- India has started to witness the second wave of coronavirus
- Situation in India is going from bad to worse: Government
- India should look at door-to-door vaccination programme: Expert
New Delhi: As India continues to witness an increase in the daily new cases of COVID-19 since February, NDTV speaks with experts to know the way ahead for the country. Currently, India has the second-highest number of COVID infections in the world recorded in the period of 24 hours. The Government says that it is not because of the novel mutant strains reported around the world and has warned people that the coronavirus situation in India is going from bad to worse.
So, if the surge is not because of the new strains then what exactly accounts for this second wave given the fact that lack of COVID behaviour was always the reality. As per the recently published report by the State Bank of India (SBI) the second wave may last up to 100 days, when counted from February 15. The report also stated that considering the number of days from the current level of daily new cases to the peak level during the first wave, India might reach the peak in the second half of April. It said, “Localised lockdowns or restrictions have been ineffective and mass vaccination is the only hope to win the battle against the pandemic.”
Speaking about the surge in cases and what strategies India should follow to cope up with the spurt, Dr Shashank Joshi, Member Maharashtra COVID Task Force said,
Right now, we are investigating the sudden spurt in COVID cases. The point to know here is that whether or not the rise in the cases is because of the new strains, the strategies to cope up with the surge won’t change. We need to do aggressive masking and follow COVID appropriate behaviour. One thing is sure that this second wave is a rapidly transferable strain, and its behaviour is different from what we have experienced earlier.
On the other hand, speaking about gene sequencing and should India be doing it more rapidly to know what strain is responsible for this surge, Dr Ram Vishwakarma, Chairman COVID Strategy Group, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) added,
Yes, more and more sequencing is required. Several CSIR laboratory and other ICMR (Indian Council Of Medical Research) laboratory and institutions are working tirelessly to do this. However, we also need to understand that it requires a very specialised effort. Also, we need to know that sequencing alone will not work. If you have sequencing it doesn’t establish that if the disease is spreading faster or slower. It is an analysis, to know what strain is affecting the rise, we need to have clinical evidence, correlation of that variant with clinical symptoms and currently that all is work in progress.
Dr Vishwakarma also said that instead of focusing on the number of gene sequencing, India needs to follow strategic sequencing. He added,
This means, people who have got one or double dose of vaccine and still getting the infection again, we need to do sequencing for them first. For people who are in the COVID clusters where cases are high, we also need to target them. Random sequencing won’t work and tell us what the cause of the surge or what strain is responsible for this.
Talking about the difference seen in this wave as compared to the one the country saw last year, Dr TP Lahane, Director Medical Research Maharashtra said,
If you see now, there is a shift – the patients who are in the age group of 20-30 are getting infected more. The second thing we have seen now is that the families are getting infected at a higher rate than before.
Dr TP Lahane also spoke about the existing vaccines and if they work against the strain. He said,
Currently both the vaccines are reasonably safe and at least Covaxin is very clear that it works against the mutant, they have data also that has been published. As far as Covidshield is concerned, it has worked against the UK and South Africa strain, so there is some data to suggest that some of that might work. But of course, this is work in progress and every vaccine will evolve as the mutants will be coming out.
Dr Vishwakarma also suggested the same and said that there is no doubt that vaccines will work. He added,
The good thing about the vaccines that are approved globally is the fact that they all protect you from the severity of the disease. Now, I think, we should start thinking about universal vaccination programme, we should move towards clinical trials for knowing the efficacy of the vaccines on the paediatric population.
When asked if a door-to-door vaccination programme should be looked at to tackle the sudden surge, Dr TP Lahane said,
It does make sense, however, we still need to figure out logistics. We are asking the central government for the permit of a door-to-door vaccination programme. Once we amp up the vaccination, our aim is to go for it. What is happening is that currently, patients are not coming. Secondly, the centres are itself the source of infections so if we go for the door-to-door vaccination, I think it will definitely help.
Dr Vishwakarma agreed that there are few logistic issues with the door-to-door vaccination programme like observing the patient for 30 minutes after the vaccination, he said,
If we start doing this door-to-door vaccination programme randomly it won’t be of any use. What is required is that it should be back with the data, we should go for clusters and people who are at higher risk and then look at the logistics and figure out a viable solution. What we need to do is try and get this virus out of the country as soon as possible, otherwise, it will keep mutating and growing.
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.