- Dr Guleria said that any laxity at this stage will cost us heavily
- He emphasised on the need of ramping up immunisation
- Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech looking at doses for children: Dr Guleria
New Delhi: From the past two months, the country has been continuously reporting an uptick in the number of daily cases of COVID-19. Researchers call this as the second wave of the pandemic in the country. As the country continues to scramble to contain the increasing transmission of the infection, several new and more contagious variants are coming up in various parts of the country. Recently, the Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh highlighted that out of 401 samples analysed for mutations, 81 per cent have shown the variant first noticed in the United Kingdom which is believed to affect young people more. NDTV spoke with Dr Randeep Guleria, Chief of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences about the situation. Dr Guleria stressed that the situation is exactly like the one in the United Kingdom when the virus underwent a mutation around Christmas and can be controlled by adhering to COVID appropriate behaviour.
According to Dr Guleria, it is likely that there is a variant that is causing the virus to be more infectious, and this is what needs to be backed by the data. He said,
While the high numbers need to be linked to the epidemiological data. The fact that the data is not there does not mean it is not happening. It’s likely that there is a variant in the country that is causing the virus to be more infectious. What is important to understand is that irrespective of whether it is an older variant or some new one, we need to have more data first to see the epidemiological link or the pattern between various variants and the surge in the number of cases. The same thing happened in the UK as well. There was some slowing down of the virus transmission in September last year and then around Christmas, they saw a huge surge. We are seeing that now around Holi because of the fact that same sort of situation is repeating itself.
However, the central government has so far maintained that there is no evidence that the surge is linked to a mutation of the coronavirus.
We Are Allowing The Virus To Spread In Our Community: Dr Randeep Guleria
Dr Guleria emphasised on the fact that people are becoming complacent and are not adhering to COVID appropriate behaviour like wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, cleaning hands frequently among others. He said that laxity among people is the major reason behind the surge across the country. Dr Guleria said,
It is logically likely that if there is a certain surge in cases, there is something which is happening with the virus because of which it is becoming more infectious. Having said that, it is important to remember that COVID-19 appropriate behaviour will take care of any variant. We would have done everything required even if there was a new variant six months ago. But somehow, we have forgotten all of that which has led to this huge surge in the number of cases. Also, the philosophy of testing, tracking and isolating has become a little lax. This is also leading to infection in a large number of people in various states in our country. We are allowing the virus to spread in our community.
Vaccination- An Important Weapon In The Fight Against The Pandemic
Dr. Guleria, who is also a principal member of the Central Government’s COVID Task Force, said that it is important to get more vaccines in the market as that would help in vaccinating a larger number of people and thus achieving some degree of immunity as far as the population is concerned. However, he highlighted that having enough people to come forward and get themselves vaccinated is still a challenge. He said,
Currently, the issue is not that we are running out of doses. The issue is that at a large number of vaccination sites, people are not coming, and we are not able to fill that gap. So, we need to work on a strategy so that we can have enough vaccination being done and ramp it up to 8-10 million a day because that is what we need to do if we really wish to achieve our targets. We need to reach out to the people with the vaccine.
Talking about the need for developing a vaccine that is efficient in protecting children from the virus, Dr Guleria said that while companies like Pfizer are already working on vaccines demonstrating 100 per cent efficacy in participants aged 12-15 years, in India, both Serum Institute of India that has been manufacturing Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech which has developed Covaxin in collaboration with ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) are looking at a dose that would be appropriate for children. Dr. Guleria said,
If we really have to control the pandemic and get the children back to school and be comfortable with that, we will have to look at a vaccine that is there for children. I am aware that both vaccines which are being used in India are doing studies on safety and doses for children. You can’t say, children are little adults, they are different in terms of both the dose that is required and the side effects that can happen because of the vaccine. So, we need more data.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.