Herd Immunity

‘India Has Attained Herd Immunity; No Need To Fear Covid Variants’

Dr AK Arun, a renowned public health scientist, rues that India lacks accurate data on treatment and deaths due to Covid, which would help us prepare for any future health emergency

There have been reports of a resurge of Covid cases in many countries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of the new sub-variant XBB.1.5 is rising. This is more dangerous in spreading infection than the sub-variant BF.7.

There are ten different sub-variants of SARS-CoV-2 in India and BF.7 is one of them. So far, all of the four known cases of BF.7 in India have recovered by home isolation. They did not need to be admitted to the hospital. Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization has expressed concern over XBB.1.5, another sub-variant of the omicron variant. There are more than 300 subtypes of Omicron itself, of which XBB.1.5 is a recombinant virus that can kill antibodies in the body. Therefore, there is a need to monitor the situation.

It is being said that the situation has worsened in China after the lockdown was completely lifted. Epidemiologists also blame China’s “zero Covid policy” for the resurgence of Corona infections in the country. Due to strict lockdowns, herd immunity in people could not be achieved.

India’s case is different. Over last two year when Covid infection was rampant, Indians have achieved herd immunity. Thus the chances of controlling it are high and there is no need to panic. Although the Omicron variant of Corona has been constantly mutating into new forms since last month, its deadly impact has not been witnessed in India so far.

ALSO READ: ‘If Covid Rebounds, All Must Be Treated Uniformly’

In the absence of proper protocol in the initial phase of the epidemic, doctors indiscriminately used steroids etc. Unnecessary medicines given to a Corona-affected patient were also black-marketed because the doctors themselves were not clear about what and why the medicine should be given. In most cases, the patient’s attendants were deciding whether to administer such a medicine to the patient, whatever the price. It is possible that post-Covid complications are the outcome of indiscriminate use of these medicines than the infection itself.

There have also been different viewpoints on the Covid deaths in India. Data related to any epidemic, especially a global epidemic, is important for any study. Since 2021, no concrete data has been available from government institutions. Atul Kotwal, executive director of the National Health System Resource Center, admits that there are problems with the Covid data. Dr T. Sundararaman, former executive director of the same institute, justifies the WHO figures in terms of deaths due to Corona in India. For, we lack an accurate mechanism to collect death data; only 21 per cent of the deaths are recorded by the registrar.

Another challenge is to handle the fear mongering about the Covid virus. The atmosphere of anxiety that has arisen among people post two Covid waves can lead to ill-will about certain people, places or communities. This can have serious impact on society as well the mental health of people. We must deal with this sense of stigma.

For this, we have to understand that the virus does not look at social class, race, community or nationality. In such cases, we should put ourselves in the shoes of an affected person or community. The dissemination of information must be fair and free of any bigotry.

(Dr AK Arun is a national award-winning Homeopathy practitioner and headed the research team of the Delhi Government on alternative cures for COVID-19)

As told to Abhishek Srivastava

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Migrant Workers Amid Lockdowns

‘Q&A: Migrant Workers Are Faceless Part Of Our Daily Lives’

Award-winning filmmaker Vinod Kapri speaks about his book that documents movement of migrant workers amid lockdowns and his interaction with Danish Siddiqui

How did the idea of your book ‘1232 km: The Long Journey Home’ come about?

I am basically a film-maker and never thought of writing a book. When the first nationwide lockdown was announced in March 2020, I was expecting this kind of migration and discussed this with my journalist friends that the government was probably not aware of the problems of the daily wage labourers and this is going to be the biggest exodus. My fears came true. We saw millions of people on the road. Being a storyteller I felt I needed to document this journey.

During that time, the mainstream media, except a few, were focused on Tablighi Jamaat incident. I felt it was an injustice to these workers and thought I should be a part of one of the journey. I travelled with them for seven days on the trot, filming whatever I could. Back home, while I was editing the documentary, I realised it did not tell the complete story. It was then that I thought I should write a book because there were moments and feelings that the camera could not capture. That is how ‘1232 km: The Long Journey Homecame about.

What did you learn from this experience?

I would admit that I was not aware of the migrant labourers beyond the work they did. I knew nothing about their families and the challenges they go through staying away from home. After completing the journey with them, I realised the middle or the privileged class never really thought about these people who have been a part of their lives, run our society, build our cities, clean, cook, iron, do carpentry and plumbing work, operate lifts and guard our apartments. We don’t know anything about them their families, their villages. They are nameless and faceless. My journey completely changed that.

But for holding the mirror, you were heavily trolled on social media…

There are a few people whose job is to target, abuse or demoralise people holding the mirror. But largely, it is like a hit job for a political ideology. The trolling is very manufactured, targeted and organised syndication. Whenever we write something, post something in public domain, we are aware that a section of users will troll us, pull us down and try to play dirty, all lies. So it doesn’t really matter. You are not answerable to them. It is our duty to tell the truth and state the fact. To not speak up today means our future generation will be ashamed of us.  

When the second wave of Covid-19 started, I was on the field documenting it. I saw people dying in front of me, I was in and out of hospitals, at various cremation grounds, shamshan ghats for almost 32 days and covered it extensively. It shook me to see the suffering, the irreparable loss, relationship and emotions.

And you met Danish Siddiqui at one of those cremation spots… taking pictures that will later draw both anger and admiration.

I met Danish Siddiqui when he was taking photographs of the funeral pyres at a cremation ground in Seema Puri, at eastern border of Delhi. It was my only meeting with him and I was not aware that he is working with Reuters. We had a small conversation and I told him I was documenting the pandemic. He asked me for which platform was I working. To which I replied it is yet to be decided, and I was just shooting. I asked him what was he working for and he said he was just clicking.

His pictures did receive a lot of backlash. But imagine if that picture of Danish did not exist, how the world would come to know the ground reality. That picture created shivers in people’s mind. I agree partly that death is a solemn moment that needs privacy. But the issue of privacy is secondary when thousands are dying and the government is a mute spectator. The critics used religion to target Danish merely to hide the ground reality.

Danish lost his life in a warzone. Do you think journalists should draw a line…?

No one knows where to draw the line. We can’t predict our death. We may die due to a heart attack at home too. As a journalist, we should uncover the truth. That is the lakshman rekha we should not cross. For that if we end up losing our lives then be it; consider these as professional hazards that we have to face in the line of duty. Just the way frontline workers and doctors are losing their lives in this pandemic, they cannot choose to draw a line for their role…they have to go out and treat patients.

And holding those in power to account is your duty?

Absolutely. As a journalist and storyteller, we are considered as the fourth pillar of democracy and it is our right to question the government of the day, be it the BJP, the Congress or any other political group.

Interview by Mamta Sharma

G7 or Gee 7; UK’s ‘Dear Leader’; What Deaths!

The great and the good, in other words the rich, got together in Cornwall, Britain, with America declaring that it was back in business. As they desperately tried to show solidarity in purpose, their divisions shone through the World Fractured Democratic Front. Every few hours the word China emerged and unity broke with every one saying in unison, ‘China! China! China must be stopped!’ But as soon as said, Brexit took over.

Biden did get his way over one business: an agreement on making tech based businesses pay their share of tax. This had in fact been decided before and more or less agreed despite Britain dragging its feet. Britain was trying to safeguard its once pirate Islands now turned tax havens.

A G7 agreement on vaccinations was also achieved on a miserly 1 billion between them, falling short of the doses needed. The world has 7.6 billion souls or bodies to be vaccinated. About 2.8 Billion will be taken care of by China and India as they vaccinate their own. China probably is near to finishing while India has sort of started at Indian speed. That leaves about 2.5 billion still to be vaccinated after taking out Europeans, North Americans, Brits, Japanese, Russians and the Golden Middle East.

The conversation bounced back to China. China is Biden’s pet hate continuing another Trump policy. The rest superficially because in reality all of them need China’s trade. China, they said, must be stopped. Stopped from what was not clear. Stopped from being successful? Stopped from international influence that China is winning by giving vaccines, medical equipment and other developmental assistance etc to undeveloped countries?

America is worried about the Belt and Road project. It wants to set up a parallel one to win back friends and influence. It might be too late.

Biden couldn’t quite say, ‘China must not overtake US’. So he tried ‘China must be made to follow a rule based international order’ with Boris of Britain bellowing as an echo. France broke the party by reminding everyone that Boris of Britain was breaking international agreements. ‘Shh’ said Biden, ‘we are here to say China is out of order’. Then Germany’s Merkel waded in that Britain cannot unilaterally break international agreements. ‘Oh Shut up,’ said Boris, ‘stop being puritanical with rules.’ And round and round the circus went. Biden’s ‘China must follow rule based order’…. ending with Boris’ ‘stop being puritanical with rules’.

It must have appeared to be a right old comic opera seen from China’s TV. Fortunately, Chinese leadership doesn’t have sense of humour. America is back was more like old Father Biden trying to unite squabbling children. Difficult to see how they will take on China. Still they all stood at safe covid distance and smiled for the photos, saying Gee. It was more GEE 7 and less of G7.


A man runs past the burning funeral pyres of those who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during a mass cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

India’s Covid deaths have become a guessing game. This over obsessed bureaucratic country seems to have no idea of number of deaths. Government figures remain between 2,000 and 4,000 a day. What doesn’t add up is that so few deaths seem to have broken the crematorium system of India.

Before Covid, India’s daily death rate was between 25,000 and 30,000. That can be expected in a country of 1.4 billion. It wasn’t over stretched by any means. But if we are to believe the Government then an extra 3,000 deaths a day pushed the entire crematorium network over the threshold, so much that people were cremating their loved one on streets, fields, farms etc. Others were burying them in river banks etc.

Others are suggesting that the real figure is ten times the official count and that’s why people were using streets and fields to say last farewell to their loved ones. Perhaps the true figure will out some day soon.


There is no reason why the Queen of United Kingdom and head of Commonwealth should not be  revered, respected and held in awe on demand as Kim Jung Un, Putin, Modi or MWB are by their people. Hence no other than the Education Secretary of Democratic and Free Speech Britain put pressure on a few Oxford students who dared to take her picture down in their common room. He said, “Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect around the world.” There! ungrateful students. And this minister has just been lecturing Universities to promote free speech and ideas! Prime Minister Boris echoed his sentiment in freedom Britain.

That’s exactly what Kim Jong UNs officials would be saying to any students daring to exercise democratic right in Democratic Republic of Korea. “Dear leader is Head of State, he has worked tirelessly to promote Korean democratic values, inclusivity and respect for the nation around the world!” So would Modi’s Bhakts and Putin’s youth league.

So democracy or no democracy, free speech or no free speech, there are somethings and some icons who are ‘dear leaders’ in all their respective countries.

However there is some difference in the way the unpatriotic, ungrateful and antinational (disrespecting of dear leaders really) people are punished.

In North Korea, if the ‘independent’ western press is to be believed, the ‘rascals’ would be marched promptly to the firing squad and made to repent their ungratefulness in afterlife.

In Russia, the ungrateful might be charged with some crime, or injected with a dye that fizzles their brain or body or be bungled into an unknown unlocatable prison.

India surprising might be different. On the whole not much will happen outside India’s independent press calling such people anti national while the patriotic Modi Bhakts would start a trolling race and even treat the anti-Modi group with iron rods punch up party.  

In UK nothing and everything will happen. On the surface the students have freedom of choice. There won’t be police marching in with whips but enough political and public pressure will bear on them to make them appear to be anti-national, unpatriotic and ungrateful. And discreetly, the secret agencies, especially MI 5 will start a file on all the dissenters.

Right wing Tory minister Robert Jenricks said, ‘”I wouldn’t want anyone to disrespect her (Queen) out of ignorance in this way but I don’t think that we should waste too much time on student union politics.” Freedom of speech and choice is now ‘ignorance’ if it does not respect UK’s dear leader, the Queen.

And Left wing Manchester leader, Labour, Andy Burnham said, “We should always respect the Queen but particularly now given things that have happened in the last few months.”

“Let’s get a sense of proportion and a bit of respect. People can air their views but those kind of gestures are divisive actually – they just divide people, and I don’t think they achieve much, to be honest.”

So Queen, the dear leader of Britain, unites all parties. How one jumps from taking down a picture to become divisive is an algorithm only a politician can come up with. Fortunately the guy who led the removal of Her Majety’s picture is an American with very rich parents. Plenty of other British leaders joined in. But give some due to the rector of Magdalene College who said that it is just a students’ room and it’s their choice what they want on their wall.

So let’s not demonise North Korea, India and Russia only. Freedom loving UK is no different, getting into a national frenzy over a picture.