Friday, May 29 2020

It is necessary to explore ways of training and preparing for war because epidemic control efforts have been normalised. It is necessary to step up preparations for armed combat, to flexibly carry out actual combat military training, and to improve our military's ability to perform military missions.

That’s what President Xi told the People Liberation Army. Why this matters: China has been flexing its muscle across its borders, from the South China Sea to Ladakh—where new troop and tank deployments have been reported! The two triggers for this alarming chest-thumping: the virus and Trump. Illustration: Parth Savla

the big story

The high price of getting Covid

First, the numbers: Number of cases in India: 165,348 The tally of deaths: 4,711. The caseload is rising with speed. As Times of India notes, it took us 109 days to hit 100,000, but just nine days to add another 50K. 


The TLDR: Private hospitals are the latest battleground in the war against the virus. As the number of cases escalate, so do patient bills. The biggest reason: the operational costs of safety protocols. Also: stingy insurance companies. We explain why a Covid-19 infection can quickly become a financial nightmare.


Starting with the good news…

As of last week, less than 15% of cases required hospitalisation. Of those in hospital, just 2.25% needed to be put in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Only 1.91% required oxygen, and just 0.004% required ventilators. But if you are one of the unlucky minority...


First, you gotta get a bed…

There are 105,000 isolation beds across 600 hospitals in the country. And private hospitals are popular. They account for 55% of in-patient care cases in India, while government hospitals only account for 42%. 


Key point to note: Our government policy is to isolate even patients with mild symptoms in hospitals or Covid care centres. According to an expert:


“The isolation of every patient is absolutely required. The countries that sent patients with mild symptoms home are now facing the consequences – their numbers have exploded.”


So you will need to be hospitalised even if you are not critically ill.


But where are the beds?

The states facing the sharpest spikese.g. Maharashtra and Delhihave ordered private hospitals to step up. Maharashtra took control of 80% of such beds, while Delhi ordered that 20% be reserved. But a lot of these hospitals are not Covid-readyand lack proper isolation wards, ICUs with ventilators, quarantine wards with oxygen supply and normal quarantine wards. 


Add to that our preference for private hospitals. The result: an acute shortage of beds. This week, 74 of the 82 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Delhi were occupied. In comparison, only 111 of 348 such beds were taken in government hospitals. And 80% of even non-ICU beds are occupied in private hospitals. In Mumbai, there is now a waiting list at the best hospitals—leading to dangerous delays in care.


Then you gotta get medical attention…

As a nation, we have a shortage of 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses—and that doesn’t help in a pandemic. In Covid-19 cases, according to experts, “The ideal bed-to-nurse ratio is one-to-one and for five beds, we need one resident doctor and a senior intensive care consultant.” Not only are hospitals understaffed, but many have been forced to shut down due to infections. Mumbai is now scrambling to import medical staff from Kerala to cope with its caseload.


Then you get the bill...

Once admitted, patients typically are required to stay in the hospital until they test negative. 

Indian Express estimates that Covid hospitalisations can cost anywhere from Rs 3-16 lakh—based on the treatment required. Hindustan Times estimates a total cost of Rs 2.8-3.5 lakh for a two-week stay for a “normal” case.


Finally, you gotta fight with insurance…

Hospitals pass on the charges of being Covid-safe to their patients. According to an insurance expert, “These charges include the cost of PPE billed at as high as Rs 5,000-9,000 a day; care and hygiene, and waste management charges, which are otherwise part of the room rates.” And insurance companies will not cover that part of the bill. Also excluded: oxygen masks which can account for almost 20-25% of hospital bills.


Point to note: You have to pay these safety-related costs even if you are not a Covid patient. PPE charges apply to all patients in the hospitals now. And no, insurers will definitely not cover that part of your bill.


The reading list


Image: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

sanity break

Ten-year-old Souparnika Nair got a standing ovation from the audience and judges for her audition on Britain’s Got Talent. We totally ❤️  that the flower in her hair is perfectly accessorised to match her dress!

headlines that matter

Belated relief for migrant workers

The Supreme Court has finally stepped in to rescue migrant workers from the great suffering caused by the government’s so-called remedy, i.e. Shramik trains (details in our explainer). Yesterday, it issued a series of directives:


Everybody wants a bit of Jio

Ever since the big Facebook announcement, Reliance has been on a roll! It is currently in talks with all sorts of big hitters eager to buy a slice of its Jio Platforms—that bundle all its telecommunication offerings. The latest is the Abu Dhabi-owned venture fund Mubadala that has put $1 billion on the table. Also in this swayamvar line: Twitter, Microsoft and Google. There is lots of buzz about a Wall Street IPO. Point to note: Google is also flirting with Vodafone. (Reuters)


The Premier League is baaack!

Despondent football fans rejoice! The Premier League is set to restart on June 17 with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. All matches will be played behind closed doors and broadcast live on TV. Liverpool bahut khush hua. One fly in this balm to the sports fan’s soul: Four (unnamed) English Premier League players have tested positive. The virus has now spread across three clubs—right when the league has initiated ‘contact training’, i.e. teams can now train as a group and tackle each other on the field. (ESPN)


Shopping for clothes is back!

Indians are indeed back to buying apparel—but it's mostly sleepwear or comfortable tees. And industry experts are upbeat about the future of clothes shopping:


“I understand there will not be as many occasions to socialize, but consumers are not eating out, travelling and are probably deferring the car purchase. Yes, they will spend more on food and other essentials, but clothing falls in between and they will spend on it.”


A recent survey of affluent consumers shows that 58% are eager to shop again, and 76% are eager to visit a store. (Mint)


Covid alert in the skies

Two SpiceJet passengers on a flight from Ahmedabad to Guwahati tested positive. They have been quarantined—as has the entire operating crew. This is going to happen a lot. What inquiring minds want to know: Why didn’t that mandatory Arogya Setu app flag their status? 


The Covid effect: a short edition

An update on the latest Covid gyaan


Does Hindustan Times have a dirty secret?

Jubilant Generics is a subsidiary of Jubilant Life Sciences—which is a pharmaceutical company founded by Shyam S. Bhartia. He is the husband of Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson of HT Media and owner of Hindustan Times. Also this: Back in April, 74 out of the 90 Covid-19 cases in Mysore were traced to a single source—Jubilant Generics. But there was no Tablighi-sized outrage over it. The media blog Churumuri offers a long and intriguing read on how and why this story may have been covered up.


Dear God, this is Narendra

HarperCollins plans to publish an anthology of the letters our PM wrote to the mother goddess as a young man. Addressed to 'jagat janani', he wrote one every night right before he went to bed. The publisher’s statement quotes Modi as saying:


"I am not a writer, most of us are not; but everybody seeks expression, and when the urge to unload becomes overpowering there is no option but to take pen and paper, not necessarily to write but to introspect and unravel what is happening within the heart and the head and why."

sanity break

Can’t hardly wait for the monsoons thanks to this blistering heat? Enjoy Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga as “Chromatica Weather Girls” in this video for their new collab, ‘Rain On Me’.

smart & curious

A list of intriguing things

Short list of good reads

life advisory

Dating apps ruin your mental health

Duh! New research confirms what most of us already know: the experience of swipe-based dating apps leads to "higher rates of psychological distress and/or depression." Also: folks are spending way more time on these apps than ever. (Big Think)


Is it safe to go back to the gym?

Gyms have “a relatively high density of people exercising and sweating in a contained space”—i.e. they are super germ-friendly. But there is a protocol you can adopt to stay safe: Wash. Spray. Wait. Wipe. (New York Times via The Telegraph


Here’s the right way to fly

The first step is determining whether you really, really have to get on the plane. If the answer is yes, here’s a comprehensive and useful guide to keeping yourself Covid-free. (NPR)

the feel good place

David-Bali! The Aussie batsman gave himself a makeover on Insta—much to the delight of Indian fans.


A stunning archaeological find in Italy is making news: an almost perfectly preserved mosaic floor of a villa that may date back to third century AD.


Look: Ravioli starfish! This may be the most delicious looking marine life ever.


Look: Bedtime stories for absurdly adorable puppies… read by a dinosaur!

Let’s play a game: which photo is not like the others? 😂