New Delhi: Two days after he said that a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is inevitable, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India, Professor K. VijayRaghavan calibrated that position and said that if strong measures are taken, such a wave could be averted.
“…Talk about location timing and intensity of infection instead of waves. If we take strong measures, a third wave may not happen in all the places or indeed anywhere at all. It all depends on how well guidance is implemented at the local level, states, districts, cities,” he said at a government briefing on Covid-19 Friday.
“Guidance about surveillance, testing containment, etc., if followed, can stop this infection … there have been peaks and falls at different times. It is useful to understand how it happens. Infections rise when virus has opportunities, falls when it runs out of opportunities,” the professor added.
Only two days ago, VijayRaghavan had sounded the alarm about a third phase. In a now widely reported statement, he had said: “Phase 3 is inevitable given high levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear what timescales this will occur in. We have to be prepared in every way to tackle it.”
Government sources said that the statement had been viewed by the central government as something that created unnecessary panic at a time when the country is already reeling under a second wave with over 4 lakh new cases and nearly 4,000 deaths being reported daily.
VijayRaghavan added that prior infection and vaccination could give additional protection to the population, but as the present wave wanes, complacency could give the coronavirus fresh ‘opportunities’ to spread. However, he sidestepped a question about when the present wave will end.
Both VijayRaghavan and Niti Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul said that there are no concerns about the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreading through water. It is closed spaces that is of real concern, VijayRaghavan said.
‘Prioritise second dose’
The Modi government has now told states to prioritise administering the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Prioritise due beneficiaries of second dose and ensure timely completion of recommended vaccination schedule. Utilise supplies of vaccines through Govt. of India channel in 70:30 ratio for second dose and first dose respectively,” said additional secretary in the health ministry, Arti Ahuja.
India has so far administered 16.50 crore doses of Covid vaccines. Currently, 3.29 crore people are fully vaccinated. Of these 1.90 crore are aged above 45 years, 0.64 crore are healthcare workers and 0.75 crore are frontline workers.
As far as expanding India’s vaccination programme goes, Dr Paul described the single-dose ‘Sputnik Light’ as a very promising development that could speed up vaccinations. India, he said, would look at the data as and when the company applies.
No delay in deployment of foreign aid
Both Ahuja and Dammu Ravi, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry, said that there has been no delay in the transport of foreign aid items from the airport to their destinations. “Accessibility and the immediate use of resources drive the need for immediate allocation of short-notice incoming consignments. The materials from abroad are currently coming in different numbers, specifications and at different times. Hence, there is a need to reconcile the distribution logistics with the need to reach the materials as expeditiously as possible to the states,” Ahuja said.
A priority list of states has been drawn up according to the current active cases, case fatality rate, resource availability, and so on. “Each consignment is not spread across all identified states; it is divided into few states/UTs initially, and as more items come in, the next states are added in order of priority, and so on,” Ahuja said.
‘Numbers plateauing in Maharashtra, Delhi’
Ahuja, in her statement about the status of the pandemic in India, said that while 24 states have more than 15 per cent positivity, cases seem to be plateauing in several high-burden regions such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
However, they are going up in states such as Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
“Union health ministry reviewed the Covid-19 situation and management with eight states — Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The review focused on containment strategies, testing infrastructure and healthcare infrastructure augmentation, availability of trained human resource, availability and supply of medical oxygen, ventilators and other logistics, and improving the vaccination coverage,” she said.
She added that the home affairs ministry had issued an advisory to states to ensure uninterrupted power supply to all healthcare facilities, particularly Covid-dedicated facilities, and to ensure no untoward incidents such as power outages and fire breakouts happen.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)