Thie trend suggests that the second wave of the pandemic is not over yet and the third surge might strike sooner than later
It is a matter of serious concern that the R-value — reproductive number indicating how fast Covid-19 is spreading — is on the rise in the country. This trend suggests that the second wave of the pandemic is not over yet and the third surge might strike sooner than later. At a time when the Delta variant, the most transmissible one till date, is spreading rapidly across the world with 132 countries recording its prevalence, India must be watchful. The R-value has crossed one in as many as nine States and Union Territories, including the worst-affected Kerala and Maharashtra. This means each infected person is passing on the virus to more than one new person: a clear sign of impending danger. The States witnessing a surge need to do contact tracing on a war footing and create containment zones depending on the spread of infections. The devastation wreaked by the second wave should spur the authorities to be better prepared this time on all counts – oxygen, ventilators, ICU beds and medicines. Vaccination is the only effective weapon in the war against the virus. And stepping up inoculation coverage must be the priority of the government in the weeks ahead. Over 48 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far. Though the absolute numbers seem impressive, the coverage percentages present a different picture. India has managed to fully vaccinate merely one-tenth of its adult population. This rate can be enhanced only if the production and supply of vaccines are ramped up.
Apart from increasing the production of indigenous vaccines, there is an urgent need to expand the vaccine basket by allowing foreign ones. After all, India needs to administer a minimum of one crore doses a day to inoculate its 95-crore adult population by December. The government’s initiative to fast-track emergency approvals for all foreign-produced shots has fallen short of achieving the desired results. Bottlenecks need to be removed quickly so that we stand a chance against the third wave. By the end of last week, 11% of the adult population, or about 103 million, had been fully vaccinated. This level of protection leaves the country vulnerable to another wave of Covid-19. It must be pointed out that even the United States, where nearly 50% of the population is vaccinated, is witnessing a rise in infections. The vaccination drive needs to be backed by a sustained public awareness campaign to promote Covid-appropriate behaviour to arrest its spread. Universal masking, avoiding large social gatherings and maintaining hygiene hold the key. The most important global lesson is that reopening economic activities comes with attendant risks. However, they can be minimised with speedy vaccination coverage.
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