New Delhi: “The last one and a half years has seen a lot of pain and suffering,” says Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS at the Banega Swasth India’s Saluting The COVID Heroes Townhall. At the exclusive show, Dr Guleria also noted that it has been a tough time for the healthcare workers. When Amitabh Bachchan asked Dr Guleria about his and the country’s learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that the biggest lesson learnt is how subsequent waves can be prevented.
I think there is a lot of learning that we have had over the last one and a half year. Some of it’s of course for the medical community in terms of treating patients and how best to provide care. But the biggest lesson we have learnt is, I think between the first and the second wave, and that’s what will really help us to prevent subsequent waves. We learnt about what we can do right, which we didn’t do right in the past. One of course, is the importance of COVID-appropriate behaviour because no matter what be the variants that emerge, no matter what be the new mutants that we see, if we are able to maintain physical distance, wear a mask properly, wash our hands, and prevent crowd from forming and therefore not have super-spreading events, then we will not allow the virus to spread.
Dr Guleria also asserted on the importance of vaccination to stop the spread of COVID-19 further.
We need to come forward and get vaccinated, so that more the number that gets vaccinated, the less the chance of transmission, the less the chance of viral replication and the less the chance of mutant developing. This way we will actually be able to come out of this pandemic. We will be able to have a very minimal or delayed third wave.
Dr. Vinod Kumar Paul, a member of NITI Ayog and Union Government’s core team for COVID-19 pandemic response, also joined the Townhall where he told the Campaign Ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan that the biggest lesson learnt from the second wave of COVID-19 in India is that we can never lower our guard. Dr Paul said,
This virus is very smart, very mischievous; it comes in waves. Europe is experiencing now an early up-rise once again. We still have a long way to go and till the time we are protected hugely with vaccine coverage of a high order, we have to be even more vigilant, even beyond that there is a journey to be covered. So the biggest lesson of the two waves that India has experienced and more than that, the world has experienced is, do not lower the guard. It means individual behaviour above all.
Dr Paul at the show asserted on the importance of wearing a mask and following social distancing when stepping out of the house. He said that it is the duty of each and every individual to follow COVID appropriate behaviour for their community and nation. Dr Paul said,
If I wear the mask, I am protected and when I am protected, the virus doesn’t go through me to somebody else. It is my duty as an individual to myself but then it’s also my duty to do so for my family members, for my community, for my nation, for my society. That’s individual responsibility. Likewise, to maintain social distancing, to avoid crowd, to not create situations which spread the virus because virus love parties, virus love human beings, virus loves crowd.
Talking about the duties of authorities and government to avoid another deadly COVID surge, Dr Paul, at the Townhall, called for optimum testing, contact tracing, isolation of patients, isolation of positive cases, containment zones, so that we contain the virus in a locality, in a localised manner.
Do not allow this virus to go to other parts of your city or the village. Above all, be ready to look after patients when they become sick. Our facilities are ready, our ambulance system is ready. We have enough intensive care units and we have enough care that can be provided, human resources are available. But also we learned that there is a real place for home care. In the first wave and as well as the second wave, a large number of people can also be looked after at home, and then when we provide support to individuals in-home care through telemedicine, through reassuring words of the doctors on the telephone, it can also save lives. It assures people and also assures that families remain in touch with their family members who are positive, protect themselves and also make sure that the care is provided, Dr Paul added.
Also at the Townhall, Dr Sangita Reddy, Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals, who joined the show alongside Dr VK Paul, said that despite all the calculations and speculations about the third wave of COVID-19, the fact remains that it is inevitable yet mitigable.
And this ability to mitigate, not just the numbers but the impact, depends on a series of things – the number of people we have vaccinated; our ability to communicate the whole aspect and the importance of this covid appropriate behaviour or the fact that the virus loves crowd like Dr Paul was saying. I think also we need to continue to look at the science behind the nature of the virus. Are there more genetic mutations? What are the variants? How do we have to be more careful about it? What do we do about individuals who have been vaccinated but now their immunity is coming down once again? Do you need a booster shot? What type of shot? And as the immunity of those who have been infected already, has that come down? So all these factors are complex but need to be continuously monitored and a combination of these scenarios is really what will prepare us for the third wave, in addition to of course the most important thing which is medical readiness.
The people, the infrastructure, the medicines, the oxygen these are lessons we have learnt and the lessons that we must translate into infrastructure and readiness on the ground so that not a single life is lost, Dr Reddy added. She also suggested how can the country tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy,
We have to break the hesitancy and everybody has an episodic story, my cousin took two doses and still got COVID but I will say that even if people get COVID after taking two doses, the impact of the virus is much less. In a study conducted at Apollo hospitals, on our own employees of the Apollo family, we found that of the 95 per cent of people who got COVID despite two vaccinations, we, thankfully, had nobody who died or even had to go to the ICU. So, we need to spread the message that vaccine keeps one safe from the bad effects of the virus. We cannot say that you will not get COVID after taking the vaccine because that’s where credibility goes down. We must be very factual and the fact is that vaccines can protect your life.
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.
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