10/04/2021, 15.42
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COVID-19 has led to TB’s neglect, with cases possibly up by 20 per cent

by Nirmala Carvalho

As India’s healthcare system concentrated on COVID-19, other diseases took the back seat a devastating impact on infant mortality, a FICCI report found. At least 51,000 lifesaving surgeries have cancelled. For Dr Carvalho, the system “needs to bring back the focus to these (non-COVID-19) patients.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the exponential rise in cases have pushed India’s healthcare officials to concentrate all their efforts in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This has had an extremely negative impact on the treatment and prevention of other diseases, a situation that now threatens the Asian country.

While focusing on the pandemic was necessary, in India as in the rest of the world, it had the effect of driving up deaths related to other diseases.

According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) published on Saturday, deaths from tuberculosis and AIDS could rise by 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

Thus, the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak could undermine the good results obtained in previous years in the treatment of infectious diseases. The vulnerable groups in the population, starting with children, are the most at risk.

An estimated 26 million children are vaccinated in India every year against diseases such as tuberculosis. However, as a result of the pandemic, most of these immunisations were put on hold to roll out the coronavirus vaccination campaign.

According to experts, this could lead to outbreaks of normally vaccine-preventable diseases, and have a devastating impact on infant mortality.

Another collateral effect of the COVID-19 emergency has been the postponement or cancellation of at least 51,000 life-saving cancer surgeries between the end of March and early June.

Meanwhile, “New, existing, and re-emerging infectious diseases are estimated to be the cause of one-fourth of all deaths across the globe,” said (Hon) Brig Dr Arvind Lal, Chair, FICCI Swasth Bharat Task Force, in a statement.

“Disruptions in screening, case identification, rehabilitation, and referral systems have further resulted in a substantial decrease in the diagnosis of other infectious diseases,” he added.

The FICCI report stresses the urgent need for India’s healthcare system to find worldwide point-of-care solutions to boost the system’s efficiency and speed.

COVID-19 has already caused the death of more than 440,000 people at a significant cost to the country’s healthcare system.

For Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the FICCI white paper reveals a tragic situation.

“Around 2.2 per cent of children didn't get routine immunisation, adding to vaccine- preventable diseases,” he told AsiaNews,

When the health system was put on war footing to fight COVID-19, other diseases took a backseat. In fact, “While the entire health system battled COVID 19, other diseases got neglected in India,” Dr Carvalho explained. 

For the doctor, patients with diabetes, cardiac ailments or other life-threatening illnesses like TB (tuberculosis) or HIV stopped going to the doctor or postponed their routine examinations for fear of contracting COVID-19 or fear of being isolated in COVID-19 wards.

Now with COVID-19 vaccination well underway, the system “needs to bring back the focus to these (non-COVID-19) patients.”

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