New Delhi: India has crossed a crucial milestone in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as the daily new cases touched a new low on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health of Family Welfare (MoHFW). As per the data, as many as 9,102 daily new cases were added to the national tally in the last 24 hours after 237 days. Last time, when the daily new cases were below the 10,000 mark was on June 4, 2020.
Sharing the positive news, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan posted on Twitter,
India records lowest new cases after eight months; 9,102 found positive in the last 24 hours. Active cases now 1.66 per cent of cumulative positive cases. Number of vaccinated healthcare workers crosses 20 lakhs.
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NDTV speaks with AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria to understand what is causing the significant drop in COVID cases in India in the last few days and what the road ahead looks like. Terming this as a remarkable achievement, Dr Guleria said,
A lot of efforts have gone to stop the spread of the virus. This downfall is something that one had not imagined it will happen so quickly. To know the exact reason, I think, we need to study and see why it has happened here, if it is related to the fact that we have some kind of inherited immunity or is it the fact that we have developed immunity as we have been exposed much to the virus or because we have a lot of younger population.
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Cautioning the people, Dr Guleria further added that India might see a sudden rise in cases again like the UK and Brazil. He said,
This virus is very smart and is continuously developing. That’s the main cause of concern and we cannot predict its behaviour. We must be prepared for the worse. I am worried of the fact that we may have some resurgence of COVID cases in the coming few days because of some degree of complacency and vaccine hesitancy.
Talking about vaccine hesitancy and why have we not seen more enthusiastic queues for COVID vaccines in India, Dr Randeep Guleria said,
It is related to multiple factors, we must understand that the only effective measure that we have currently to combat COVID-19 is the vaccine. When the vaccine was rolled out, there were a lot of controversies around it that has led to vaccination hesitation.
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Dr Guleria said that we are fighting not one pandemic, but two pandemics. He added,
One pandemic is COVID-19 and the other one is infodemic. With so much info and over information around coronavirus vaccine, people have started to get hesitant in getting the vaccine that will ultimately protect them. Because people were so worried, in the first two days of India’s vaccination rollout, less people actually tuned up for the vaccination.
Dr Guleria also said however with multiple campaigns being rolled out by the government to encourage people to take their vaccine shot on time for coronavirus, in past few days, there have been some progress. He added,
The side-effects are very low from the COVID-19 vaccines. It is about .08 per cent and there has been no mortality as of now. I took Covaxin and I have no side-effects, it has been more than 10 days now and I feel perfectly alright. I am doing my work as I was doing in the past. I had no vaccine issue and therefore I would go one step ahead and reassure everyone that no mater whether you take Covaxin or Covidshield, it is very safe, trust your scientist, trust the work they have done over the last one year. They really had sleepless nights but now they have delivered, so let us all move forward because if we really need to come out from this pandemic, we will need to get ourself these vaccine shots.
Highlighting if people can choose their COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Guleria said,
No, it doesn’t work like that. Vaccines are given to the state governments, the state governments then decide depending on the number of doses they have for the designated centres what will go where. If the designated vaccine site has got Covaxin, the people coming to that particular site will get the Covaxin shot. In my mind, this works perfectly as otherwise there will be a lot of confusion. I know there are group of people who will want to get Covaxin while other would want Covidshield. We must understand that we have limited doses, to cover the initial phase of vaccination drive, we need 60 crore doses and that itself is a challenging part of our immunization programme. So, we must take whatever we get so that we can develop that degree of immunity that is needed to fight this infection.
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Dr Guleria termed this period as the window of opportunity for all of us in India and said,
We have a very great situation in India in respect to COVID-19 numbers. The positivity rate and the fertility rate both are very less when compared to other countries like South Africa, Brazil, USA or UK and many countries in Europe. We should not wait for the cases to go up and then start rushing to the vaccination programme, like UK. Remember, they had to change their whole schedule of the vaccination drive as cases there started to rise. We should be really ahead of the virus and therefore start vaccinating early when we are in a better position and vaccinate as many as we can, so that we don’t land up in a situation where we see a surge in COVID cases all over again.
Dr Guleria also said that not taking vaccine is very unnecessary and uncalled risk. He signed off by urging people to get their COVID-19 shot when they are asked to. He added,
I feel this is the year of vaccines, we will have number of vaccines coming out not only from India but across the world. I do agree the vaccines available today may not be the best. We may have a vaccine in future which may require only one shot rather than the two shots available now. But one thing is assured that whatever we have now are also good vaccines, so we should not think of avoiding these and when our time comes, we must go and get our COVID-19 vaccine shot.
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.