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India could turn into virus ‘base camp’

People wait in line to take COVID-19 test at a health centre in Hyderabad, India, on July 29, 2020. India's COVID-19 tally crossed the 1.5 million-mark on Wednesday, reaching 1,531,669, announced the federal health ministry

While Indian media was "relieved" by the high rate of coronavirus antibodies found in the New Delhi population, seeing it a step closer to "herd immunity" and almost victory for the city in the battle against coronavirus, Chinese experts believe it indicates the country's inadequate virus control capacity, warning that India may even become a global "base camp" for the virus if the situation continues after the borders reopen.

The natural herd immunity which Indian media hailed, although might be possible for New Delhi, was inhuman as it cost lives, Chinese analysts said, noting that the country may not easily reach herd immunity because it takes a long time, and by then the immunity in those previously infected would wane, which would result in a surge in infections and deaths.

The latest positivity rate from a serological survey conducted in January in Delhi was about 50 percent, according to a report by India Today on Monday. The data demonstrated that at least half of the city's 20 million people had been infected with the novel coronavirus, but official data released by its health authorities only recorded about 630,000 confirmed cases in the city, and just over 10 million total infections in the country.

India Today quoted a local media expert as saying that the result was very good, and with the vaccination drive, Delhi will "soon get over" COVID-19. Jin Dongyan, a biomedical professor at the University of Hong Kong, said that New Delhi's result of 50 percent was not surprising as 57 percent of Bergamo residents in Lombardy Region of Italy has tested positive for virus antibodies in June 2020.

He said it's possible that New Delhi could reach natural herd immunity through infections if their survey results were correct, and the herd immunity and vaccination campaign together may ensure that New Delhi will not experience a severe coronavirus pandemic. 

More than 50% of Delhi's population surveyed in recent antibody tests have been positive for COVID-19. The serosurvey outcome means around 10 million people may have contracted the coronavirus in the city alone

The Global Times learned from local people that with the daily new cases continuing to drop in India in recent days, patients are able to access hospital treatment in an orderly manner, but it may be partially because not all coronavirus patients went to a hospital even with severe symptoms. 
Indian media NDTV reported on Tuesday that India saw its lowest surge in daily COVID-19 cases in nearly seven months, as the country reported 9,102 new cases in the last 24 hours. 
However, this does not mean the country would soon reach natural herd immunity, or soon get rid of the disease, Chinese experts said.

Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday that individuals may get immunity through infections, but those previously infected could still get infected after their immunity wanes, and they could still pass the disease to others. 
The antibodies through infections cannot offer enough protection for the country's population, Feng said.

WHO said that herd immunity against COVID-19 should be achieved by protecting people through vaccination, not by exposing them to the pathogen that causes the disease. 
Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based expert on vaccines and immunology, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the results indicated that there were quite a number of asymptomatic patients that India has failed to detect and treat. 
"If India cannot detect and treat coronavirus patients quickly, the country could become a base camp for novel coronavirus and spread the virus to the rest of the world when borders between countries reopen," a Beijing-based immunologist, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Tao warned that new virus variants detected in the UK and South Africa are a common enemy for all, and the protective barrier that the Indians generated could be weak against those new variants.
In contract to New Delhi, the positivity rate from a serological survey in Wuhan, the first city in China to see an outbreak, was only 4.43 percent, and in Hubei Province excluding Wuhan it was 0.44 percent, according to a national epidemiological survey of COVID-19 serum by China's CDC. 
The survey shows China has successfully fought the virus in Wuhan, and effectively prevented it from spreading on a much larger scale, as the overall population showed a low infection rate.
China is building a protective barrier among populations via vaccines on the premise of ensuring the health of the Chinese people, Tao said, slamming Indian media's hailing of herd immunity as not something that "a modern country should ever consider."