With the average daily vaccination number dipping below 40 lakh and the threat of the highly infectious Delta variant looming large, India appears to be returning to a dangerous phase that could be a recipe for inviting the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic. There is a growing tendency among people to drop their guard following removal of restrictions in many parts of the country. Newly inducted Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has his task cut out. There is a need to act quickly and decisively to take countermeasures on war footing to minimise the impact of the third wave. Maharashtra and Kerala are reporting over 1 lakh active cases. And test positivity rate in at least five Northeast States is hovering around 15% while the Delta Plus variant accounts for 90% of samples tested in Tripura. The government’s daily vaccination target of one crore is unlikely to be achieved any time soon since the requisite 30 crore doses per month supply is still far off. The Centre has faulted the States for the slowdown in the inoculation drive. However, this is not the time for indulging in blame games. The Centre and the States are required to work in tandem on a mission mode to increase the vaccination coverage. India had administered a record 86.16 lakh vaccine doses on June 21, which marked the beginning of the new phase of vaccine distribution, wherein the Central government started procuring vaccines and distributing them to the States. Since then, the pace has slowed down with the daily average now hovering around 40 lakh.
The Union government recently revised its five-month (August to December) target of administering a total of 216 crore vaccine doses to around 186 crore doses but maintained that all eligible citizens will be vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of the year. Another area of concern is the RO (R naught) — the reproductive number (number of people being infected by an infected person) — which has shown an upward curve. This disturbing trend portends a potential surge in coronavirus cases and if not nipped in the bud, it may hasten the onset of the third wave. India cannot afford to squander the gains made by the cumulative effect of lockdowns, vaccination and enforcement of the Covid protocol. The easing of restrictions comes with a social responsibility of following the Covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and avoiding big gatherings. The scenes of people lowering the guard and thronging tourist places present ominous tidings. The tell-tale signs of concern are already manifesting. Arresting the spread of the new strains of the virus and safer reopening of the economy are possible only when the majority of the vulnerable sections are fully vaccinated.
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