Representational image. (AFP) Exclusive
Representational image. (AFP)

Learn from the second wave, be cautious and get vaccinated

The virus’s transmissibility can be cut down only if everyone observes the dharma of wearing a mask, maintains social distancing, hand hygiene and adheres to Covid-19 protocols
By M Venkaiah Naidu
UPDATED ON JUN 29, 2021 03:54 PM IST

Caution holds the key in the long and steady march to normalcy as we continue our collective fight against Covid-19, with the government driving the vaccination programme with urgency on a mission mode. As experts have pointed out, vaccination is the only protective shield when it comes to curbing the spread of the pandemic. Community awareness and involvement, summed up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “Jan Bhagidari” and “Jan Andolan” lie at the heart of effective pandemic management on the ground.

The Government of India’s decision to provide free vaccines to the states for all citizens above the age of 18 years, from June 21, has lent a powerful impetus to the ongoing vaccination rollout. Simultaneously, the vaccination drive has to be backed up by the other four proven elements in the strategy to stem the spread of the virus: Testing, Tracing, Treatment and following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.

Working in close coordination, both the Central and state government are leaving no stone unturned to educate people on the importance of vaccination, as also the need to conform to appropriate behaviour. However, all of us have to be a part of this mission by getting ourselves vaccinated, spreading vaccine literacy, and taking all the necessary precautions.

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In recent days, media reports have appeared on instances of crowding with the easing of lockdown restrictions in many parts of the country. This makes for disturbing news as a steep rise in cases during the second wave could be ascribed to the widespread non-compliance of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, among other reasons. Images of milling crowds at markets and bazaars in the past few days, tell us that we, as a society, have learnt very little from the grim lessons that the virus taught us in the first two waves. This must change, we must not let down our guard.

With cases starting to ebb, there is a greater need to be vigilant. Experts have emphasised the importance of developing immunity to defeat the challenge posed by the virus. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with good dietary habits, regular physical exercise and adequate sleep will go a long way in improving immunity and protecting oneself.

The virus’s transmissibility can be cut down only if everyone observes the dharma of wearing a mask, maintains social distancing, hand hygiene and adheres to Covid-19 protocols. Scientists have also been warning that mass gatherings create a perfect condition for the virus to thrive. This must be avoided.

Following the virulent surge in infections in the second wave, the Centre and state governments have been actively ramping up health infrastructure, ensuring sufficient supplies of oxygen, essential medical supplies and ventilators, among other things. Data emerging from the vaccination drive among health care workers battling the second wave of Coronavirus reflects a much lower need for hospitalisation, oxygen therapy, and admission to ICU. There is no doubt among specialists that in the current scenario, vaccine is indeed a game-changer.

While, as a society, we may be better prepared today to countenance another spike in infections, compared to where we stood when we were battered by the tsunami of the second wave, the challenge is formidable. We should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the dipping numbers. We cannot turn away from the bitter fact that everyday life will not be the same for some time as the overall situation continues to be dynamic and unpredictable.

Community support is critical to controlling the transmission of the virus, as well as quickening the pace of the vaccination campaign. Rising above party lines, people’s representatives at all levels and civil society groups should collaborate actively and act as social influencers on the ground to dispel vaccine hesitancy in some sections of the population, especially in our rural areas. Leaders of all parties, setting political differences aside, should come together as members of Team India, share knowledge, and collaborate in promoting best practices for better management of this unprecedented global health crisis.

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of people and to mitigate the suffering of the common citizen, the government has been widening the net of social safety measures and welfare initiatives.

The raging pandemic crippled the economies of the wealthiest nations in the world and put their health systems to test. Our health care infrastructure came under severe stress as well. Yet, our medical fraternity including doctors, para-medical staff, health and sanitary workers, as also our valiant police personnel, ASHA workers in villages, our scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and vaccine manufacturers, rose to the occasion working indefatigably to save precious lives. I salute our scientists, who, through proactive research developed Covid testing kits and essential equipment in real quick time.

Commendably, our scientists and vaccine manufacturers, racing against time to develop vaccines against this deadly virus, have successfully come up with safe and effective vaccines.The government has expedited the process of acquiring more vaccines to fast-track the ongoing vaccination campaign. This will widen the vaccine pool and help the national campaign gain momentum so that all eligible Indians are vaccinated by the year-end.

The unprecedented health crisis has forced students and educators to go online and this in itself, has turned the entire learning experience into a challenge for both the teachers and the taught. According to mental health experts, the pandemic recorded a number of instances of heightened anxiety and irritability among children, as one of the inevitable spinoffs of being compelled to stay at home. New as they are, these issues will need to be studied and addressed by experts.

Working together, the Centre and state governments need to evolve a calibrated strategy factoring in human behaviour, as we attempt easing of lockdowns and a return to normalcy. Aggressive surveillance in hotspots and mini-lockdowns where necessary will help break the chain of transmission. Collectively and individually, we need to tread cautiously, as a highly infectious, fast-mutating virus renders large swathes of our unvaccinated population vulnerable and defenceless. Finally, all of us must do our bit to ensure that India meets its target of vaccinating all eligible citizens by the end of this year.

M Venkaiah Naidu is the Vice President of India

The views expressed are personal

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