Preventive Plus Curative

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Central govt has to take tough steps to combat COVID surge

The huge surge in the COVID-19 cases in the country since mid-March has exposed the weaknesses in the central government’s strategies to deal with the extraordinary situation. Though the number of COVID cases in the country, which had come down to 25,000-odd in January, began rising in February the government failed to take note of the gravity of the situation and take corrective steps. With little or no preventive measures in place, the second wave of pandemic hit the country with full force and state after state started reporting a steep rise in cases, which are scaling new horrible heights with every passing day. The country has also seen a big rise in the number of people dying as a result of the pandemic and lack of hospital beds and oxygen. The second wave of COVID has exposed glaring gaps in the country’s health infrastructure and the government’s preparedness to deal with the crisis that has hit the country more intensely than the first wave. It is regrettable to note that despite enough warnings the central government failed to put a system in place to deal with the surge.

Most hospitals in the country treating COVID patients have run out of beds and medical oxygen. The healthcare workers are working against time to deal with the influx of patients but their efforts have failed to save many lives because of lack of oxygen and other medicines required to treat patients. It was only after SOS from doctors and hospital managements and following death of scores of patients for want of oxygen that the authorities realised the gravity of the situation and have been scrambling to remedy the situation. The supply of oxygen to hospitals is short by over 30 percent in Delhi, the national capital, where 25 patients died on Friday. Similar is the situation in many other parts of the country. The central authorities who failed to deal with the emerging situation till it took a turn for the worse have now started racing against time to make medical oxygen available. Let us hope their efforts bear  fruit as the country prepares for a worse infection, positivity and mortality rates.

According to the health experts, the government authorities who failed to take strong and strict preventive measures are trying to shift the blame for the curative overload to the people for their negligence. The truth is the central government failed miserably to enforce the rules they themselves had laid out. At first the political leadership claimed victory over COVID and urged other nations to be inspired by India’s action in battling the pandemic. The boast was short-lived as fresh coronavirus positive cases started rising soon thereafter. The situation now is precarious and would require careful handling to prevent it from becoming unmanageable. According to epidemiologists, the surge in COVID cases is likely to peak by mid-May. They have warned that the cases could by then reach up to 5 lakh each day and the situation may ease by July. The experts have said that thickly populated states were at “higher risk” and warned that the health infrastructure in these states may not be adequate enough to cope with the emerging scenario.

The grim situation calls for the central government revising its strategy to preventive plus curative, rather than just curative. Also, the job should be left to experts with the government providing them all the support. Rather than taking decisions by themselves, the political authorities should go by the advice of the experts. AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria has said that areas with COVID positivity rates over 10 per cent must be locked down. The central government needs to ponder over the suggestion and take appropriate decisions. The battle against the pandemic cannot be won by political decisions but through collective efforts of the medical experts, the law enforcement agencies and  citizens. Though late, efforts should be made to launch a joint offensive, including lockdown. The central government must make enforcement of COVID appropriate protocol deterrent, for that would reduce the burden on hospitals. The options in combating the new surge are limited and the Centre has to act fast.