Experts warn of Florida-like situation in India if schools open amid third wave

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Students gather in an assembly on the first day of reopening of school, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says in order to revive the economy the government is taking every step to ramp up vaccination in the country

S Gopal Puri

New Delhi

Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday said that the states which did not face an intense second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic are now with the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases, showing early signs of the third wave.

In an interview, Panda said that it is important to not talk of India as a whole and to instead take a state-specific view when talking about COVID-19 because all the states are not homogenous. “Several states began imposing COVID-19 restrictions and increased vaccinations, learning from Delhi and Maharashtra. Due to this, the second wave in several states was not as intense, leaving scope for a third wave. Therefore, the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in some states presently is indicating a third wave,” he said.

“Every state should look into their number of COVID-19 infections and its intensity in both the first and the second wave of the pandemic to decide about their strategy/pandemic preparedness for the possibility of the third wave,” the doctor added.

Medanta Chairman and Managing Director Dr Naresh Trehan has also cautioned against the re-opening of schools and said that since the vaccine is around the corner, the government should wait for two-three months till the children get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A medic inoculates a COVID-19 vaccine to a woman beneficiary during a vaccination drive for the teachers, in Srinagar on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

Dr Trehan said, “I believe that we should be a lot more cautious. And the fact is that the vaccine is now around the corner because the drug controller just approved the Zydus vaccine. So even if people get one dose, we know that the protection goes up 30 per cent to 50 per cent. So, we should be patient for another two-three months till the vaccine arrives, children get vaccinated, and then they should be allowed to go to school but it seems we are in a rush right now to open schools.” Dr Trehan’s remarks came as the Delhi government announced the re-opening of schools in the national capital from September 1 for classes 9-12. But, students will need parents consent and no one will be forced to attend the classes. Some groups of doctors, academicians called for an immediate resumption of in-person classes in schools.

Further speaking the Medanta Chairman and Managing Director said, “In US, schools opened but even after vaccination many children got infected, “If you look at the history that what is going on in the US where schools reopened and also a large number of children have been vaccinated because vaccine became available soon. The Association of Paediatrics in the US says that the number of cases after the schools have reopened has gone up from 38,000 per week in July to 180,000 per week in August.”

“There is a warning from Florida, which says that the hospitals are full with children, and they don’t have any facilities left. So, we have to look at it in perspective for India where children are not being vaccinated at all. We also have to take this fact into consideration that we may or may not have the luxury of open spaces,” said Dr Trehan.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that in order to revive the economy the government is taking every step to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination in the country, while urging the healthcare sector to enhance its capability to contain the possibility of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Government is constantly discussing and engaging with the stakeholders to ensure that the revival of the economy is going to be adequately supported. Revival of the economy requires a certain kind of support from the Healthcare sector. Healthcare sector requires to ramp up their capacities,” Sitharaman said as she addressed an event called ‘Resurgent India: Building Healthcare Infrastructure For New India’ organized by Invest India. “We do not want the third wave and we are taking every step that is required to ramp up vaccination against COVID-19,” the Union Finance Minister said.

She said that the Department of Financial Services has done very well by providing loan guarantee schemes for COVID affected sectors.

“Hospitals can be bringing in more equipments, more beds and more pharmaceutical support. We still need more trained doctors, nurses, more testing facilities and we still need paramedics who can do the testing for you in all its proper protocol.”

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