'Symptomatic treatment at home enough against COVID': Experts warn against hoarding of oxygen, remdesivir

By PTI
NEW DELHI: Noting that hoarding of oxygen and injections like remdesivir is leading to panic and creating their shortage in market, top health experts on Sunday said COVID-19 is a mild infection and that for 85-90 per cent people only symptomatic treatment at home is enough.

They also stressed that vaccines and COVID-appropriate behaviour together can break the chain of transmission.

On the shortage of oxygen and medicines, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said that hoarding of oxygen and injections like remdesivir in homes is creating panic and causing a shortage of these medicines.

“COVID-19 is a mild infection and 85-90 per cent people will only suffer from cold, fever, sore throat and bodyache. Only symptomatic treatment at home is enough to ride through these infections and there is no need for oxygen or remdesivir,” he was quoted as saying in a Health Ministry statement.

He added that 10-15 per cent of patients with severe infection may need oxygen, remdesivir or plasma etc, while less than 5 per cent need ventilators or intensive care.

Furthermore, Dr Guleria clarified that remdesivir neither reduces the hospital stay nor saves lives.

In moderate to severe cases, it may be able to reduce hospital stay but if administered in mild cases it can complicate matters.

Remdesivir is no magic bullet and it is used in hospitals for moderate to severe cases, he said.

On administration of oxygen to those who don’t need it, Dr Guleria said that people who have oxygen saturation above 94 do not need the gas as increase in oxygen saturation beyond this level would not increase oxygen in blood.

However, this can cause shortage in supply of oxygen and will reduce access to oxygen for serious cases, the statement said.

Dr Guleria along with Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director, Medanta, Dr Navneet Wig, Head of Department of Medicines, AIIMS and Dr Sunil Kumar, Director General Health Services addressed concerns and issues related to COVID-19.

Dr Trehan, while speaking on the steps to be taken immediately after a positive RT-PCR test, said that the people should first contact local or family doctors.

All doctors are aware of the protocol to be followed and can recommend courses of medication for patients who should isolate themselves at home.

He also advised yoga and pranayam which are help maintain lung health and added that pronation is also helpful, the statement said.

Dr Trehan reiterated the importance of double masking, distancing and hand hygiene and said the mask should seal the air passage around the nose and mouth for proper protection.

He also recommended staying away from crowded places.

On oxygen demand, he said it has suddenly risen in the current crisis and manufacturing facilities are stretched for supplies.

Industries have the capacity but lack cryo-transportation.

The government is actively working on this and the situation will be under control in the next five to seven days, he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Dr Sunil Kumar addressed the topic of preparations of the government to mitigate the situation and said that from no preparedness last year, it ramped up capacity to a unique level very soon.

Over 2,500 laboratories were created where only one existed before the pandemic, he said, adding,”we increased our testing capability to lakhs of tests per day, ramped up tracking and contact tracing and manufacturing of PPE kits et al.”

Reiterating the importance of getting vaccinated, Dr Sunil said there are negligible side effects of vaccines, and that vaccines and COVID-appropriate behaviour together can break the chain of transmission, the statement said.

Dr Navneet said there is a need to save healthcare workers who will in-turn save patients.

“To save our healthcare workers we need to break the chain and reduce the number of infections. To break the chain is a responsibility of all sections of society but foremost it is the responsibility of the people to undertake COVID-appropriate behaviour,” the statement quoted him as saying.