Archive for May 13th, 2020

Does the BCG Vaccine Protect Against Coronavirus? Not really :-(

May 13, 2020

Interesting post on NY Fed’s Liberty Street Blog by

There were these questions/discussions on BCG Vaccine and its effectiveness in dealing with the recent virus.

The BCG vaccine has been used for nearly 100 years in the battle against tuberculosis. Today, the disease has been largely eradicated from the developed world and many rich countries have stopped mandatory vaccination. Spain, for example, ended mandatory BCG vaccination in 1985. The country experienced more than 563 coronavirus deaths per million population and is one of the hardest-hit countries in per capita terms. Its neighbor, Portugal, continues to perform mandatory BCG vaccination to this day and has experienced only 108 coronavirus deaths per million population (all numbers as of May 8). More generally, studies have documented that countries with mandatory BCG vaccination tend to have substantially fewer coronavirus cases and fewer deaths per capita than countries without mandatory vaccination, and that the intensity of the epidemic is lower for countries that began vaccinating earlier. Such cross-country correlations do not imply causation and skeptics have rushed to suggest that the passive immunization from the BCG vaccine would at best be short-lived. The WHO now cautions that there is currently no evidence that the vaccine protects against the novel coronavirus.

Clinical trials are now under way in Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States to test the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19 (in the short and long run). However, the results of these trials remain several months away. While the results of these clinical trials will be the last word on the matter, in the meantime, statistical tools used by economists can help evaluate the evidence that is already being publicly debated.


How covid19 has opened historical fissures between Kasargod and Dakshin Kannada..

May 13, 2020

KA Shaji in this Telegraph article writes how the health crisis has once again created fissures between the two districts. TO understand the context, one needs to understand the deep political history of the two regions. Kasargod was part of larger Canara region and then made part of South Canara region in 1862. The South Canara region was renamed as Dakshin Kannada and in State reorganisation, Kasargod was made part of Kerala.

As the virus spread in Kasragod, Karnataka closed its borders to Kerala opening the fissures:

Number of people killed by the coronavirus in Kasaragod, Kerala’s original Covid-19 epicentre: Zero. Number of people killed in the district by ostracism triggered by the outbreak: 13.

At first sight, this may seem a cautionary tale against the panic and stigma attaching to the infection across swathes of India — attitudes the country needs to shed urgently as it inches towards a lifting of the lockdown and a consequent rise in positive cases.

But the ostracism that shut Kasaragod’s patients out of top hospitals, causing many of them to die unattended, differed from the usual kind of coronavirus scare in two ways. One, none of these patients had Covid-19 — they were denied treatment of their various critical ailments just because they were from a district afflicted by the virus.

Two, it’s impossible to say how much of the ostracism resulted from genuine if misplaced fear of the virus and how much of it was deliberately engineered by linguistic and regional chauvinists who saw an opportunity in a public crisis.

The patients who died had been denied entry into neighbouring Karnataka to seek treatment in Mangalore’s speciality hospitals — something Kasaragod’s ailing had done for decades since, unlike most of Kerala, the district lacks quality health infrastructure.

They were stopped at the inter-state border in Thalappady by Karnataka police and vigilante mobs of language chauvinists, mainly Sangh parivar activists.

Most of the deaths happened on the roadside at the inter-state border, inside parked ambulances, as the accompanying health workers tried to convince Karnataka officials of the emergency situation. A few patients died on the way back home.

Kasragod is caught in the apathy between Kerala and Karnataka:

At the root of the issue lies the unique history and demography of Kasaragod, which has a sizeable Kannadiga population — and Konkani and Tulu speakers — apart from the majority Malayalis.

Indeed, Kannadigas are the majority in the northern half of Kasaragod, lying beyond the Chandragiri and Payaswini rivers, which virtually remains an extension of Karnataka geographically, economically, culturally and linguistically, said Muralidhara Balukaraya, president of the Karnataka Smathi in Kasaragod. Kannada is the medium of instruction in most schools there.

Historically too, Kasaragod had been part of the former Mysore kingdom, and then of an undivided Canara under British rule, before it was merged with Kerala in 1956 during the reorganisation of the states on the basis of language.

It’s this mix of history and demography that has prompted Kannada nationalists and parivar activists across the border to demand that Kasaragod be split from Kerala and merged with Karnataka or declared a Union Territory.

They blame the Kerala government’s “step-motherly attitude” for Kasaragod’s poor healthcare infrastructure that forces its residents to rush to Mangalore, headquarters of Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district, in medical emergencies.

But some Kannadigas of Kasaragod are now asking if this Karnataka lobby cares so much about their district, why is it forcing its patients to die on the roadside without treatment?

“The road blockade is hurting people here emotionally. Earlier, we felt Kerala was discriminating against us (Kasaragod district) by denying larger projects in health, education and infrastructure. Now Karnataka too is turning against us, ignoring the historical fact that we were part of the erstwhile Mysore state till November 1, 1956,” said Dr Y.S. Mohan Kumar, a Kannada-speaking medical practitioner and social activist in Kasaragod.

He regretted that the current blockade — continuing with the support of the BJP governments at the Centre and in Bangalore in the face of a Supreme Court directive — was vitiating old personal and community ties.

“Kasaragod is home to 3 lakh people speaking Kannada, Konkani and Tulu. Families here have a strong bond with Dakshina Kannada in general and Mangalore in particular. The connections transcending generations are personal, professional and social,” Dr Kumar said.

The  virus continues to create fissures…

Who cuts our leaders’ hair?

May 13, 2020

A fun piece by who else but Manas Chakravarty:

Why have so many of our ministers vanished from public view? Why do we see neither hide nor hair of them these days? What accounts for their new-found shyness? In contrast, consider Donald Trump, who holds forth at press conferences almost every day.

Even Boris Johnson, despite his close brush with death, has been busy doing his thing in public. Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern have been at the forefront of their respective countries’ fight against the virus.

Is it because our leaders are scared of the virus? Not at all, they are brave and honourable people. The reason for their bashfulness is obvious — they are desperately trying to hide their haircuts. The nation wants to know: who has been cutting our leaders’ hair during the lockdown?


The Mauritian response to COVID-19: well-implemented and early ‘hard lockdown’

May 13, 2020

Ramanand Jeeneea and Kaviraj Sharma Sukon in this piece look at Mauritius response to the health crisis.

Chinese authorities started containment measures on 1 January 2020 and blocked all public transportation links between Wuhan and the rest of the world on 23 January. Meanwhile, cases were identified in Thailand (13 January), Japan (16 January), South Korea (20 January), and Singapore and Vietnam (both 23 January).

On 22 January, the Government of Mauritius started screening people on arrival at its airport, introducing fever measurements and separation of at-risk passengers on 29 January. By that time, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and the US had already detected their first cases. From 28 February – although there were no cases detected locally – Mauritian authorities quarantined visitors from countries with a high number of cases.

The next few weeks saw a persistent media campaign to raise awareness on how to prevent transmission of the disease, inadvertently leading to panic-buying in supermarkets – a worldwide trend. The authorities even banned the 12 March Independence Day celebrations in schools.

The Prime Minister addressed the nation regularly and was the one to announce the first case in Mauritius live on national television. He set up a communications cell in his office. Key stakeholders, including ministers and high officials from the ministries of health and of commerce and the police, held daily press conferences to provide COVID-19 statistics as well as to inform the population about the measures being taken. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has developed a mobile app called ‘beSafeMoris’, which gives official up-to-date information and useful tips, and can be downloaded and used free of charge.

%d bloggers like this: