By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, May 29,m 2021: Independent India perhaps faces the worst ever crisis with the outbreak of the second phase of Covid-19 pandemic with hundreds of thousands of people getting afflicted by a deathly virus every day. Their suffering is quite visible in hospitals, at homes, even in crematoriums. Hence the top most national priority before the government is beating back the second wave of the viral pandemic by providing every medical facility and resources needed breaking the chain of transmission, moving towards universal vaccination as early as possible and ensuring relief to every suffering family.

A country’s performance during such pandemic can be gauged from three factors such as the containment measures, recovery rate through proper medical care and number of deaths due to the deadly virus. In the first wave of Covid-19, the total number of cases from March 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021 was 1.20 crore approximately, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. The fatality percentage was 1.34 per cent. In contrast, in the second wave, within a short span of 49 days – from April 1 to May 19 – the total number of Covid cases reported was 1.31 crore and the fatality percentage was 1.10 per cent. Deaths per lakh population in India was 21, whereas it was 181 in USA, 166 in France, 195 in UK, 209 in Italy, 171 in Spain and 106 in Germany.

The second wave of Covid-19, however, appears to have come as a political turning point got the Narendra Modi government, which did not anticipate the scale of the crisis, with close to 3.5 lakh cases a day a fortnight back. India, considered as a rising power by the world, has taken a hit and now the country is seen as desperately needing support to tide over the crisis. The second wave is a “top-up” crisis. The State is seen as weak, unable to even provide citizens with the oxygen required to breathe. The rallies in West Bengal and the green signal to the Kumbh Mela undoubtedly added to huge Covid numbers.

However, the cases are on decline in the country. The fresh corona virus infections reported across the country saw a decline in the last 24 hours with 1,86,364 people testing positive, according to the latest data by Union health ministry. This is the lowest number of new cases recorded in India in the last 44 days. The cumulative caseload now stands at 2,75,55,457. The daily positivity rate has come down to 9% and has been lower than 10% for four straight days now. The weekly positivity rate stands at 10.42%.

Good news is that India will be able to give one crore vaccines a day in a few weeks with due preparation, NITI Aayog member (Health) VK Paul said adding that the country reported 43 lakh doses in a day so far and it will go up to 73 lakh in next three weeks. Paul further had said the country continues to note stabilisation of the second wave in most parts, both by the number of cases and positivity rate.

India is not new to devastating pandemics and epidemics. The country had a fair share of past epidemics and pandemics in the past. As a country with a long history, we have survived these epidemics. Though we’ve lived with greater stability and security since then, COVID 19 has rudely reminded us of our weakness in the wake of such a deadly virus spreading like never before catastrophe.

During 1817 and 1920, the world was ravaged in quick succession by cholera, the plague, and influenza. Disease and death spread across continents, carried by links of trade and colonialism. But humans did not have the genetics to survive the ravages of pandemics like the Bubonic Plague, syphilis, cholera, scarlet fever, leprosy, smallpox, polio, meningitis, AIDS and the many marauding pandemics. About 70 million people perished globally – more fatalities than from the never-ending warfare of this era. In these desperate times of lockdowns and shutdowns, we need to have a fresh look into these past episodes for solutions, hope, and a plan of action toward the current fiasco in the making.

Lessons have to be learnt from the past experience. Though clearly catastrophic in India, memories of these diseases have been fuzzy by the impressive legacy of the national movement. History is full of incidents of the British government’s insensitiveness, which resorted to harsh measures to combat the diseases. The resentment fuelled Indians’ desire for self-government. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sardar Patel and even Gandhi in South Africa gained prominence and popularity by aiding pandemic relief efforts and mobilizing opinion against the British.

Mankind finally triumphed because of science that which enabled us to overcome our genetic incapacities in fighting diseases. The vaccine for smallpox is the story of the genesis of the control of pandemics. The vaccination drive in the country is still ongoing, despite shortages of doses as complained by some states.
India began administration of COVID-19 vaccines on 16 January 2021 and as of 27 May 2021, India has administered 205,720,660 doses overall, including first and second doses of the currently-approved vaccines.

Covaxin production is projected to increase from 1.5 crore doses per month to 10 crore doses by September. Similarly, Covishield is projected to increase its production up to 10 crore doses per month by August. This, along with Sputnik and many other vaccines in the pipeline, implies that the government has a clear roadmap for the production of 216 crore vaccines before the end of this year.

Vaccinating all eligible Indians in the earliest is undoubtedly a daunting task. But it if for the Modi led central government and state governments to take pro-active measures to achieve the target.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of