about the way,India is handling the coronavirus crisis,now the ICMR says that as of 5:00 p.m.,on the 17th of March they had tested a,total of 11,500 people,they also say that they’re testing,roughly a thousand people a week is that,anywhere near sufficient for a,population of 1.3 billion

Doctor: So I mean let,me clarify the 11,500 is a cumulative,test to date they are actually testing,probably at a rate my guess is about,about 1,200 to 1,600 people a day

THE WIRE: but,they say it’s roughly a thousand a week,

Doctor: So that thousand a week is a different,number the thousand a week is their,surveillance figure where they’re going,in and testing asymptomatic people,people without symptoms in the community,because their claim is that they assume,that there is no community transmission,today to get a corona virus test you,either have to have traveled abroad to a,corona virus infected country like a one,with a large caseload,or you have to have confirmed contact,with a coronavirus case if you don’t,have both of those but you have all the,symptoms of corona virus you won’t get,tested

THE WIRE: so let me then ask you this is,that figure of 11,500 people tested up,to 5:00 p.m. on the 17th of March,sufficient for a country of 1.3 billion,people

Doctor: Not nearly so that translates,into about roughly about 10 per million,people tested just for comparison,Thailand is now is that about a hundred,and forty even Vietnam is at about forty,so we’re testing about a quarter of the,rate of Vietnam a small fraction of the,rate of Thailand and let’s forget about,you know countries like France or Italy,or South Korea which is tested literally,you know hundreds of thousands of people,possibly in the millions at this point,

THE WIRE: Now dr. Ted Ross the director general of,the World Health Organization said two,days ago on television that his advice,to all countries was test test test test,every suspected case yesterday on,television doctor Bhargav the head of,the ICMR replied to that and his words,were this statement does not apply to,India it applies to Europe it is,inappropriate for India who do you agree,with

Doctor: I don’t think it’s inappropriate,for India at all I think the see the way,it works is if you have not tested an,individual you cannot try to prevent any,secondary infections from that,individual how will you know who to,quarantine if we’re depending on social,distancing and self quarantine by,everyone in this country to contain the,epidemic that is not going to really,work because to be honest current social,distancing is a luxury for most people,if you have to get up go to work be on a,bus and you need to put food on the,table at the end of the day you don’t,have the option of social distancing,this is what you know people like you,and me can do for the rest of the,population they need to know if they,have coronavirus so that those folks can,actually be quarantined


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