With the second wave of corona virus peaking in the country people are coming in its vice-like grip in millions. While many are getting infected with the deadly virus, mortality rate too is on the upswing. As reports about dead bodies piling up in mortuaries, shortage of beds, shortage of Remdesivir (vaccine) and serpentine queues for disposal of the dead bodies are pouring in from all directions people are overtaken by panic.
From all indications the situation has become worse than the earlier lockdown.
Seeing the situation going out of hands while many states have imposed restriction on the movement of people at local level to check spread of the virus, neither the state governments nor the Centre has indicated clamping of lockdown. However, the ghost of national lockdown started haunting the public again.
Migrant workers in many cities and towns have already started streaming back to their villages fearing an impending lockdown in the wake of a resurgent pandemic in a case of déjà vu. Similar scenes of reverse exodus were witnessed at the same time last year when millions of migrant labourers had to trudged their way back to their homes after unwarranted countrywide lockdown How long this new wave of the pandemic will last before a semblance of normalcy is restored as was seen a few months ago, nobody has an idea. Even health experts have maintained a studied silence over the query. Going by the ferocity with which the virus has taken over the country in its vice-like grip the number of cases are unlikely to come down anytime soon.
With hospitals preoccupied with the Covid, patients with hypertension, cancer and other terminal diseases are facing harrowing time getting treatment at health facilities. Many hospitals have stopped treating or admitting patients suffering from diseases other than coronavirus. As most of the hospitals have been converted into Covid centres non-Covid patients have nowhere to go. Many of them were reportedly turned out from the hospital gates without treatment.
The daily tally of the viral infection has crossed 2-lakh mark while the mortality rate is expected to rise in proportion to spiked cases. While most of the citizens are living in fear, there are some who don’t seem to be unduly perturbed by the horrific scenario. Political rallies going on unhindered in poll bound states and the ongoing Kumbh Mela with hundreds of thousands devotees taking holy dip en masse in the river Ganges in Haridwar, Uttarakhand without taking proper precaution against the virus raised many an eye brow.
Going by the Covid scenario, it is a given that if timely measures are not taken to tackle the current spurt in the cases such as curfew and lockdown the existing healthcare infrastructure is bound to collapse.
This correspondent spoke to many health experts about the current situation, what led to the sudden spike in the coronavirus cases and how effective is the vaccination in preventing the infection and the apprehensions about the vaccine in general public. There all expected the cases to rise further as the fear of catching the infection is gone.
As for the biggest cause for the rise in the cases, they squarely blamed the public saying people have become lax due to lockdown fatigue. They are not following Covid appropriate behavior which includes physical distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing or face covering.
Dr Anshuman Kumar, a noted surgical oncologist, Dharmshila Hospital, Delhi, said that public was overtaken by a false sense of security after lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased in view of the dip in cases of coronavirus.
Lockdown, he added was projected as a treatment of corona and hence once unlocked, the public presumed the virus spread was going to slow down and they will not get the infection. This thought made them fearless and they started meeting freely frequently without impunity.
Dr Anshuman Kumar
Dr Kumar asserted that the same thing happened with commencement of vaccination programme on January 16, 2021. People thought corona will go away due to the vaccine, but it did to be as the vaccination at the initial stage was confined to healthcare and frontline workers.
In the beginning, the government did not have enough vaccines to be administered to people other than healthcare and frontline workers and secondly it was not conveyed to the public that these vaccines have 72% to 80% efficacy that means they are not fully protected and some people may get mild infection even after taking the vaccine’s shots. This
is the reason behind the false sense of security.
However, he conceded that the double mutant virus found in the country is also responsible for the rise. This virus is more infective and can afflict multiple individuals simultaneously unlike the earlier variant which could infect one person at a time before getting transmitted to others over a long period of time.
As for the ongoing political rallies and the Kumbh Mela, Dr Kumar emphasised that scientific information related to the disease need to be disseminated in the public in a truthful manner. Physical or social distancing as it is called as a precautionary measure could have been useful in preventing the spread of the infection. But it was not followed by politicians themselves. It is not being followed by the farmers from the first day of their agitation.
Unmoved by diabolical developments, the common man did not take it seriously and now the outcome is before us. Further allowing Kumbh Mela also opened the door for the virus to spread. Lakhs of people are taking a dip during what is called the Shahi Snan.
Dr Kumar wondered why an order of such a big gathering of lakhs of people was given a go ahead at a time when the virus is peaking.
“It was said that the people were going there after getting antigen tests, yet people are getting infected. What was the need for such a huge gathering? It was a wrong decision in the era of pandemic. Allowing such gathering is sheer ignorance and unimaginable step by
the authority,” Dr Kumar observed.
It is learned that a decision to stop the Mela can be taken now. But a large number of seers and devotees have already been infected with deadly pathogens. Would they have not transmitted the virus to others? This is the question haunting the concerned citizens.
Dr Jugal Kishore, Director-Head, Department of Community Medicine, Safdarjung Hospital, said that the severity and mortality could be reduced by the anti-covid vaccines.
“It has been noted that many people are getting infection after vaccination. Scientifically and logically the infections can occur. The virus in circulation can still infect you, but will not cause severity and death. The symptoms will be mild and the infected person can get the test positive. But the problem is that all the people have not been
covered by the vaccination programme,” he Dr Kishore.
Dr Ashwini Goyal, former president, Delhi Medical Association (DMA), said that the Covishield has 79% efficacy, which means only 21% chances are that one might get the infection after the vaccination. Covaxin with 81% efficacy reduced the risk of infection to 19%.
“Even if a person has got the infection despite getting the vaccination he will not face the severity of Covid and death. There is an advantage in taking the vaccine. The tendency of developing antibodies is different in different people. Some people will get the infection but they will have mild symptoms which will not turn to severity and mortality. Therefore, I appeal to everyone to take the vaccines,” added Dr Goyal.
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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi