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“Current Second Corona Wave Worse than the First:” Union Health Ministry

“Current Second Corona Wave Worse than the First:” Union Health Ministry

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 6: As the union health ministry on Tuesday cautioned that the current Covid-19 second wave was even worse than the first one as the cases are increasing at a higher rate, the Indian Medical Association and several other bodies requested the government to remove the age bar for vaccination and the centre asked all its employees above the age of 45 to get vaccinated at the earliest to curb the pandemic.

“The impact of the pandemic has increased in the country. Warnings were given that the situation should not be taken for granted,” VK Paul, NITI Aayog member said at a press conference.

Paul confirmed that the situation has worsened and the speed of increasing Covid-19 cases is higher than last time.

“We have suggested state governments increase the percentage of RT-PCR tests, which is reducing in Maharashtra in the last few weeks. Only 60% of total tests were done through RT-PCR method in Maharashtra last week. We suggest states take it to 70% or above,” Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

“All Central Government employees of the age of 45 years and above are advised to get themselves vaccinated, so as to effectively contain the spread of COVID-19,” the government said in a statement.

India, the second worst-hit country in the world, after crossing over to 1.03 lakh cases on Monday, the highest ever cases in a day, marginally declined to 96,982 cases and 442 deaths on Tuesday. Experts say the country is facing a second wave of infections brought on by mutant Covid variants and people’s carelessness about following rules like wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country, has been reporting close to 50,000 Covid cases every day. On Tuesday, it reported 47,288 new coronavirus cases.

The centre this month expanded the vaccination net making all those who are 45 or older eligible for inoculations.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Tuesday wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) suggesting coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccination be opened to all above 18 years of age, adding steam to growing voices across the country asking for vaccinations for all in the wake of an exponential surge in new Covid-19 cases during this second wave.

“Vaccination against Covid-19 stands as single evidence-based resource for us to restrict the cases by raising the personal immune response and pave way for herd immunity to decrease the severity of the disease… At present we are vaccinating the population above 45 years. In view of the rapid spread of the second wave of the disease, we suggest that the vaccination strategy needs to be geared up with immediate effect on war footing,” IMA said in its letter.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray have both demanded that the vaccination drive be opened to more age groups. So far, over eight crore people have been vaccinated against the virus since the drive began in mid-January.

Restrictions have been imposed in several states including night curfews and week-end lockdowns in Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and several other states to control the movements of the people and curb the pandemic to slow the pace of infection.

Maharashtra has announced a weekend lockdown and a tough 8 pm to 7 am curfew.

According to the officials, the deteriorating situation in Chhattisgarh has sent the alarm bells ringing as the state has become an area of “concern”.

“Chhattisgarh is a cause of concern for us. Despite being a small state, it reports 6% of total Covid-19 cases and 3% of total deaths in the country. The condition of Chhattisgarh has deteriorated in the second wave of infections,” Bhushan said in the press briefing.

“Death numbers being reported in Punjab and Chhattisgarh are cause of extreme concern,” he added.

Maharashtra – India’s worst affected state – accounts for 58% of the active cases and 34% of the total deaths, officials said. They added that around 4.5% of deaths due to the virus are being reported in Punjab.

“Compared to Punjab, active cases and death toll are very low in Delhi and Haryana. It is satisfactory that the share of RT-PCR tests in average daily tests has increased to 76% in Punjab,” Bhushan said.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is scheduled to hold a meeting with health ministers of 11 states and union territories (UTs) to take stock of the situation. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also hold a meeting with chief ministers on Thursday to review the Covid-19 situation in the country.

As a measure to immediately break the chain, the IMA suggested that continuous lockdown be implemented for a limited period, especially in non-essential areas such as cinema halls, cultural and religious venues, sports grounds, etc. It gave a number of suggestions to curb the spike including incorporating private sector family clinics in the vaccination drive to expedite the process and making vaccination certificates compulsory for entering any public place.

“District-level vaccine task force team should be constituted with public, private participation to enforce mass vaccination and monitoring and mitigating the adverse drug events and build confidence. IMA is willing to actively take part in it,” the letter further read.

The medical association said it was concerned about people not following Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, even though the guidelines enforced for the test, trace and treat concept promulgated by the ministry of health was actively implemented across the country to break the chain.

“However due to the emergent complacent, mass gatherings without masks, non-compliance of Covid-19 appropriate behaviours and the deterrent mutations in the virus…Stern implementation and execution of certain pre-emptive efforts will prove the key to contain the fast spreading pandemic,” it said.

The association also reiterated that zero tolerance against non-compliance of Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, augmentation of infrastructure beds and oxygen availability, moral support and enthusiastic engagement of frontline health workers, ensuring adequate health care protective gears support, and strict adherence to evidence-based treatment protocols were the key factors needed at this moment.

“Indian Medical Association assures and places our proactive support of entire man power and infrastructure facilities for the rapid vaccination drive and stands with government during this hour of crisis,” the letter read.

India’s total caseload ON Tuesday stood at 12,686,049. The count of active cases is at 788,223. The recovery rate has dropped to 92.48%, according to data shared by the Union health ministry.



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