India’s COVID-19 Situation: A Crucial Juncture!

The largely preventable or at least controllable marauding second COVID-19 wave in India seems to be ebbing with around 39000 new infections in the last 24 hours and around 700 fatalities in the same period. However, the crisis is far from over with the spree of unlocking taking place all around the nation and the most feared third wave lurking somewhere in the corner. Most of the places except for educational institutions and cinema halls have been reopening in most of the states, with only containment zones still put under strict restrictions. The grim milestone of deaths at over 4 hundred thousand has also been reached with at least two hundred thousand extra fatalities suspected. Further, unlocking cannot be avoided indefinitely due the issue of livelihoods, and in light of the fact that the national positivity rate is now around 2.5% unlocking is technically justified. However, the state governments of India must display extreme caution and aggressive testing, tracing and containment. 


Now, the main problem that occurs due to unlocking is the growing COVID inappropriate behavior of the people: social distancing in most Indian markets or in public places is practically impossible, but at least compulsory masking and hand hygiene must follow which, unfortunately, gets forgotten or neglected. With the devastatingly infectious Delta variant still dominant in the country and spreading across the globe it takes little time for another deadly explosion of infections. Besides, there is one more variant called the Delta Plus which could become a cause of concern sooner than later. Then there are the other terrors of black fungus, supplementary infections in hospitals and the long COVID syndrome.


In such a situation vaccination becomes the only option for some protection: experts have been maintaining that although the vaccines—three in India at the moment, namely Covishield, Covaxin and the Russian Sputnik V—cannot guarantee full protection against infections these have been proved to provide protection against the severe form of the disease and hospitalization or possible deaths. Unfortunately, India has been infested with the vaccine shortage problem when the doses were desperately needed. The Government of India has been stoutly denying any such shortage consistently the superficiality of which claim has been exposed many times with many vaccination centers closing down across the nation and huge rushes in the existing centers.


We can see in the photographs in this piece the rush for jabs in a walk-in center in Kolkata. In fact, such huge gatherings for jabs can be a great risk for infections. Besides, there are several vaccine frauds taking in various places including Mumbai and Kolkata that hardly help matters. We hope the Government of India would, as promised, regularize supply of vaccines from July 2021 and complete vaccination of all target age groups by December this year. Accelerated vaccination is the primary hope of reducing human sufferings if the third wave happens to strike.


Of course, there are some hopeful indications too. The COVID-19 national expert panel, severely criticized for keeping mum about the gnawing second wave since March this year, has maintained that if the third wave indeed strikes the cases are likely to be half of that in the second wave. Secondly, as per historical evidence the second wave of any pandemic or epidemic normally wreaks the greatest havoc on humans. Therefore, the third wave may not be as deadly as feared. Lastly, some medical experts believe that as a virus keeps on mutating to develop vaccine resistance or breakthroughs it keeps on getting weaker and weaker, and in the process it stops impacting human lives at some period of time. We hope that period happens now and humankind manages to throw off the greatest curse to have befallen on them in its entire history.