The second wave of the Covid second wave, Coronavirus cases, COvid vaccination, COVID pandemic, Indian express news is assuming worrying proportions. The country’s infection rate began to rise in February after being on the decline since September last year. But the fact that upsurges in the past four months did not last long seemed to have lulled people into a false sense of security. Serosurveys indicated immunity amongst large pockets of the country’s population, especially in urban areas. And, for a section of the country’s health establishment, the inoculation drive appeared to take precedence over containment methods such as testing, monitoring and contact tracing. But with India recording 1,03,558 cases on Sunday, the highest increase in daily caseload in the country’s 14-month battle with the coronavirus, it is apparent that the battle against the virus will have to be fought on multiple fronts. The inoculation drive must be intensified, more vaccines given approval, the private sector given a larger role and vaccine confidence promoted at the community level. This inoculation strategy should go hand in hand with containment measures and a renewed commitment to COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Some hypotheses point to mutants of the novel coronavirus — home grown as well as those originating in the US, UK and South Africa — for the new wave. Preliminary evidence suggests that these mutants multiply faster than the coronavirus strains behind the first wave of infections in the country. We also know that the current rate of transmission is more than three times faster than that witnessed during the first wave. In fact, the virus’s replicating ability has begun to exert pressure on the country’s medical infrastructure. Last week, this paper reported a severe shortage of oxygen cylinders in the country’s worst affected state, Maharashtra. The state’s chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has reportedly warned that Maharashtra could “exhaust” its health infrastructure in three weeks if the infection is not checked. Medical amenities are reportedly under strain in Chhattisgarh and Punjab as well.
In the last quarter of 2020, when the pandemic had begun to abate, epidemiologists had cautioned that the battle against the pathogen was not yet over. At the same time, the medical establishment could rightly claim that it knew much more about the virus compared to early 2020, when the virus first crossed borders into the country. Improvements in treatment protocols increased recovery rates and mitigated the virus’s virulence. Much of that knowledge still holds. Work is also on to unravel the ways of the mutants, ascertain their behaviour across age and social groups. In the coming weeks, disaggregated data is likely to provide a better picture of the second wave and place the country on a surer footing against the virus. There is, however, no time to lose in reining in the pathogen that is threatening to rip open the social and economic scars of last year — most of which are still to heal. The synergies between policymakers, medical experts and the public at large, built last year, must be renewed.