The number of new daily Covid infections has been inching up for the last two weeks with Friday reporting 3,377 cases, the highest after mid-March this year. The numbers have risen from a low of 795 cases reported on April 7. The number of deaths and the test positivity ratio are also on the rise, reminding all concerned what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a meeting of chief ministers the other day that the pandemic threat is not over yet.
The good news, according to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortia, is that very few recombinant variants of the coronavirus have been found after genome-sequencing analysis were done on the samples. The trends do not show an increased transmission or rate of increased hospitalisation either. Given that the sub-variants caused major spreads in Europe, it is important that the trend continued and the spread contained. It is a cause of worry that almost half of the total number of the daily tally comes from Delhi and the lion’s share of deaths from Kerala. Both the states have already reintroduced mask mandate in public places.
The Union government has been insisting on the five-pronged strategy of track-test-treat-vaccination and Covid-appropriate protocol to contain the spread of the infection. It is time state governments rewired the mechanism of tracking and testing along with genome testing of the positive cases so that even the early signs of the sub-variants are tracked.
A major challenge before the governments is the opening of the schools after nearly two academic years. It may be remembered that the schools that had opened in several states towards the end of 2021 had to be closed thanks to the third wave. While hoping that there will not be a fourth wave, the governments have to be extra cautious when it comes to children and their schooling. With the abysmal level of technology penetration in rural areas and among urban poor, and that the percentage of children who have access to electronic devises for studies is as low as nine per cent in some states, the governments have to envisage a scenario where a fourth wave is real and that the children have a better fare than the last two years. Giving an extra thrust to vaccination could be a key tool to keep the schools going.
India was able to tide over the crisis the third wave had created on the strength of the precautions it had taken in the aftermath of the first and second. Hospital infrastructure was kept at the optimum level and supplies of essentials were enhanced multi-fold, resulting in the relatively smooth passing of the wave compared with the second which saw a shortage of hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, critical medicines and medical oxygen. The same or an enhanced level preparedness is called for now, too.
India has as of now administered 193 crore doses of the vaccines, which included precaution doses for people aged above 18 and vaccination for children aged between 12 and 18 years. This shows that of a country of 100 crore adults, there are still people without getting a single dose and a substantial number of people without the third dose. This is not acceptable and the Union government must identify the lacunae and plug them. Experience says we can afford to ignore no signs....