Deflate Fresh Surge

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Stricter standard operating procedures  required to pull down COVID graph

THERE appears to be no respite from the coronavirus in the country. After showing a downward trend since October, infection has been shooting up since the beginning of March. Health experts fear that infections could exceed one lakh a day unless stricter preventive measures are put in place. Unless the public cooperates by adhering to safety guidelines the fight against the pandemic may not yield the desired results. With 68,020 fresh cases reported in India on Sunday, the number of those infected by the pandemic causing disease has crossed 1.20 crore mark. The number of cases reported on March 28 was the highest to be reported in 24 hours since October. Maharashtra with 40,414 cases accounted for nearly 60 percent of total cases reported on Sunday in the country. Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the other worst-affected states that, together with Maharashtra, account for nearly 85 percent of total cases in the country.

The sudden rise comes in the wake of the country celebrating the success of its strategy to control the spread of coronavirus. The politicians in power had been patting themselves on the back claiming that the measures put in place by them had helped them in nearly defeating the virus. As the cases dropped below the 10,000 mark in the middle of February and the figures held for almost a week, the self-congratulatory mood in the government, coupled with the start of vaccination, drove people not to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour leading to sudden surge in coronavirus positive cases. The authorities were lax in acting against those violating the guidelines and this laxity on the part of people and the authorities has contributed to a big increase in COVID cases all over the country in what the medical experts see as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 related deaths, which peaked in October to over 1,175, were brought to double digits in February but have since increased. The total number of coronavirus deaths recorded as on Sunday stood at nearly 1.62 lakh in the country.

As in other parts of the country, Goa has seen an increase in fresh COVID-19 cases. The active cases which had come down to below 500 last month increased to over 1,400 on March 29. Despite the increase in the number of cases the government has done little to tackle the situation and has limited its actions to merely making statements. Though the state expert panel on COVID-19 had recommended various measures to contain the volatile situation, the government has done little to implement any of the measures suggested by it. There appears to be differences within the government on the suggestions made by Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on stricter standard operating procedures, including making COVID-19 negative certificates necessary for people arriving from the states that are witnessing the second wave. Though Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said last week new SOPs would be put in place, what has come is no more than a reiteration of the restrictions on large gatherings.

The COVID-19  surge is spreading in Goa and other states. The state and central authorities should not allow it to go out of control. The Union government has announced a five-step strategy to tackle the situation. The steps suggested are: exponential increase in testing, effective isolation and contact tracing, re-invigorating healthcare workers, ensuring COVID protocols are followed, and targeted approach to vaccination. Though a mass vaccination programme is underway in the country, given the current rate at which the vaccines are being administered the experts believe that it would take about eleven years for the country to vaccinate 70 percent of its population. The authorities need to speed up vaccination drive and ensure that all people – be they youth, middle-aged or old – are given doses of vaccines at the earliest to build immunity among them to arrest the rising graph. Even as the vaccination drive is expanded to cover more and more people, restrictions must be enforced to make citizens comply with safety guidelines to prevent transmission of the virus and deflate the new surge.