DC Edit | Rural surge scary, act now to stop second Covid wave

Deccan Chronicle.

Opinion, DC Comment

While the first phase of Covid wave was in the metros and big cities of the country, the recent surge is reported from rural areas, too

The Union government must use technology to the optimum to ensure that vaccine wastage is brought to a minimum. (Photo: AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned of a second peak of pandemic Covid-19 unless quick and decisive action was taken. In his meeting with chief ministers on Wednesday, Mr Modi listed out the points that need early action. On top of the to-do list is the time-tested “test-track-treat” formula with a focus on tracking the contacts of every person who contracted the virus. The Prime Minister also reminded the chief ministers of the need to conduct genome tests to track the variants of the virus. The share of RT-PCR tests should remain high and the states should guard themselves against vaccine wastage, he told them.

Mr Modi has flagged the issues that plague India’s Covid fight at a time when the country finds itself in the throes of a second wave. The daily caseload has gone up for a seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, which reported 28,903 cases — the highest reported this year. India’s active caseload has reached 2.34 lakh on Wednesday against 1.84 lakh a week ago; test positivity rate has gone up from 2.3 per cent to 4.98 per cent in the same period.

According to Niti Aayog, while the first phase was in the metros and big cities of the country, the recent surge is reported from rural areas, too. As per the health ministry estimates, 70 districts in 15 states recorded 150 per cent rise in the number of cases in the last 15 days. The virus spread in the rural areas, where the health infrastructure is weak and less attended, will make the fight tougher.

The government should not wait anymore to take tougher decisions. It must immediately take a relook at the Covid controls which were in place last year and advise states to see which could be used the best to contain the virus spread. The Prime Minister has also warned against the wastage of vaccines.

Some states have reported a wastage figure higher than the national average of 6.5 per cent. There are nations that have little or no access to vaccines and India, having built its capacities in scientific research and pharmaceutical manufacturing over the decades, should not take its advantages for granted.

The Union government must use technology to the optimum to ensure that wastage is brought to a minimum. Several states have reported about vaccine hesitancy. The Prime Minister led the inoculation campaign by taking the jab himself, sending the right message. Perhaps, he should have done the exercise sooner? Also, credible local faces, including religious leaders at the community level, should be roped in to break the “hesitancy barrier” and press the idea home.

This newspaper has been highlighting the point that public health is as much an issue of the public as it is of the government. It’s next to impossible for governments alone to make a difference. There must be an aggressive campaign to promote Covid-appropriate behaviour and violators should be sternly dealt with. Reports say that passengers were deplaned on Wednesday and Thursday for their refusal to follow the protocol. Such defiance is unacceptable. The governments at the Centre and the states and the people must brace themselves for decisive and quick action to stop a second wave of the pandemic.