Alerts Required In View Of Covid Infections Elsewhere
Covid-19 infections once again are drawing our attention. Owing to the fast deteriorating situation in China, subsequent to relaxation in its highly controversial Zero Covid strategy, we have to be in a state of alert within our country to face any eventuality. Our state of preparedness should be such that we should not be found repeating any mistake of the past.
VEIL OF SECRECY & INEFFECTIVE VACCINES
As one sees, China is a classic example of maintaining a veil of secrecy relating to vital statistics of Covid-19 right from the beginning of the pandemic. To begin with, the Government of PRC ,in its own wisdom, allowed its people to suffer for over three years. Apart from irregular tests, it denied the infected lot access to effective vaccines and kept them indoors for long periods. In view of the fact that Coronavac and Sinopharm vaccines are not proving effective, as an afterthought ,now German made vaccines are being tried. Cooperation with WHO was always ruled out and slowly the pandemic has impacted the country’s economy in a big way.
Imagine millions are dying but barely 5235 persons have been reported officially, thus far.As such, number of old persons had been rising ever since one child policy was adopted (presently 30 million people above the age of 80 are in China) but insult was caused to their grievous injuries when it came to vaccination. Not only the common man was denied and discriminated against, foreign experts and workmen too had to bear the brunt if we look into details of the last round of lockdown during April to July in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Huaqiangbei, Futian, Chengdu and Guangzhou.
Officially ,China is reporting only 3761 new cases and no deaths.According to one report, 25 million people have been affected by Covid in one day. Another report puts this figure as 37 million.Still according to another report, 250 million people were affected in the country in the first twenty days of December 2022 after the Zero Covid policy was diluted.
As per Airfinity, a British research firm, infections in China at present are more than one million a day with 5000 daily deaths.Cases are rising more rapidly in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. The said organisation estimates that cases could reach 3.7 millions a day in January and 4.2 millions a day by March 2023.
SHORTAGE OF MEDICINES
It may be significant to note that the hospitals are facing severe shortage of basic medicines amid the reports that people are buying them directly from factories for hoarding them. Not only are dead bodies being found in large numbers in the morgue of hospitals, long queues at the cremation centres have become regular features. From available video evidence the situation looks pathetic both on the streets and inside overcrowded hospitals.
END TO MASS TESTING?
It has been also learnt that China has stopped mass testing and is no longer reporting asymptomatic cases. Only those dying from respiratory failure of Pneumonia after testing positive are figured in official reports.Thus official data can not give true reflection of the unprecedented outbreak.vIn a sudden announcement, the Chinese Health authority has stopped publishing national Covid-19 statistics without assigning any explanation. It is happening at a time when Covid infections are expected to double up during the week-long peak.
The report of a Western study further reveals that on an average 5000 deaths are happening now on a daily basis and that the total number of cases may have far exceeded five million. Imagine the daily struggle of people of mega cities of Beijing and Shanghai having a population of 2.5 crores each.When it comes to reporting, earlier western media would come forward, later suffering people themselves began sharing their ordeal through social media. Now the combination of the two gives us the required footage of inhuman treatment to the inflicted people, never seen or heard before. Crying of women and old alike outside and inside hospitals as also piling of dead bodies is a pathetic sight.
At the end of the day, reliable data is not coming from China but case load is not only high but the same is rising also. After cities ,millions of people in rural China are also going to be at risk during the forthcoming Lunar New Year holidays.
ACTIONS INDIA NEEDS TO TAKE
Coming to India, despite knowing about day to day developments on Covid front in China, USA, France, Japan, Germany and Korea ,we are taking things rather lightly. Vaccination coverage no doubt is satisfactory in the country but even in the current endemic phase, we need to exercise complete precaution. Random checking of a fixed number of air passengers coming from five countries may not be of much help.After All, 25,000 passengers arrive at Delhi’s international airport daily and one can imagine the footfall at other international airports also. Incoming passengers shall have to be checked thoroughly and Covid protocols ,such as quarantine for the positive ones shall have to be followed yet again strictly at least till March 2023.
We seem to have administered 2200 million doses of vaccines as on date and iNCOVAC, a nasal vaccine too is ready to roll out soon. But it will be offered only as a Booster dose to eligible adults.
It is heartening to note that the Government is going to test the availability of manpower, oxygen supply, capacity of beds, ventilators and medicines all over the country. Mock drills in hospitals too are going to be conducted.
PEOPLE NEED TO BE RESPONSIBLE
While States are also being asked to increase the rates of testing and ramp up vaccination of elderly and other eligible population, there is certainly a need to take special care and precaution during the forthcoming festive season.Apart from ensuring wearing of masks, hand hygiene and social distancing yet again, overcrowding of places of various kinds of happenings shall have to be avoided by making provisions for adequate ventilation.
In a nutshell, India has to be fully prepared to deal with new variants of Covid when serious signals have begun coming from China, USA, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong. Past experience shows that the disease spreads rapidly and severely impacts all economic activities. So merely efforts of Government would not do, people in general shall have to display utmost sense of co-operation and responsibility. Then only another round of pandemic management can see light of the day.
(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)