COVID-19 PANDEMIC: Is India ready for the Third WAVE?

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Crowded Local train passes from Dadar station during unlocking, in Mumbai on Monday. (ANI)

Top officials are worried about the virus causing havoc in the coming weeks as they appeal to people to ensure that the third wave doesn’t hit India. But many states are already preparing for the inevitability. Is India prepared for another round of suffering? 

Our Bureau  
New Delhi/Lucknow  

The second wave of Covid-19 pandemic was devastating for India. It has subsided in the past few weeks, but only after infecting millions and killing thousands. The unofficial death toll is suspected to be in millions. Now, as India goes back to normal life as states lift restrictions, there is a big threat of the pandemic with a vengeance. The third wave could be as bad as – or worse – than the second wave because the Delta variant is still very much around and, secondly, the vaccination is India is moving slowly with a small percentage of population fully vaccinated.

Earlier in the week, on Monday, appealing to the state governments across the country to not let off their guards against COVID-19, the Indian Medical Association said the third wave of the pandemic is “inevitable and imminent”. Making the universal vaccination reach the maximum possible population and strictly adopting Covid appropriate behaviours can mitigate the impact of the third wave, the IMA said in a release. “India with the proactive leadership of Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and dedicated altruistic services of Modern Medical fraternity is literally just walking out of the disastrous second wave of COVID pandemic. With the global evidence available and the history of any pandemics, the third wave is inevitable and imminent,” the IMA said.

“But the past experience of the last one and half years of war with the virus and based on the emerging evidences it is obvious that with making the universal vaccination reach maximum possible population and strictly adopting to COVID appropriate behaviours we can face the third wave with confidence and mitigate its impact,” the release added.

However, IMA “painfully” noted that at a crucial time when everyone needs to work for the mitigation of the third wave, in many parts of the country “both government and public are complacent and engaged in mass gatherings without following COVID protocols.”

IMA acknowledged that tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour all are needed but added that these activities can wait for a few more months.

“Opening up these rituals and enabling people without vaccination to go scot-free in these mass gatherings are potential super spreaders for the COVID third wave,” said the IMA adding that the consequences of treating a patient with COVID in hospital and its impacts on the economy will be “much better” than the economic loss the country suffer from avoiding such mass gathering.

“It is the duty and responsibility of everyone at this moment to strictly enforce the COVID appropriate behaviours for a minimum of three more months and ensure everyone near their house are getting vaccinated. IMA appeals to all state governments to translate the vision of Prime Minister Ji and control any mass gatherings in their state,” the release added further.

On Tuesday, informing that many countries around the globe are witnessing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Union Health Ministry cautioned the citizens to ensure that it does not hit India. “The world is witnessing third wave (of COVID-19). We’ve to join hands to ensure that the third wave doesn’t hit India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi today clearly said that we should focus on keeping the third wave at bay, instead of discussing when it would come in India,” said Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, Niti Aayog at the press conference here.

Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary of Union Health Ministry informed that a further surge in cases is being noted in some states, like Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. He also noted that there are some states, where cases have come down but are still being witnessed in the form of the plateau. “We would like to request to everyone, when we talk about the third wave (of COVID-19), we are taking it as a weather update and not understanding its seriousness and our responsibilities associated with it,” he said. Agarwal also highlighted that the Centre has deputed teams in 11 states so that they can help the state governments in COVID-19 management.

But some states are already preparing for the situation. Haryana government has decided to organise “Khelo India Youth Games, 2021” in February 2022 in view of the possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the state government’s release, a decision in this regard was taken in the first meeting of the Organizing-cum-Coordination Committee regarding the preparation of ‘Khelo India Youth Games-2021’ held under the chairmanship of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also written to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to disallow the Kanwar Yatra this year in light of the possible third COVID-19 wave. In the letter, IMA Uttarakhand State Secretary Dr Ajay Khanna expressed concerns about the crowds that may gather for the annual pilgrimage and urged Dhami not to allow devotees from outside to enter the state for the Yatra. The ‘Kanwar Yatra’ is an annual pilgrimage of Lord Shiva’s devotees. Every year during the Hindu calendar month of ‘Saavan’, thousands of devotees from across India undertake the pilgrimage. It was cancelled last year due to the rising COVID-19 cases.

“I request you to disallow the coming proposed Kanwar Yatra in July – August 2021… We should not allow devotees to enter the boundaries of our state and keep the state safe from the third wave of COVID,” Dr Khanna said.

Regarding the final decision whether it will be conducted or not, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday said that the Kanwar Yatra is not a one-state affair and the state government will take the decision after discussing it with other states, including Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier in March, another religious pilgrimage, the Kumbh Mela, was curtailed in light of rising COVID-19 cases.

In Jammu & Kashmir, Pulwama district administration is constructing a 200-bed pre-fabricated COVID Hospital in the district as part of preparations against any third wave of coronavirus. The hospital is being constructed under the direction of the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The construction work of the new COVID hospital is in full swing and is expected to be completed soon. The work is being executed by Small Scale Industries Development Corporation Limited (SICOP) and the total cost of the project is about Rs 4.22 Lakh.

Non-COVID patients at the old hospital of Pulwama had to suffer during the crisis created by the second wave of coronavirus because it was being used for COVID patients only.

After the completion of the project, COVID patients will be treated in this new hospital and the old hospital in Pulwama will be used for regular patients. Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Baseer-ul-Haq Chaudhary said that the new hospital will especially benefit people from far-flung areas.

“Everyone knows that there is a possibility of a third wave of COVID. This hospital will be beneficial for us, and our management and mitigation will be stronger. This will increase our capacity, and the facilities will be improved. People from the far-flung areas will be benefitted the most,” he said.

But despite the scare, in anticipation of the third wave of the Covid pandemic, countries like India are in a position to be better prepared by learning from past experience and being in a state of resource readiness. A Covid Resource Hub App may help India in better prepared for the upcoming and dreaded 3rd wave. On this App, anyone can access real-time vaccination and other resource information. The data is pulled from the government of India CoWin App and various other reliable sources, all over India.

Anyone can search for available beds, ICUs, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, lifesaving medicines like Remdesivir, etc. in any region and find valuable information within minutes that may help save a life. “During the second wave, Covid-19 triggering a national emergency in India, we made the decision to utilize technology we had developed and repurpose it for the crisis at hand and any additional waves that come after. Our teams pulled together to support people through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, government sources, and public health providers. We built an online community app for providing accurate information of medical and hospital resources, fighting misinformation, supporting individuals across the nation with the only goal – To Save Lives,” said Durga Rao, Founder & CEO, of the App.

Millions of Indians who suffered immensely during the second wave of the virus can only hope that the third wave – when and if hits the country – is not as devastating as its previous version.  

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