Amid the coronavirus scare across the globe, the government of India has virtually shut down the country off to foreign tourists as a preventive measure and making foolproof arrangements to tackle the spread of the deadly virus. The Centre also said that it will treat Covid-19 as a notified disaster to provide assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). At the time when the states, as well as the central government, collectively, are maximising efforts to contain the deadly Covid-19 virus, there are few media outlets, like the Caravan Magazine, who are busy spreading lies about the government of India through their shoddy journalism.
The online magazine tried to defame the government by maliciously claiming that India is trying to conceal the real situation the country while tackling the novel Coronavirus spread.
In one of its article published on March 14th, 2020, titled: “WHO categorises India as having local transmission of Coronavirus, but government maintains denial”, the writer Vidya Krishnan, falsely claimed that “at two separate press briefing held on Friday, both the health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research—also a government body—rejected the possibility of local transmission”.
The report said that while WHO (World Health Organisation) has categorised India as having local transmission, but both the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Indian government are denying it. It claimed that govt was working under the assumption that coronavirus infection is happening only from abroad, and local infections are not taking place.
But that is a completely false claim, because the Indian Council of Medical Research has already stated that India is at stage 2 of transmission, which means local transmission.
There are four states of the novel Coronavirus disease. Stage 1 is getting imported cases, stage 2 is a local transmission, stage 3 is community transmission and stage 4 is when it turns into an epidemic.
Caravan asserted that what the Indian government and ICMR are claiming is in stark contrast to what the World Health Organisation has said about India’s position in it’s latest situation report.
The Caravan writes that according to the latest Situation Report from the World Health Organisation, issued on Thursday, categorised India among countries having local transmission. India has joined countries such as Italy, Korea and China in the category, all with high burdens of the virus and ongoing human-to-human contagion domestically.
It furthered that despite this disclosure, “Indian government continues to operate under the assumption of having to deal with what the WHO categorises as “imported cases only”—where transmission has been limited to international travellers alone”, basically trying to say that India has declined, being in the stage-2 category (local transmission) of the disease and has maintained that it is still in stage 1 (getting imported cases).
However, experts at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)- India’s top health research body, have clarified that “India has a 30-day window to halt the beginning of community transmission”, which is stage 3. For any person with even average IQ, this statement itself will mean that India is currently in stage 2.
According to a report by the Economic Times dated March 14, titled “Community transmission of Covid-19 is inevitable: ICMR”, experts at the ICMR have elaborated that India is at stage 2 now, and the experts said that stern precautions were being taken so that going to stage 3 could be halted. “Taking these precautions will help so we don’t go into stage 3 which has happened in all other countries including Italy, China, the US and Europe. Going to that stage is inevitable but if we can prevent, that window of opportunity is now,” added ICMR director-general Balram Bhargava.
A report by CNBC TV18 also clarifies the same. It writes that experts at ICMR have said that “India is at stage 2 and there is a window of opportunity where we all together can contain it at stage 2, which involves local transmission, not community transmission.
For the uninitiated, the Indian Council of Medical Research is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research and is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. It operates under the government of India, therefore it is a little unfathomable how the Indian government can dispute or deny the information passed on by its very own department. Moreover, Caravan claimed ICMR contradicted WHO report, which is completely false.
So far, two deaths from coronavirus have been reported in India while more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus till now. Many states have ordered shut down of educational institutes, swimming pools, malls, movie theatres, gyms and places of large public gatherings as preventive measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
On March 11 (Wednesday), the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic after 1,18,000 confirmed cases and 4,291 deaths in 114 countries were reported. Following the announcement almost all countries, including India, have scaled up its responses and put in place even stricter controls to contain the spread of coronavirus cases.
Update: After Caravan’s lie was pointed out by social media users, they have now updated their report. They have changed the headline from “government maintains denial” to “government downplays it”. In the body also they have replaced “rejected” with “downplayed”.
Correction: This story earlier erroneously stated that the health ministry and Indian Council of Medical Research denied the possibility of local transmission at press briefings on Friday. The story and headline have been corrected for accuracy. The Caravan regrets the error.— The Caravan (@thecaravanindia) March 14, 2020
Even though Caravan has made minor changes to the report and ‘regretted’ the error, the basic premise of the article remains false. As Indian authorities have acknowledged local transmission of coronavirus, that means India is on the same page as WHO on the matter, and there is no evidence that the Indian government is downplaying the threat of coronavirus. Government has not only cancelled visas as claimed by Caravan, but also have been appealing to people to avoid social gatherings, sports events have been cancelled, schools, movie halls have been closed in several states, public awareness campaigns are going on how to prevent transmission of the virus. A massive quarantine program is also going on where people who came in contact with infected persons or showed symptoms are kept in isolation. All of these are measures are meant to prevent local transmission only.