Abstract: By now everyone of us must be well known of the fact that the infectious Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and since then it’s been spreading globally, resulting in an ongoing pandemic. As of 6 May 2020, more than 3.68 million cases have been reported across 187 countries and territories, resulting in more than 257,000 death with more than 1.2 million people been recovered.Through this article I would like to focus on the origin of the corona virus along with few conspiracies which are obscure simultaneously enlightening the key steps taken by our government in particular.
Coronaviruses are a group of RNA viruses with few of them causing the common cold in humans while others infect animals, including bats and pangolins.
Scientists first identified a human coronavirus in 1965. Later that decade, similar human and animal viruses were named after their crown-like appearance. When virus infects, they attach to the cells, get inside them, and make copies of their RNA, which helps them to spread. If there’s a copying mistake, the RNA gets changed resulting in mutations.
Researchers studied 103 samples of the new coronavirus collected from people, and they looked at coronaviruses from animals. Revealing that the coronaviruses found in humans weren’t all the same. Researchers found two of them and called “L” and “S” types. The S type came first. But the scientists say the L type was more common early in the outbreak being the dangerous one too. One may cause more disease than the other. Scientists need more data to really know what these strains mean to human health and COVID-19.
Seven coronaviruses can infect humans. Scientists have divided coronaviruses into four sub-groups, like alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Four common ones named as : 229E (alpha) , NL63 (alpha) ,OC43 (beta) ,HKU1 (beta). Three less-common ones as : MERS-CoV, a beta virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) , SARS-CoV, a beta virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
SARS-CoV emerged in southern China in 2002 and quickly spread to 28 other countries. Infecting more than 8,000 people and 774 died. There was also a small outbreak in 2004 involving only four more cases. This causes fever, headache, and respiratory problems such as cough and shortness of breath.
MERS-CoV started in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Almost all of the nearly 2,500 cases have been in people who live in or travel to the Middle East. This was less contagious than SARS but more deadly, killing 858 people. It has the same respiratory symptoms but can also cause kidney failure. Together, they have caused more than 1600 deaths.
Now coming to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
The “novel” coronavirus probability in animals is common but sometimes, a virus in animals crosses over into the humans. So this virus is not at all new to the world, but it is new to the human and as it was causing illness in humans in 2019, scientist named it as a novel coronavirus.
Experts say that SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats which is also true for the coronaviruses behind MERS and SARS.
It is thought that the SARS-CoV-2 made the jump to humans at one of Wuhan’s open-air “wet markets.” Some wet markets sell wild or banned species like cobras, wild boars, and raccoon dogs. The crowded conditions cause the viruses to exchange genes from different animals. Sometimes the virus changes so much that it can start to infect and spread among people. The Wuhan market didn’t sell bats at the time of the outbreak. However, no definite proof that the virus jumped from bats to humans via an intermediary species has been found yet. That’s why early suspicion also fell on pangolins, also called scaly anteaters, which are sold illegally in some markets in China. Some coronaviruses that infect pangolins are similar to SARS-CoV-2.
As SARS-CoV-2 spread both inside and outside China, it infected people who have had no direct contact with animals meaning that the virus is transmitted from one human to another. This growing worldwide transmission is now called a pandemic.
WHO issued the official names COVID19 and SARS-CoV-2 on 11 February 2020. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained what COVID-19 stands for as : CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for when the outbreak was first identified (31 December 2019).
The virus is thought to be natural and has an animal origin, through spill over infection. The actual origin is still unknown, but it’s known that the first case seen in China. By December 2019, the spread of infection was entirely driven by human-to-human transmission. A study published in The Lancet January 2020 on the first 41 confirmed cases of COVID19, , revealed the earliest date of onset of symptoms as 1 December 2019. Official publications of WHO reported the earliest onset of symptoms as 8 December 2019. Human-to-human transmission was confirmed by WHO and Chinese authorities by 20 January 2020.
The transmission of the virus is through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person, and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. Though this virus survive on surfaces for several hours it can be killed by simple disinfectants. The symptoms generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath. More severe infection leads to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Rarely, the disease can be fatal. These symptoms are very similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold. Therefore testing is required to confirm COVID-19. It is of utmost importance to remember the key preventive measures being the frequent hand washing, wearing mouth mask and respiratory hygiene. The RT-PCR throat/swab test is the best for diagnosis of COVID-19.
Interesting conspiracies on COVID-19:
The WHO address of some unknown pathogen in R & D blueprint: When WHO already added Disease X to its R&D Blueprint in 2018, pointing out the reality of an unknown pathogen that would create a momentous international epidemic was just beyond the limits of the imagination. 2 years later, over 1 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19 virus and 80 000 people have died from the disease. One-third of the world’s population is in lockdown. The world’s most advanced economies struggle to meet the demands of the population. Here the question arises for WHO about the measures they have taken to fight with such unknown pathogen which they have mentioned 2 years back.
China’s knowledge and technology in studying the corona virus vigorously over the past few years: A recently published scientific article by Lawrence Sellin ( Retired US Army Colonel) states: “Due to the broad-spectrum of research conducted over almost 20 years on bat SARS-CoV [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses] justified by their potential to spill over from animal to human, a possible synthetic origin by laboratory engineering of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is a reasonable hypothesis.” The Chinese government, the media and some scientists are desperately trying to convince the public that COVID-19 is a naturally-occurring disease, which was transmitted from animals to humans in the Wuhan Seafood Market. However If COVID-19 leaked from a laboratory, the political and economic consequences for China are enormous. The argument that COVID-19 is naturally-occurring is based nearly entirely on a single, but widely-cited Nature Medicine article entitled “The Proximal Origin of SAR-CoV-2.” That conclusion stems primarily from a structural analysis comparing COVID-19 with bat and pangolin (scaly anteater) coronaviruses suggesting a natural evolutionary process in which COVID-19 mutated in an animal population and acquired the ability to infect humans. Although COVID-19 bears a striking structural similarity to the bat coronavirus RaTG13, the critical receptor binding domain, which initiates attachment to human cells, is closer to pangolins. It is highly unlikely that the bat RaTG13 coronavirus and the pangolin coronavirus combined naturally through a process called reassortment because it would require simultaneous infection of the two viruses in the same animal cell. It could, however, have been accomplished in a laboratory. As the recently-published scientific article notes, a new “chimeric” or combined RaTG13-pangolin coronavirus strain could have been created through an artificial recombinant event, using well-established bioengineering methods.
Another possible indication of genetic manipulation is the presence of a furin polybasic cleavage site in COVID-19 as represented by the PRRA amino acid insertion, which does not exist in any of the bat or pangolin close relatives. Perhaps not coincidentally, the furin polybasic cleavage site in COVID-19 occurs in the precise location known to enhance pathogenicity and transmissibility in viruses. Interestingly, methods for the insertion of a polybasic cleavage site in infectious bronchitis coronavirus have been described by Chinese scientists and that artificial genetic alteration resulted in increased pathogenicity. In parallel, animal models for the addition of structures important to the function of coronaviruses, called O-linked glycans, have been used by Chinese scientists at the Chongqing Military Medical University, as well as animal models to specifically select for the human angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptor, the entry step for COVID-19 infection.
There is no doubt that China has the knowledge and technology to have created COVID-19. Whether that actually was done is yet to be determined and should be undergoing vigorous scientific investigation.
The Chinese Cover-Up: Speculations on the communist government of China trying to ‘cover-up’ the outbreak hiding the official figures were undesirable. The fact that the Chinese Government tried to suppress the attempts of the insiders as well as eight doctors, who tried to warn the public of the pandemic, is rather alarming . While the rumours of the Chinese cover-up are unsubstantiated, one can only think about the popular proverb, ‘there’s no smoke, without fire’.
The US military imported COVID into China: The Chinese government responded to the anti-China theories with a conspiracy theory of its own that tries to blame back onto the United States. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, tweeted “it’s possible that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan.” China accused that the US military personnel during their participation in the Military World Games held in Wuhan last October 2019 brought the virus to China. For China, as the Atlantic reported, this conspiracy theory, where China tried to rename COVID the “USA virus,”’ was a transparent “geopolitical ploy” . It was thought to be only useful for domestic propaganda as it was not widely believed internationally.
Prediction of Coronavirus in A Novel: This theory is the scariest one because of the fascinating accuracy with which this 1981 book predicts the outbreak and the resemblance between ‘Wuhan-400’ and Coronavirus. Soon after the news of the outbreak broke, several users started pointing out that a passage from the 1981 book ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ by Dean Koontz in a strange manner predicts the Coronavirus outbreak. The photograph of the passage from the book went viral because the resemblance was mysterious and the evidence was hard to dismiss. Going to the background, the plot is based around a mother who attempts to find out what happened to her son after he mysteriously disappeared on a camping trip and finds that the boy is held in China , more specifically in Wuhan , the site of a deadly virus outbreak. The character named Dombey also narrates the origin of a virus called ‘Wuhan-400’ which was developed at the RDNA lab outside the city of Wuhan, and surprisingly explaining that “it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms which was created at that research centre’.
Can Coronavirus be a Bioweapon? According to an ET Prime report, a group of Chinese scientists in Canada were accused of spying and their access to Canada’s National Microbiology Lab (NML) were also stripped of. It is believed that the NML is known to toil on some of the most deadly pathogens. Bioweapon program of other countries including China were highlighted in the alleged ‘policy breach’. Dr Francis Boyle, the creator of Bio Weapons Act, himself claims that ‘the coronavirus is an offensive biological warfare weapon with DNA-genetic engineering’. But still the claims about coronavirus being a biological weapon are unsubstantiated.
The ‘5G’ Connection: COVID-19, is believed to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China, in November coinciding when China also turned on some of its 5G networks in November. Rumours gained steam when Keri Hilson, popular American singer, tweeted about the alleged connection between 5G and COVID-19, writing, “People have been trying to warn us about 5G for years and what we’re going through is the effect of radiation, highlighting that 5G was launched in CHINA on Nov 1, 2019” Several conspiracy also alleged that the viral videos of people ‘dropping on the ground and fainting’ in China, were a result of 5G radio waves jumbling with the oxygen levels in blood of the general public.
But soon, the claims were exposed by a UK based fact checking website and declared that there is ‘no evidence that 5G is harmful to people’s health’. Hence unsubstantiated.
Key steps taken by our central and state government : On 30 January, India reported its first case of COVID-19 in Kerala, which rose to three cases by 3 February; all were students who had returned from Wuhan, China. There was no significant rise in cases in the rest of February. The transmission escalated during March, after several cases were reported all over the country, most of which were linked to people with a travel history to affected countries.
On 22 March 2020, India observed a 14-hour voluntary public curfew at the instance of the prime minister Narendra Modi. The government followed it up with lockdowns in 75 districts as well as all major cities. But On 24 March, the prime minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days followed by extension of another nationwide lockdown on 14 April which lasted till 3 May. The World Health Organization also hailed “India’s tough and timely actions” against the coronavirus spread. WHO’s South East-Asia Regional Director, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “ Despite huge and multiple challenges, India has been demonstrating unwavering commitment in its fight against the pandemic”
By 27 April the states of Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura have been declared as “Covid-19 Free” with zero active cases. The reason for these states to be declared as corona free was the result of prompt lockdown.
On 1 May, the Government of India extended nationwide lockdown further by two weeks until 17 May. The Government divided the entire nation into three zones – Green Zone, Red Zone, Orange Zone, relaxation were allowed accordingly.
On 5 May, Telangana government announced for extension of lockdown till 29 May in the state. Earlier the state government gave orders for the complete shutdown of educational institutions, coaching centres, malls, cinema halls, bars, pubs, clubs, public meetings, place of worship, seminars and rallies. The state government also cancelled festival celebrations like Ugadi and Sri Rama Navami besides an Islamic event.
Confirmed cases crossed 100 on 15 March, 1,000 on 28 March, 5,000 on 7 April, 10,000 on 14 April, 20,000 on 22 April , 30,000 on 29 April and 50,000 by 6 May.
The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), in its report based on data from 73 countries, reported that the Indian Government has responded more stringently than other countries in tackling the pandemic. It noted the government’s swift action, emergency policy making emergency investment in healthcare, fiscal measures, investment in vaccine research and active response to the situation, and scored India with a “100” for its strictness.
Coming to the total number of cases, death and recovered cases that are taken through online sources and presented in a tabular form says it all.
The central government introduced the Aarogya Setu mobile application to educate citizens about novel coronavirus and help them make informed decisions amid the crisis. Nearly 20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders received Rs 500 each in their account. Under Ujjawala scheme, the government is providing free LPG refills for the next three months to over 8.3 crore poor women. A small gesture to show gratitude to the front line health workers, police department and sanitizing team by clapping , lightening diyas and showering flowers.
India finished conducting 1 million RT-PCR tests this weekend according to ICMR, joining a club of only 10 countries in the world to have crossed that milestone. Out of all these countries, India has the least number of reported cases testing its one millionth sample.
Officials also stated that starting with one single laboratory, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune to having 100 laboratories in the beginning of the lockdown, the RT-PCR test facility is now available in 292 government and 97 private facilities across the country which is to be acknowledged.
From the total of 736 districts in India ,only 17 % are in the red zone, i.e., have a high number of active transmissions in last 21 days. There are 38 % in the orange zone, which means cases have been reported but there hasn’t been a considerable increase, and 43 % are in the green zone, area with no new cases in last 21 days.
The doubling rate in India has slowed down i.e. the time in which current number of cases double ,has increased from 3.4 days from before lockdown to 12 days now, which means the infection is spreading more slowly.
Conclusion: Government is making all the efforts to save each and every one of us and in return we shall also help them by following the guidelines given by the government to save ourselves and our people.