It’s worrying that the reproductive number (R-value), which indicates how fast Covid-19 is spreading, has risen above one in eight states and UTs — Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Mizoram and Puducherry. These states/UTs are scattered across the length and breadth of the country, implying that the virus continues to be practically everywhere. This trend suggests that the second wave is not over yet and the third surge might strike sooner than later. India’s daily caseload has mostly been in excess of 40,000 in the past week or so. A new challenge is being posed by the increase in the number of cases of vaccine breakthrough infection (occurring in an individual who is fully vaccinated) and reinfection (a Covid-recovered person getting infected again).
The influx of tourists has contributed to the rise in Covid cases in HP and Jamp;K in particular. The lifting of restrictions has led to all-round laxity in adhering to the precautionary norms. Reports/visuals of people shunning masks and social distancing at hill stations and crowded city markets underscore the prevailing complacency. The states witnessing a surge need to do contact tracing on a war footing and create containment zones depending on the spread of infections. The possibility of reimposing curbs can also be explored. The devastation wreaked by the second wave should hopefully spur the authorities to be better prepared this time on all counts ndash; oxygen, ventilators, ICU beds, medicines.
Vaccination, of course, is the best bet to contain the virus. Over 48 crore vaccine doses have been administered in India so far — over 6.1 crore in May, 11.96 crore in June and 13.45 crore in July. The absolute numbers seem impressive, but the percentages present a different picture. India has managed to fully vaccinate merely one-tenth of its adult population. This rate can be enhanced only if the production and supply of vaccines are ramped up. The government’s initiative to fast-track emergency approvals for all foreign-produced shots has fallen short of achieving the desired results. The bottlenecks need to be removed quickly so that we stand a chance against the third wave.