Saving Citizens, Killing the Poor: India and COVID-19

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Today is day 9 of the 21-day lockdown in India to slow the spread of COVID-19 transmission. So far, outside of some problematic disease clusters – including one in the Delhi neighbourhood, Nizamuddin West, where the Tablighi Jamaaat in March hosted a religious gathering  – the government of India has been able to stay ahead of the progress of the disease, according to this Channel News Asia account, COVID-19 infection rate steepens as India searches for 9,000 exposed to Delhi cluster.

The Times of India reports 50 COVID-19 deaths in India as of the time of posting, Covid-19 in India: State-wise count of confirmed cases and deaths.

Now, many believe the COVID-19 tsunami is just about to make landfall in India. One reason for the lack of  confirmed cases thus far may be that India is testing far too few people to have an accurate handle on the extent of spread of the disease. Until recently, India only tested people who had traveled abroad, or had a direct link with someone who had the disease. More recently, the testing criteria have been relaxed, to include health workers. So, just as the man who looks for his keys under the streetlight because the light is better there, so India may not be finding many cases of COVID-19 because it’s not looking for them hard enough.(See the text and chart in this brief Bloomberg piece, Chart: As India Increases Covid-19 Testing, New Infections Spurt.)

Others have advanced other possible explanations for India’s relatively sparse number of cases. I know there’s lively debate over whether heat and humidity slow COVID-19’s spread. I won’t weigh in on any side of this debate. Yet it’s certainly hottening up as India moves into its summer: today, it is 30 degrees C in Delhi (86 F), 37 degrees C in Kolkata (98 F), and 34 degrees C in Mumbai (93 F). It’s too soon to tell whether General Summer will play the same role in protecting India from the worst ravages of this disease that General Winter periodically plays in the defense of Moscow.

And today, the Indian press widely reported a new study by New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) researchers who cautiously advanced the hypothesis that one reason India, along with Japan, has been less severely affected by COVID-19 is that both require universal childhood immunization with the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine than does either Italy, the Netherlands,  or the United States (see US scientists link BCG vaccination with fewer coronavirus cases, Indian scientists hopeful but cautious).

Now, I am well aware that correlation isn’t causation, and it is well above my pay grade to opine on this issue. I draw attention to this report, so that those more qualified can pipe up in comments. A shout out here to Ignacio:  I would like to see your take on this study. I am also well aware that the global situation is so awful, that I may be leaping to embrace any small cause for optimism.

Lockdown to Be Extended?

From conversations with well-informed Indians, I wouldn’t be surprised if come April 14, the day of its scheduled expiry, the current lockdown will be extended. The government of India has vociferously denied it has any such intention. Here we’d be wise to remember Claud Cockburn’s quip – believe no rumour until it has been officially denied.

The Migration Catastrophe

By now, many people have seen the horrible pictures of the spontaneous migration of millions  of Indian migrant workers from cities, especially Delhi and Mumbai, to the countryside. This is  the greatest exodus of Indians since Partition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the lockdown took many of these workers by surprise. The lockdown shuttered transportation services – bus, train, airplane. It also led to the cut-off of day wages to these workers.

Unsurprisingly, with no money,  no work, and the threat of disease looming, most workers headed for their home villages — where they knew they could get food, and would have family support  in the event they fell ill (see The Guardian, India racked by greatest exodus since partition due to coronavirus.).

This phenomenon seemed to take the government by surprise.

And, it defeated the primary purpose of the lockdown – reducing contact between people so as to limit COVID-19 spread.

The government’s immediate response: confusion.

Then, Modi weighed in with an apology. From the Hindustan Times, ‘Please forgive me’: PM Modi’s apology to the poor hit by national lockdown:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought forgiveness for putting people in trouble by ordering a complete lockdown in the country but said the fight against coronavirus is one of life and death.

“My conscience tells me that you will definitely forgive me as I had to take certain decisions which have put you in a lot difficulty,” he said on his radio programme Mann ki Baat.

“Especially, when I look at my poor brothers and sisters, I definitely feel that they must be thinking what kind of a Prime minister is this who has placed us in this situation,” he added.

“The lockdown is for you to protect you and your family. You have to show this patience for many more days,” he added.

Alas, migrants needed far more than an apology.

And that statement of contrition was quickly replaced by outrage over a  widely reported case, when local officials in Bareilly doused migrants with disinfectant: bleach. The news was picked up widely , first on social media and then in India and internationally, by the BBC, Coronavirus: Anger as migrants sprayed with disinfectant in India and Al Jazeera, Migrants in India sprayed with disinfectant to fight coronavirus. From the latter:

Indian health workers have caused outrage by spraying a group of migrants with disinfectant, amid fears that a large-scale movement of people from cities to the countryside risked spreading the coronavirus.

Footage showed a group of migrant workers sitting on a street in Bareilly, a district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, as health officials in protective suits used hosepipes to douse them in disinfectant, prompting anger on social media on Monday.

Nitish Kumar, the top government official in the district, said health workers had been ordered to disinfect buses being used by the local authorities but in their zeal had also turned their hoses on migrant workers.

A number of opposition leaders, including former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers – Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav – attacked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state for its “cruel and inhuman” treatment of the poor.

“The workers have already suffered a lot. Please don’t wash them with chemicals now. This will not protect them and instead endanger their health,” tweeted Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

“I have asked for action to be taken against those responsible for this,” he said in a tweet.

Make time to view the embedded video clips in either the BBC and Al Jazeera accounts.

The government insisted on closing state borders. So large masses of workers now find themselves trapped. Others who’ve made it home have been barred from their villages. From The Guardian:

Migrant workers who have made it to their villages have often found they are no longer welcome. In several villages in Bihar and Jharkhand, villagers put up barricades at the entry points and hung posters, warning the migrants against entering the village before a health check.

“We took this decision as outsiders’ entry to the village could put everyone’s life at risk,” said Umesh Singh, 60, a schoolteacher from the village of Baniya-Yadupur in Bihar. “This is very dangerous time and we can’t ignore this.”

The Migration Exodus: A View From Kolkata

I checked in with my friend, Dr. Sunandan Roy Chowdhury, at his home in Kolkata, to get his take on the impact of India’s lockdown on its migrant workers. Sunandan has been active in West Bengal’s politics for many years, and is secretary for Citizens Forum for Peace and Democracy, He responded by email to my questions.

JERRI-LYNN SCOFIELD: What does this exodus from the cities tell us about the poor in India?

SUNANDAN ROY CHOWDHURY: Life in the Indian sub-continent does not seem to be of much value, especially if the life in question belongs to the poor strata of society. In the US, there are movements such as ‘Black Lives Matter’. Sadly enough, in India or in the entire sub-continent, we do not have a movement which will say ‘poor lives matter’. That the lives of the working poor matter little to the Indian systems of power, was proven once again in the last seven days.

JERRI-LYNN SCOFIELD: Tell us about India’s lockdown policy, and its impact on migrant workers who emigrate to the major cities in search of work?

SUNANDAN ROY CHOWDHURY:  In the wake of the crisis emanating out of the deadly Corona virus or COVID 19, the Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi declared a 21 day lock down starting midnight of 24 March. While the lockdown drastically reduced the possibility of contacts between human beings in the vast geography that is India, thereby hopefully reducing the chances of contamination of the virus and saving people from contracting the disease, it also put in peril lives and health conditions of hundreds of thousands of working class people who have moved from one part of India to another in search of jobs.

Between two to five million people from Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa leave their native villages or towns to go and work in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and in the areas around Delhi. Many also go to Kerala or to Gujarat and Maharashtra. The poorer east sends the working hands to factories and farms of the more prosperous north, west and south. Knowledge of this phenomenon is fairly common place in the well-educated and aware sections of India’s confident upper middle class.

JERRI-LYNN SCOFIELD: To what extent do you fault the Modi government for the impact of its lockdown on India’s migrant workers?

SUNANDAN ROY CHOWDHURY: When the lockdown was declared, the decision was taken hurriedly. Neither the Prime Minister, nor his close group of trusted political colleagues, the ministers who are in his close circle, nor the senior bureaucrats around him – and I believe the decision of 21 day lockdown was done with adequate consultation, no one at the top of India’s government cared to think what will happen to these couple of million of migrant workers.

The result unfolded as a human tragedy of great proportions. Hundreds of thousands of workers with their families, among them infants and young children were stranded in India’s capital, scrambling to get into buses which have also been taken off roads in the wake of the lockdown. Some got into buses, tales have spread that a bus has carried up to two hundred people, with eighty of them on the top of the bus. Television cameras have witnessed people walking five hundred kilometers to walk home. No food, no water, no shelter, and the scorching sun. Scenes of British India’s partition on 15 August 1947 have come to haunt the nation. When the government at Centre and in the states realized the severity of the situation, already at least twenty lives were lost. At the time of writing on 29 March there were twenty nine deaths from Corona in India and there were at least twenty deaths due to government negligence.

Shall we blame the Prime Minister for this, shall we blame some chief ministers of the states from where the workers hail? I think the bureaucrats are no less to blame. It is true that the final decision was definitely the PM’s but I won’t be convinced that he alone took a decision of this proportion; it was more of a collective decision. Where was any wisdom of the bureaucrats, many of whom have served in the districts and all of whom must know that there are nearly five million workers who move from one part of India to another for jobs. And, many of them are domestic workers in the homes of the bureaucrats themselves. So, I will say it is the politicians and bureaucrats and the entire upper strata of Indian society who have failed India’s poor. And, of course, this is not the first time, and if Corona does not shake us to the core, then it won’t be the last time either.

JERRI-LYNN SCOFIELD:  I’m struck by the lack of concern for the needs of India’s poorest citizens. This problem seems to extend well beyond this government’s COVID-19 policy.

SUNANDAN ROY CHOWDHURY: The poor workers are poor not only in that they have poor incomes. They do not have a voice, they do not have trade unions to come to their rescue. In India even the trade unions are also clubs of the affluent. Only seven percent of India’s work force is unionized, and these are the well-heeled and well-oiled employees in banks, large private and public corporations and in India’s stagnant universities, schools and colleges. India’s middle class not only has an incompetent governing group, but it creates this incompetence at the top by producing and re-producing class and caste hierarchies in every modern institution.

So, the tragedy that has unfolded in the wake of the unplanned, poorly planned decision of lockdown, is only the tip of the iceberg, it betrays a much greater and much deeper malaise. If educated westernized and now sufficiently Hinduttva-ised India, if that India does not mends its ways, then it is a matter of decades, when that iceberg will destroy India’s five-trillion dollar titanic.

Modi Government’s Response

The Modi government has made available some limited economic support. As Al Jazeera reports, Hungry, desperate: India virus controls trap its migrant workers:

Under pressure to address the growing emergency, the central government last week announced a $23bn welfare scheme for the poor. This included doubling the amount of free food rations under an existing national programme, $10 to tide over senior citizens, and raising wages by $0.27 per day for those working under the government’s rural employment scheme.

The situation reminds me of a supersized version of the 2016 demonetization debacle, and I’m not the only one to make the comparison (see India: Demonetization Debacle, a 2018 post-mortem analysis of a Reserve Bank of India report, which is only one of several Naked Capitalism accounts).

As Jayati Ghosh, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and frequent Naked Capitalism contributor told Al Jazeera:

“The events are similar in the sense that policymakers now seem just as unprepared for the consequences as they were back then, and again the poorest are suffering – but at least during demonetisation not every part of the economy came to a grinding halt”.

Ghosh and others say say that the aid the government has provided is sadly inadequate to the magnitude of the economic damage it has inflicted. From Al Jazeera:

Though India’s migrant labourers are significant in number, this group is a political “blindspot”, Reetika Khera, an economist at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, told Al Jazeera.

“We should be setting up community kitchens and converting schools into welfare centres, but sadly our policymakers seem to be watching out more for the middle and upper classes,” she said. “They clearly didn’t anticipate any of this, and now everything feels like an afterthought”.

The central government in New Delhi had asked regional states to prevent a migrant exodus by providing food and shelter, but too little time was given to implement this before the lockdown was imposed, “turning a public health crisis into a larger humanitarian one”, says [Nivedita Jayaram, a researcher at Aajeevika Bureau, a labour research and legal organization]. Aajeevika

“While we warned overseas Indians in advance and chartered flights to bring them back home, we’ve left our internal migrants to fend for themselves,” she said.

Many countries have used cash transfers to support falling incomes during the pandemic. Though India followed suit by announcing an extra $20 spread over three months paid directly into Jan Dhan bank accounts – free accounts provided under the central government’s financial inclusion programme – the amount is small, worth only approximately three days of wages for an inner-city construction worker.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the relief package was designed “to reach out to those who are most requiring of such measures … the poorest of the poor”. At the launch of the rescue package last month, she also said: “We do not want anyone to remain hungry.”

But economists say it falls short in light of the severity of the situation.

“I’m not sure how an amount like this could be seen as viable in the kind of crisis we’re in,” says JNU’s Ghosh. “If we are cutting off incomes for a month or probably longer, the amounts provided should reflect that”. The cash transfers should not just be to Jan Dhan accounts either, she added, since many migrants are unlikely to be covered by those.

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  1. Tom Stone

    The USA doesn’t treat it’s poor any better, there are fewer here and a higher percentage work in the Prison industrial complex which gives them some marginal value in the view of our reptilian overlords.

    However India is experiencing an unmitigated disaster made much worse by the callous disregard of its government.

    TEOTWAKI has arrived.

    1. SyKrass

      I just read what this was, don’t worry gold and silver were never going to be worth much anyway…

  2. Oh

    I’m struck by the lack of concern for the needs of India’s America’s poorest citizens.
    You don’t have to look very far to show your concern. The poor and the undocumented have been treated badly for at least 10 years.

  3. Petter

    Thank you Jerri-Lynn. Sad, sad story.
    Regarding testing and the lack of testing, I’m wondering what India’s testing capabilty is? We read about testing and lack of testing and the need for testing here in the Global North but what about India and the Global South?

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      The Bloomberg piece and chart, cited above, reports:

      India had 1,834 confirmed cases as of April 1, according to data released by the Health Ministry. That compares with 137 till March 17. The spurt coincides with the number of samples tested for the novel coronavirus in India, which nearly quadrupled during the period. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, by March 31, India had tested 47,951 samples compared with 12,513 till March 17.

      The rise in testing could also be partly attributed to the ICMR increasing its testing labs across the country after the government allowed private labs to conduct tests.

      To be sure, ICMR Chief Epidemiologist RR Gangakhedkar has said that despite higher testing, India is only utilising a third of its overall testing capacity of 12,000 samples a day.

  4. RWood

    This sounds familiar, though the language may differ:

    “My conscience tells me that you will definitely forgive me as I had to take certain decisions which have put you in a lot difficulty,”

    or will…

    which I combine with this:

    Some ten days ago, Mr. Trump declared, that this “situation” is enough and that it is time to get the economy working again. He is a business man and knows best. He suggested March 30 for going back to work. He then must have gotten instructions from his higher-ups, that more time was needed – this is just my guess – to prepare whatever sinister plan is in the making. So, he postponed by two weeks the “back-to-normal” day.
    Peter Koenig

  5. JohnMc

    apparently it’s somewhat well established that vaccines can have ‘non-specific effects’ which provide some level of immune system protection beyond the target disease. here is a video discussing this issue:

  6. The Rev Kev

    Said a coupla weeks ago that India was going to be a disaster and Modi’s actions are making this come true. I heard one Aussie woman trapped in India talk about how some person died of Coronavirus. The thing is, they died in a slum of one million people in an area of about five square kilometers. I wonder if China will help them out as things go south for the Indians? But the numbers will be awful and I am guessing that India will be the next Coronavirus hot spot. At the moment they are reporting only 2,543 cases and 72 deaths but I am saying that these figures are off by orders of magnitude-

  7. Xquacy

    I’d like to take a view of the matter that is far less restrained than Jerry’s commentary and unhinged compared to Chowdhury’s but which I believe is warranted, given the state of play on the ground.

    I seems to that even in alternate media in the US and Europe, opinions have not come around to fully acknowledging the fascistic elements in the the Indian state under Modi’s rule. Lambert has frequently brought Robert Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism to attention, quoting its operative definition:

    Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim- hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

    Perhaps with the exception of “external expansion,” each of those qualities checks out in the Indian case, but as Eco points out in his Ur-Fascism:

    Fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist. Take away imperialism from fascism and you still have Franco and Salazar. Take away colonialism and you still have the Balkan fascism of the Ustashes. Add to the Italian fascism a radical anti-capitalism…and you have Ezra Pound. Add a cult of Celtic mythology and the Grail mysticism (completely alien to official fascism) and you have one of the most respected fascist gurus, Julius Evola.

    Besides nearly every other aspect of Eco’s 14 point checklist aligns with what the BJP and RSS combine are doing in this country.

    With these preliminaries I think its fair to emphasize point three from Eco’s Ur-Fascism, to see what is going on here with respect to Covid-19 response:

    Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes.

    Modi has a panache for appearing once per semester to make a national address, typically an announcement of a major disruption in public life, issued as a holy decree for religious sacrifice. The responses from Indian “left,” – a heterogeneous cluster of liberals akin to a semi-cult, worshiping the liberal establishment in the west, the communist parties and its affiliates which have turned centrists through years of accumulating a wealth of experience and finally a few smaller fragments of identitarian groups – are to try and seek some kind rational explanation for these decrees. The inevitable failure to find any typically ends with moral reprobations of “incompetence,” and some castigation for the imposition of “unnecesary hardships on the poor.” Even up to this point, after the complete subordination of the India judiciary to Modi’s whims, the incessant, public and rabid display of hatred of the Muslims by the elected representatives in the BJP, the nearly total compliance of the Media and its proactive “find and eliminate” approach against dissidents and Muslims, the supposedly alternative news media like “Scroll” and “The Wire,” issue opinion pieces aimed at the government pleading for a rational reconsideration of “ill thought” and “hasty policy” decisions. All those pleas not-withstanding, it is difficult to see from this framework why Modi’s directives have such mass appeal; witness the popularity of demonetization exercise, the beef ban leading to the unemployment of thousands of Muslims in the trade, the imprisonment of Kashmiri populations, the organized religious pogrom against Muslims in Delhi and the Pro-CAA rallies.

    These decrees and its popularity do make sense however if we see it as an instance of what Eco calls irrationalism. Its easy to see the same thing in Modi’s call to observe the religious festival of banging plates at 5pm for 5 minutes from balconies as a combative response to Covid-19 and in today’s announcement to power off lights and use flash lights for 9 minutes at 9pm on April 4th, which will no doubt see a similarly enthusiastic response.

    It is also worth pointing out that it looks like the Modi government, more than any other national government has use the Covid-19 pandemic to both distract from the crises that Jerry-lynn points to and to advance the decade long project of subordinating and perhaps cleansing the country of its Muslim populations. With hundreds of millions of Indian migrant workers scampering for food, showered with batons from the police and disinfectants from the health bureaucracies, the food supply chain breaking down and farmers resorting to crop destruction to prevent further sunk costs, what is the Indian middle class, the main stream media the twitter hashtags mainly preoccupied with, in India? #coronajihad.

    1. Xquacy

      So I will hazard a prediction. The Indian express headline for today:

      Option gaining ground: After 21 days, easing of curbs, in select areas

      “If we can identify pockets like these across the country — there may be several hundred of them — and if I am reasonably satisfied that the rest of the country can go about their business, then these pockets will remain the only ones left with restrictions,” a highly placed government source said.

      The article is quite typically thin on specifics but the only example cited of such “hotspot zones” is the Muslim gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi which has been carpet bombed with Modi’s media loyalists and has received equal reprobation from the liberal press – quite unjustifiably – since the bad news about the repercussions of the lock down got out of hand.

      The prediction is this: India will impose a lockdown on predominantly Muslim areas and ban any protest gathering under the pretext that this would endanger public health. That should bring in enough popular support to break all anti CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), NPR (National Population Register), NRC (National Register of Citizens) protests with force.

      Also expect a power play between the Central Government and the non-BJP ruled states with the Government of India releasing funds to deal with repercussions of the lock-down despite them begging, on condition that they revoke their resolutions against the CAA and fall along the Central governments line.

  8. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

    The Indian press just reported a third case in Dharavi, a Mumbai slum, after registering its first death yesterday.

    The China issue is complicated. The 1962 Sino-Indian War damaged if not killed outright Nehru’s nonalignment policy (and perhaps hastened the end of Nehru himself). Well before this crisis, Modi had been chasing the US – recall that Trump visited India recently – but he would be wise not to put all his eggs in the US basket, because I think the US lacks both the will and the capacity to assist India at the scale it might require. The US needs to reserve its resources for its domestic catastrophe.

    Trouble is that Modi is very much anti-anything that Nehru stands for – his attitude is a bit like Trump’s towards Obama. So he’s not disposed to seek Chinese assistance. The question is what number of Indian casualties will be necessary to make him change his mind.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its many years ago – I can’t find a link to it – but I remember reading a long research article on the long term demographic differences (with regard to mortality) between autocracies and democracies, with India and China being the key examples. The study found that over the period from 1950 to 1990 or thereabouts, China and India had remarkably similar overall mortality rates – the key difference being that in India it was due to constant ill health, disease and poverty (i.e. low average lifespans for the poor), while in China famine was the big killer.

      It was hypothesised that part of the ‘deal’ in an autocracy was to ensure a basic level of competence in looking after the masses, but famines were tolerable as the government could simply ring fence the affected area to prevent news getting out, while protecting key populations (as of course happened more than once in China), while democracies seem very tolerant of deaths among the poor, but due to a free media, a major famine was not considered acceptable.

      I think we are about to see a real life experiment replicating the major crises these countries faced after their respective independences. China’s first instinct is still to manage the narrative, internally and externally (with some success as we can see). I think we’ll soon see what the Indian establishment considers a ‘tolerable’ level of death among its general population.

  9. xkeyscored

    Ignacio (and others who understand this stuff)

    This is the study that the “US scientists link BCG vaccination with fewer coronavirus cases, Indian scientists hopeful but cautious” article is about:

    “Correlation between universal BCG vaccination policy and reduced morbidity and
    mortality for COVID-19: an epidemiological study”

    Here’s an extract:
    Several vaccines including the BCG vaccination have been shown to produce positive
    “heterologous” or non-specific immune effects leading to improved response against other non-mycobacterial pathogens. For instance, BCG vaccinated mice infected with the vaccinia virus were protected by increased IFN-Y production from CD4+ cells 2 . This phenomenon was named ‘trained immunity’ and is proposed to be caused by metabolic and epigenetic changes leading to promotion of genetic regions encoding for pro-inflammatory cytokines 3 . BCG vaccination significantly increases the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically IL-1B, which has been shown to play a vital role in antiviral immunity 4 . Additionally, a study 5 in Guinea-Bissau found that children vaccinated with BCG were observed to have a 50% reduction in overall mortality, which was attributed to the vaccine’s effect on reducing respiratory infections and sepsis.
    Given our current understanding of the BCG vaccine’s nonspecific immunotherapeutic
    mechanisms and by analyzing current epidemiological data, this investigation aims to identify a possible correlation between the existence of universal BCG vaccine policies and the morbidity and mortality associated to COVID-19 infections all over the world.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Yes, I would also like to see their take on this.

      I also note that Lambert included some relevant material in today’s links (3 April), including a world map showing whether a country currently has a universal BCG vaccination program; whether a country once recommended BCG vaccination for everyone, but currently does not; and whether a country never had a universal BCG vaccination program.

  10. Ravindran Venkatakrishnan

    As gandhi said about Katherine Mayo’s book, Mother India – a gutter inspector’s report.

  11. MarkT

    BCG theory: VERY interesting!

    A friend and I have long been scratching our heads about the strangeness of infection rates in different parts of the world. Initially it was that Caribbean countries and South Africa didn’t seem to have the sustained take-off in cases experienced elsewhere. (India and many other “third world countries” seemed to fall into the same category.) New Zealand has done very well too … but then here we have a very well observed home quarantine (or “lockdown” as the media and government insist on calling it) which is probably better than most other countries can manage. According to the reports I’ve gotten my hands on (sorry no link) the numbers of tests being administered in South Africa is way higher than in New Zealand. Which added to the mystery. Until this came along:

    I wouldn’t laugh this theory off. Wait to see what the coming weeks bring.

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