Rajat Sharma

Vaccination is a must for tackling the surge in Covid pandemic

akb fullOn Tuesday, the number of fresh Covid cases across India surged to 1,15,249, the higher ever so far recorded. 630 Covid patients died in the last 24 hours. This is the biggest daily death toll since November 5. There was 54,000-plus rise in active cases, which has now crossed 8 lakhs. This was a huge jump from 7 lakh active cases recorded two days ago.

Think of the enormity of the crisis due to this second big wave of Covid pandemic. There is no let up in the surge of Covid cases. India has now become the second country in the world after the US to record more than one lakh Covid cases in a single day. The situation in Maharashtra is alarming. A record number of 55,469 new cases was reported on Tuesday, while 297 Covid patients died in the state on a single day. Out of this, Mumbai city alone reported 10,030 cases and 31 deaths. In Pune district alone, 10,226 new cases and 58 deaths were reported on Tuesday. In Nagpur, 3,758 new cases and 54 deaths were reported on a single day. The situation in Maharashtra is spinning out of control.

In neighbouring Karnataka, 6,150 new cases and 39 deaths were reported on Tuesday. The pandemic is spreading in several other states: Kerala (3,502), Uttar Pradesh (5,928), Tamil Nadu (3,645), Delhi (5,100), Rajasthan (2,236), Gujarat (3,280), Madhya Pradesh (3,722), Punjab (2,924), Jharkhand (1,264). All these are new Covid-19 cases, and are clear indications of the spread of the pandemic.

The next four weeks are going to be very critical as the pandemic is spreading faster than it did last year when cases rose across India, said NITI Aayog member Dr. V. K. Paul. Seven out of the top 10 districts with high active cases are in Maharashtra, while the scene in Chhattisgarh and Punjab is also alarming.

Most of the states have started imposing night curfew and travel restrictions, but these measures are not adequate. On Tuesday, Delhi government imposed night curfew across the city from 10 pm till 5 am and this will be in force till April 30. Only vaccination centres, health workers, air and railway travellers and essential services have been exempted from curfew restrictions. Delhi Metro will continue to run, but only for those who have been exempted. No restriction has been imposed on inter-state and intra-state movement of goods. AIIMS and Delhi government-run LNJP hospital have closed OPDs from Wednesday due to the surge in pandemic. The Department of Personnel and Training of the Union government has directed all employees above the age of 45 years to get themselves vaccinated.

One silver lining in this dismal scenario is that common people have now started crowding at vaccination centres. In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed crowds outside vaccination centres in Patna and Morena (Madhya Pradesh) waiting for their turn for vaccines.

The world’s biggest vaccination drive is going on in full swing across India. Vaccines are crucial for slowing the down the spread of the pandemic. Only after 60 to 70 per cent of the entire population is vaccinated, one can say that people have now acquired herd immunity. As of now, in the last three months of vaccination drive, only three states have covered 5 per cent of their population. There are also reports of several districts in Maharashtra like Akola, Yavatmal, Buldhana, Gondia, Washim and Nagpur rural running out of stocks of vaccines.

Till Tuesday 8 pm, over 8.4 crore Covid doses were administered across India. This includes the first dose given to over 5.44 crore people of 45 years and above of age. In the last 79 days alone, over 7.9 crore doses were administered. The Centre has indicated that vaccines may be in short supply after the current phase of vaccination is over by July. After this, the most vulnerable groups will get priority for vaccination, the Health Secretary said.

There are many people who still fear the vaccines. They want to wait and watch. My advice to them is: already 8.4 crore Indians have taken the vaccines, why fear? More than 70 crore people in 155 countries of the world have taken the vaccine. This is however only 5 per cent of the total world population. For the conditions to return to normal, minimum 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated. In countries where more than 40 per cent of people have been vaccinated, the pandemic has been brought under control. In the US, nearly 17 crore people, nearly half its population, have been given the jab, and by May end nearly 30 crore out of its total 33 crore population, will have been vaccinated.

In stark contrast, in UP alone, the population is 24 crore. India’s population is a billion more than the population of the US. India has the biggest capacity of administering vaccines in the world, and experts say, we can easily acquire the capability of administering 70 lakh vaccines a day. In order to achieve that, close cooperation between the people and the government is a must. Let the elderly and vulnerable groups get their jab first, others can follow. Remember, vaccinating yourself is the only way to protect your life from this deadly virus. Until and unless 50 to 60 percent of Indians are not vaccinated, wearing a mask, ensuring social distancing and frequent washing of hands are a must.

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