India has been battling with the second wave of COVID leaving the entire population aghast. A reduction in the infection rate of the first wave of the pandemic and the introduction of the vaccine in the month of January gave rise to complacency and led to individuals and the administration to let the guard down, inviting the deadly second wave.
While the second wave seems to be receding in most states, it is essential to reflect and take corrective action to fight the next wave, which in all probability may hit the country during the last quarter. An attempt has been made to make a few recommendations that might help the public, with a fundamental principle to save lives with the least impact on their livelihood.
COVID behavior in public: Till we reach herd immunity, there should be strict enforcement of covid behavior in public places. The government should levy heavy penalties for defaulters. To ensure this the government can engage scouts and guides, NGOs, NCC cadets supported by local police.
Lockdowns; where and when: Effective and timely lockdowns at the micro or city levels are highly recommended for handling future waves. It has been observed that, at most places, the lockdowns were announced at least 2 weeks later than they should have been. Most lockdowns were partial to start with, which were ineffective that led to clamping of full lockdown. Such measures are inefficient in controlling the pandemic. The lockdowns should be at the city level or at best at the district level without disturbing the places where the lockdown is unwarranted.
Augmenting medical infrastructure: The second wave witnessed the unprecedented loss of lives due to lack of medical facilities. Meticulous planning and execution are required to build this well in advance. Society should also come forward in building infrastructure at the grassroots level. One of the effective ways of supplementing the medical infrastructure is by instructing large housing complexes, institutes like IITs and IIMs, public sector enterprises and the likes to create appropriate covid care centers within their complex along with a mini ambulance.
Vaccinations: Another vital proactive measure supporting our fight against the pandemic is vaccination. There is a dire need to develop an effective strategy to ensure that people are vaccinated at the earliest. To that end, the following measures are required:
- A committee to be constituted to redefine the front-line workers and completely vaccinate them on priority as the current definition is outdated and needs expert review
- Individuals above 18 years of age with comorbidities and people who are awaiting their second dose need to be completely vaccinated before the end of July
- Necessary steps need to be taken to increase the production of vaccines with the highest priority and liberalization of importing vaccines by private institutions with necessary tax waivers
The enormity of the war against the pandemic is huge and unprecedented. Every individual should collectively support the government by uniting as a nation during such emergencies. With the above measure followed, we can face any number of COVID waves without losing life or livelihood and achieve herd immunity by the turn of this year with minimum damage.