An image by UNESCO quoting WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan.
The coronavirus outbreak has thrown us all into disarray. Most of the world is experiencing some measure of lockdown – markets, schools and offices are closed. Lives are at risk, economies are crashing and many questions are raised over the recovery of the supply chain that runs our hyper-connected consumerist world. This crisis is truly unprecedented. In India, as we reach the halfway point of the 21-day lockdown, we are battling the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers despite many appeals. Moreover, there is a sense of frustration in the public as well as from science/health journalists struggling to get government officials to share more information transparently about the spread of the pandemic and its plans to tackle it. In such a scenario, gimmicks such as 5 pm claps and 9 pm candlelight, strike one as particularly banal, and woefully inadequate.
The hope of a recovery now rests on science and implementation of evidence-based healthcare interventions. Indian healthcare workers, scientists and science communicators have risen to the challenge. Here we will be listing down the important initiatives and resources relevant to India. From the hypertext on this tracker you can hope to get factual information about the science of COVID-19 as well as important resources coming from scientists. We will be updating this post as the crisis unfolds.
Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC or IndSciCov)
“Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC) is a voluntary group of concerned scientist citizens of India who have come together in this time of crisis to discuss the rapidly evolving situation with its dire need for science communication.”
There are many resources on the website, notably the myth-busting Busting Hoaxes, a series of images in different Indian languages put together by Indian science communicators.
Several research publications including biggies like Springer Nature have come together in a commitment to openly share scientific data and literature on COVID19.
Here you will find the emerging scientific literature that can be sorted by countries of origin of the study and scientific focus like mechanism, transmission and forecasting.
Indian research on COVID published by Indian Journal of Medical Research
The latest issue of Indian Journal of Medical Research has the latest research into SARS-CoV-2 from India, including first imaging & structural analysis and many perspectives pieces on how the pandemic should be managed, etc.
To mask or not to mask?
After much back and forth, a consensus is forming that masks are important, even if they may be homemade. Based on previous research, a Nature Medicine paper suggests that it is very likely that simple surgical masks are useful in this crisis. In a press release the journal said: “Surgical face masks may be effective in preventing the transmission of seasonal coronaviruses and influenza virus from symptomatic individuals, reports a paper published in Nature Medicine. Masks were shown to significantly reduce the detection of influenza virus in respiratory droplets and seasonal coronaviruses in aerosols. Further research is needed to determine whether masks can specifically prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, which is closely related to seasonal coronaviruses.”
The office of India’s Principal Scientific Advisor’s office has issued a manual to make masks at home (with and without sewing machines). Such masks should be washed with soap as often as possible, at least once daily.
On our social media channels, we are populating the contributions towards combating this crisis, by women in Indian healthcare and science. Please take a look at this twitter thread and our Facebook page for more.
CovidGyan is a multi-institutional, multi-lingual science communication initiative created to deal with the challenge of comprehending reliable information while filtering out misinformation. The initiative is the brainchild of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC). Here you will find videos, infographics and articles trusted by these institutions.
All official COVID-19 related communication is accessible on Government dashboard here.
Various govt. backed training manuals and textbooks for medics, volunteers and other COVID19 public works is available in this online library.
Guidelines for Home Quarantine
If you have #COVID19 symptoms but cannot get a test to confirm you are infected 🧪, @mvankerkhove says @WHO recommends you self-isolate at home 🏠 until symptoms resolve, PLUS an additional 14 days. 📅— Global Health Strategies (@GHS) April 13, 2020
WHO is looking at data to see if that 14-day extra period can be reduced. 😷
If you have been asked/chosen to home quarantine, or you are caring for someone in quarantines these guidelines might be helpful.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Containment Plan for Large Outbreaks Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
This document is accessible here. Here’s a twitter thread on it from Gautam Menon, Physics and Biology professor at Ashoka University.
Memorandum from PSA’s office for speedy R&D
The directives include all DBT/DST/CSIR/DRDO/DAE labs permission “to carry out clinical testing for COV|DIg based on self-assessment and willingness to follow established protocols and all applicable reporting regulations as defined by the DHR/ICMR” and access to “samples for COVlDIg – related research from any government-approved clinical testing site or access clinical samples received by them for testing, subject to ethical approval for such research” and permission to culture the virus for labs with BSL-3 or BSL-3+ facilities.
Handbook for COVID-19 testing in Indian Research Institutions by the Office of PSA
ICMR updates and details of Covid task force
In this interview posted on 21st April, Renu Swarup, DBT Secretary says there are around 7 major vaccine candidates under development in India as part of industry-academic consortiums.
Internationally WHO is tracking over 100 vaccine candidates. WHO Chief Scientist and former head of ICMR Soumya Swaminathan talks about these here.
Meanwhile, there is a growing threat of resurgence of other diseases like measles, meningitis and polio (protection from these are covered in primary vaccine programs for children) since the lockdown has disrupted the Universal Immunisation Programme in many Indian states. UNICEF has issued a warnings and new parents are worried.
Official numbers of active cases and deaths from India are regularly updated on the Health Ministry Website. There are also some independent estimates like this one, based on news reports by hacktivist Guneet Narula. For global numbers updated every day, WHO alerts can be accessed on Whatsapp. Say “hi” to +41 79 893 18 92 or click here.
This is a great visualisation of Indian State’s reporting COVID cases as crisis unfolds made by CCMB Research Manager Surabhi Srivastava.
AIPSM – a network of over forty Peoples Science organisations spread all over the country are regularly posting updates on different aspects of Covid19 including epidemiology, containment strategy recommendations and stigmatisation/violation of rights during lockdown.
All India People’s Science Movement Updates
Is BCG vaccine helpful?
There is no evidence of it being helpful. Here is the WHO position on this and an Indian scientist reiterates ‘no evidence’ in this The Hindu report.
Important thread on reinfections
Gotten questions about reactivation/reinfection with #SARSCoV2 & wanted to see some data— The Menachery Lab (@TheMenacheryLab) April 12, 2020
But since data isn’t a requirement these days for #COVID19 speculation, I’ll offer:
I doubt this is some kind of herpes virus like latency/reactivation
RNA positive PCR is not live virus
Computing power for Covid
Citizen science project Folding@home (FAH or F@h) is a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics, including the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins implicated in a variety of diseases. Join the initiatives covid response here. EPFL in Switzerland has donated computing power to run simulations on this project.
Japan has also offered its underdevelopment supercomputer Fugaku for covid research. Satoshi Matsuoka, Director of the RIKEN Centerfor Computing Sciences (R-CCS) said: “To combat the global pandemic of the COVID-19 virus, we will rapidly provide access to the capabilities of Fugaku, leapfrogging its preparation, to accelerate the scientific process of diagnosis, treatment, as well as general prevention of infection spread, to contribute to the early termination of the pandemic”.
Reflecting in this unique time
Gender and the pandemic: To ensure pandemic response has an even impact across society bringing gender analysis into the fold is essential. In a scenario where women are on the frontline making up 70 percent of world’s health workforce and high COVID 19 mortality in men has been headlined without any nuance gender analysis is crucial. Public health initiatives and interventions must collect and make available sex and gender-disaggregated medical data of COVID-19 patients, recoveries and deaths, as well as ensure gendered realities like unequal access to healthcare and vulnerability of marginalised genders are taken into account. Here are six reasons why gender matters in global health security and a resource for sex-disaggregated data of reported COVID patients.
Science and Society: A perspective from STS expert. Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies, tells The Nation that we’ve modelled the progression of the disease, but not the social consequences.
Ecology and Infection: David Quammen, author of ‘Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic’, speaks on Emergence Magazine podcast about the root causes underlying the current pandemic and explores the ways in which viruses are embedded in the same systems of ecology and evolutionary biology that we are.
Public Health experts need to start interfacing with ecologists: This discussion on GLF Live focuses on on the emergence and spread of disease among wildlife and how human impact on land-use and biodiversity can lead to global epidemics.
Resources of Children
A children’s book endorsed by WHO tackling COVID precautions
Meet this lovely characters on storyweaver, they sure know how to stay safe from coronovirus The Novel Coronavirus: We Can Stay Safe (children’s book)
FAQs from children answered in Sawaliram
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