India declares itself coronavirus free, with many speculating if Indians are resistant to the virus or if the Indian curry is antiviral

By Liu Caiyu Published: 2020/2/23 23:15:53

Nurses and medical staff distribute protective facemasks to patients coming to the outdoor patient department for an awareness event about the COVID-19 coronavirus and other airborne diseases at the Siliguri District Government hospital in Siliguri, India on February 21, 2020. Photo: AFP

As East Asia and the Middle East are in the haze of the novel coronavirus epidemic, China’s neigh-boring country India declares itself infection free recently arousing many to speculate if Indians are resistant to the virus, if Indian curries have antiviral properties or India just performs well on virus prevention and control. 

There were only three confirmed cases of the coronavirus in India’s Kerala who studied in Wuhan, the epicenter. They were recently discharged from hospital after recovery, meaning India is now in-fection free, Indian media Hindustan Times reported. 

The latest data by the World Health Organization also shows India had no new confirmed cases as of Saturday, excluding the previous three reported patients who became infected while in China. 

The zero confirmed cases in India, a country of 1.38 billion,  aroused the interest of Chinese netizens to find out why. A story circulating on Chinese media joked that "Indian food and climate make it diffi-cult for people to catch epidemic diseases,” or “poor sanitation in India is what keeps India immune” went viral on Sunday. 

Experts and residents from India dismissed popular speculations, saying the good epidemic situation in India is due to the rapid and strict response from its government as a nation with limited medical resources, while saying that if it had a similar outbreak to Wuhan, it would not be able to stand the onslaught of infection.

When the first three confirmed cases were found, the local Kerala state government declared an emergency and prolonged the quarantine period of 14 days to 28 as a precautionary measure. Thousands of people were subsequently under observation in their homes, which is "a very timely and strong measure to curb the virus from a local government level," Xie Chao, an expert at Tsing-hua University's Department of International Relations, told the Global Times.

"The Indian government acknowledges its limited public medical resources would pose a danger to the whole country, and may cause a national disaster if the virus is not properly controlled,” said Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

It remains uncertain whether the data regarding the COVID-19 infections in India are accurate and observers said there could be omissions and concealments given the potentially inadequate statisti-cal methods and diagnostic techniques.

Harman, a resident from Delhi, also told the Global Times Sunday that it would be very difficult for Indians to handle such an epidemic outbreak, especially lower class people who have no access to good medical resources.  Harman said he is worried about the situation in India would deteriorate as the Indian government doesn’t seem very concerned and the general public is not wearing masks either.

Zhao said it was maybe just a coincidence that India performed well in this outbreak as the virus mainly targets middle-aged people, but not the young. Despite this, large quantities of Indian nation-als from Wuhan are young students.

As epidemics frequently occur in India, the Indian government has learned lessons and attaches great importance to the coronavirus’ potentially wide range, experts said. 

India has longtime been a victim of epidemics. Since the outbreak of H1N1 in 2009, India has not escaped from the shadow. The death toll of the epidemic reached 2,000 at some point from 2014 to 2015. When Ebola reached India in 2018, it caused 2,000 people to be forced into quarantine.

When asked if Indian spices are helpful to prevent the virus as many speculate, Chandresh D Shah, a resident from Chennai city, in southern India, told the Global Times that he believed "spices, herbs, religious rituals and vegetarianism might be collectively beneficial in tandem”. 

Weeks after India evacuated around 640 nationals from Wuhan, the government declared that all of them tested negative for the novel coronavirus. India has sent its Air Force planes for the third time to repatriate its nationals.  21 airports in India have started to screen passengers with possible coro-navirus infection, from China, Thailand, Japan and Singapore, Indian media outlet Scroll reported. 

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