The number of active Covid cases in the country crossed one lakh on Thursday after a gap of 122 days; the number of new cases went up by 18,819 on the same day, another milestone, as it was after four months that a similar leap in the number of new cases was reported.
It is not just in India that the pandemic reports higher numbers. The case is same in more than 100 countries as it stands today. Four nations have reported more than one lakh new infections on Thursday — Brazil (1.51 lakhs), France (1.33 lakhs), the United States (1.24 lakhs) and Germany (1.13 lakhs). Among them, France is gearing up for the third wave which experts say will peak in July-end. The government has asked people to start wearing face masks again, especially in crowded areas such as public transport. The World Health Organisation has consistently been saying that the pandemic has not gone anywhere and that emergence of new variants with more virility could happen any time.
The Union government has already alerted the state governments on the need to monitor the hospitalisation of Covid patients as well as those infected with other influenza-like illnesses or severe acute respiratory infections. Equally important is the whole genome sequencing of the virus as most variants of the SARS CoV-2 virus such as BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.12.1 which have caused the global surge in cases have been identified in India also. This also brings to focus the need for a renewed thrust on testing, one of the key elements in the five-pronged strategy to check the advance of the pandemic. Several states have practically stopped displaying the alacrity in tracing and testing people who could be potential carriers. The Union government may closely monitor the number of daily tests lest it could give a gap for the virus to rush in.
India has done reasonably well in vaccinating its people: the total number of vaccine doses administered is about 200 crores. Given that more than 100 crore people are eligible for vaccination, the coverage looks decent but the fact that it is almost one-and-a-half years that we have started the programme. There is still no adequate literature to decide for sure how long the vaccine would offer protection, which underscores the need to promote administration of booster doses. Reports say several states have not even covered five per cent of the population with it. This means the government needs to redouble the efforts on this count.
Mathematical projections talk of a fourth wave in India, too. While we have been able to put in medical systems based on the experience on handling exigencies, the area that still remains unattended to is that of education. The students who have returned to schools and universities after two years have not just got their lives on the campus back on track. Reports have said a large share of the students had little access to broadband internet and equipment during the lockdown years, virtually keeping them off their education. The government must seriously contemplate the ways to ensure that this is not repeated should a fourth wave visit us.