The unsavoury spectacle of political blame game is the least that the people, reeling under the impact of a more virulent second wave of coronavirus infections, expect from their governments. Unfortunately, that is what has started unfolding with the Centre and some non-BJP ruled States indulging in finger-pointing over handling the pandemic, particularly the vaccination programme. The trouble is brewing on the vaccine supply front as Maharashtra has sent an SOS, saying it has stocks just enough to last three days, but Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan chided the State governments for creating a panic about vaccine shortage and making irresponsible statements to hide its own failures. It is not just Maharashtra that is facing the vaccine pinch — in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad and Noida, vaccine stocks have been depleting fast, a problem that the Centre needs to address without resorting to politics. Given the sharp rise in the daily caseload across the country and the complaints of shortage of doses, the Central government must now recalibrate its vaccination strategy to step up the coverage. Apart from ramping up production of doses and imposing further restrictions on exports, it should consider expanding the inoculation drive to cover younger age groups as well. While it was justified, in the initial phase, to prioritise the population for the purpose of administering the vaccines, there is now a greater need to cover all age groups to curb the spread of the virus.
From a daily average of less than 9,000 Covid cases in early February to an all-time high of over 1.15 lakh new infections this week, the upward spiral has been unabated in the country. And, worryingly, its onward march in this second surge is unrelenting and more ravaging. The State authorities and the public face the challenge of not only keeping the disease at bay but also battling the increase in the positivity and mortality rates in many parts, glaringly so in Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh. However, imposing night curfews or full-scale lockdowns is not an answer. The huge economic cost that a lockdown entails would spell disaster and rob millions of their sources of livelihood. Accelerating the vaccination drive is the only way to win the battle against the virus. More mobile camps must be set up at workplaces, marketplaces and community centres. A vigorous awareness programme should be launched to help people overcome hesitancy for the immunity-boosting shots. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the people to adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour — wearing mask in public, maintaining social distance and hand hygiene. A pragmatic approach that strikes a balance between the imperatives of unrestricted economic activity and preventive healthcare measures is the need of the hour.
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