DC Edit | Be watchful on Covid: Restart jabs, wear masks, don\'t panic
The latest surge of Covid-19 cases in China, Japan, the United States, Republic of Korea and Brazil saw the Union government announce certain precautionary measures. There are no new controls but the people have been advised to mask up in crowded places. The state governments have been instructed to send all positive samples daily to INSACOG genome sequencing labs. There will be random checks at airports though there are no new advisories for international travellers. The government has advised caution but has assured the people that there is no need to panic.
The government's confidence stems from the fact that the new strain, BF.7, a variant of Omicron, has made its presence felt in Europe and the US in October, and the pandemic has not resulted in widespread hospitalisation or deaths. In fact, the variant is not new to India either: it was detected first in Gujarat in October; subsequently, solitary cases were found in Gujarat and Odisha, but the number of cases has shown no dramatic increase.
The government can also find relief in the fact that more than 90 per cent of the eligible population has been administered the first two doses, imparting immunity to a substantial number of people. The new number of Covid cases has come down substantially â€” India is recording just about 1,200 new infections a week while the global number is some 3.5 million cases. The handling of the three waves of the pandemic has given the medical community all over the world, and in India, the knowledge base and the operational protocols to face an emergency with least number of casualties.
That most of the reasons attributed to the Chinese surge are not applicable to India is another reason for relief. Observers say the sudden lifting of the "Zero Covid" policy and the restrictions attached to it by the Chinese government have led to the resurgence of the pandemic. There have been serious doubts about the quality of vaccines administered to the people there, too. India has relaxed its restrictions over a period of time; Indian vaccines have gone through the international quality assessment process successfully. There are, however, reasons for the government and the people to be alert, too. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pointed out in the review meeting held on Friday, the pandemic has not vanished, for sure. In fact the new variant has higher neutralisation resistance, signalling the possibility of it spreading and replacing the other variants fast.
The government must ensure that its vibrant policy of early detection, isolation, testing and timely management of suspected and confirmed cases is implemented strictly across the country. It must also continue with close surveillance to keep track of existing and emerging variants. The government must take a relook at the vaccination policy. At present, the Union government no longer pushes it through the public healthcare system. A change, if necessary, must be brought in, especially since only 27 per cent of the total eligible population has received the precaution dose. It must seek expert opinion on the period of effectiveness of the vaccination and, if necessary, restart the process all over again.