Rajat Sharma

Massive vaccination on a war footing can only arrest the spread of Covid pandemic

For the last five days, there has been a consistent surge in the number of fresh Covid-19 cases in states like Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab. On Thursday, 154 deaths were reported across India. For the last three successive days, the death toll has been in the 150-plus category.

AKBIndia is witnessing its second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, with 39,670 fresh cases recorded on Thursday. This is the highest single day rise since November 28 last year.

Maharashtra reported the highest number of 25,833 fresh cases on Thursday, while there were 607 new cases in Delhi, 2,387 cases in Punjab, 1,488 cases in Karnataka, over 1,000 cases in Chhattisgarh, 1,276 new cases in Gujarat, 989 cases in Tamil Nadu, 917 cases in Madhya Pradesh, 633 cases in Haryana, 321 cases in UP, 327 cases in Rajasthan and 211 in Chandigarh. The pandemic is spreading fast.

For the last five days, there has been a consistent surge in the number of fresh Covid-19 cases in states like Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab. On Thursday, 154 deaths were reported across India. For the last three successive days, the death toll has been in the 150-plus category.

Punjab and Gujarat have extended night curfew hours in several cities. Night curfew has been extended by two hours in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Patiala, Mohali, Ropar, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur. All malls and cinema halls have been ordered shut in both Punjab and Gujarat on Saturdays and Sundays. Night curfews have been imposed in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara cities of Gujarat.

Madhya Pradesh government has banned the plying of inter-state bases to and from Maharashtra from March 20 till March 31, in view of the alarming spread of the pandemic. All passengers arriving from Maharashtra will be kept in week-long quarantine. Markets and business establishments in the towns of Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ratlam, Sagar, Betul, and other places will remain closed from 10 pm to 6 am daily. Night curfew is already in place in Indore and Bhopal.

With the situation becoming scary, people at large are fearing another lockdown. I have personally got several messages and India TV has received thousands of phone calls from viewers inquiring whether lockdown will be imposed again as it was done in March last year. I understand their fear and apprehension. Small and medium businessmen, roadside hawkers, owners of eateries, had revived their business after more than eight months of strict lockdown, and they are fearing the worst again. I have spoken to several ministers, top officials and economists. A clear picture is yet to emerge, but it seems, people at large appear not to be fearing the pandemic much compared to their fear of facing another lockdown.

In Punjab, more than 100 Covid patients have died in the last three days. In Jalandhar city alone, more than 500 fresh Covid cases were reported. Nearly 300 Covid patients are presently on oxygen support in Punjab hospitals, and several others are on ventilator support. This is a critical situation and none other than the Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said this on Thursday. He said, whether people like it or not, his government would, from now on, strictly enforce Covid regulations in markets and public places. If the situation does not improve, stricter measures would be enforced, he added.

A similar situation has evolved in Gujarat. Bus services have been suspended in Ahmedabad, all gyms and public parks have been closed, malls and cinema halls will close on weekends. All schools and colleges in most of the cities of Gujarat shall remain closed till April 10. The Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has ruled out a statewide lockdown, but said, Covid norms will now be enforced strictly.

The chief ministers of Delhi and Punjab have called for mass Covid vaccinations, without any hindrances. As of Thursday night, 3.89 crore vaccinations were carried out. Though the figure may appear to be big, it is but a drop in the ocean, in a country of 137 crore people.
While Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has requested the Centre to allow vaccination for all, without any restraints, Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh has demanded that people of all age groups must be vaccinated to stop the spread of the second wave of Covid pandemic.

I agree with both the chief ministers. A massive vaccination program must be launched across India, now that the production and distribution of Covid vaccines have been ramped up. Vaccination must begin on a war footing and the speed of vaccination must pick up. All people above the age of 45 years must be allowed to take vaccines, without prior registration or appointment. They should be free to go to any vaccination centre and take the vaccine. I feel, if the production of Covid vaccines is increased at a higher pace, all people above 18 years in India must be vaccinated.

There are millions of people who want to take vaccine but because of the requirement of doctor’s certificates on co-morbidities, they are unable to do so. I have personally got many calls from people, who are in the 45-plus age group. They desperately want to take the vaccine but are unable to do so. If all Indians above the age of 18 years are allowed to take vaccine, the problem of wastage of vaccines can also be solved.

Only a massive Covid vaccination program on a war footing can stop this second wave of pandemic. But one thing must be kept in mind. Vaccine is not the only solution. Everybody will have to scrupulously follow the Covid guidelines: frequent washing of hands, social distancing and compulsory wearing of masks. There must be no complacency on this score, both at the level of authorities and also at the level of common people.

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