NEW DELHI: All India Institute of Medical Sciences director Randeep Guleria on Thursday said the social stigma around Covid-19 could increase mortality in India.

Guleria, who is part of the Centre’s core group of experts, said the disease “is not so serious” but it has been stigmatised. “The patients who have been cured are our symbols of hope and victory. Yet, we have stigmatised them. This is creating so much panic that it can cause increase in morbidities and mortalities,” Guleria said.

Many patients who have flu-like symptoms are reporting late and not getting themselves tested, Guleria said. According to him, patients come forward only when “they are gasping for breath” and this could “seriously increase the mortality” in India.

“We have to remember it is a disease that is not that serious. Around 90-95% of the people recover. But if we have that stigma and don’t come forward, then we may land up in a situation where because of our delay in treatment, we may have higher mortality,” Guleria said.

The AIIMS director said 80% of the patients have mild symptoms, 15% can be cured with oxygen therapy and 5% need ventilator support. Urging everyone to support the families of patients, Guleria said it was important for patients to come out and get themselves tested. The appeal for testing came on a day when the Centre said it has hit a milestone by conducting 5 lakh RT-PCR tests. The Centre said India had fared well as the test positivity rate has consistently been at 4.5%, barring a few spikes.

On Thursday, India’s cases crossed 22,000 with a sudden spike in cases from Gujarat and Rajasthan. For the first time in a month, Delhi’s active cases dipped with a high recovery rate and it slipped to number four position.

“Our entire focus is that people should not need hospitalisation,” said secretary (environment) CK Mishra, who headed an empowered group. The number of hospitals has increased by 3.5 times in one month and the number of isolation beds by 3.6 times. The health ministry data showed that in India there are 12,371 ventilators, 24,644 ICU beds, 1,94,026 isolation beds for severe and critical cases and 3,773 total facilities.

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