Grim Covid situation

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THE Covid situation in the country is becoming grimmer by the day. The daily tally is on the way to touch two lakh with Maharashtra recording the highest number of over sixty thousand cases. Similarly, the deaths have begun to spike exponentially in India, easily passing the numbers recorded during last autumn’s peak. This is burdening the country’s medical infrastructure. Hospital beds are running short and so are vaccine doses. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray  on Tuesday announced severe, curfew-like restrictions on public movement for the next 15 days across the state. Thackeray, however, stopped short of imposing a complete lockdown. All establishments, public places, activities and services have been closed while the essential services have been exempted. Apart from Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are also recording their highest number of cases.
At the national level, there is so far no plan to go for another lockdown. The government is conscious of the havoc wrought by the lockdown last year. Lakhs of people lost their jobs as economy contracted by one-fourth. But as is apparent now, the government has  been caught unawares by the devastating third wave, much like it was during first two waves. The country had got a reprieve during winter with daily cases going drastically down but the period was not used to accelerate vaccination. Instead the government chose to donate vaccines to other countries to increase the country’s diplomatic clout. As a result, the vaccination was slow to pick up in the country creating conditions for the third wave. Although the government has halted all vaccine exports, many states have only a few days’ supply left in stock. Now the union government is trying to make up for the lost time by approving more foreign vaccines for emergency use. India wants Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to seek licence for their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible. Besides, the centre has given approval to Russian vaccine Sputnik V. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has said it expects over 50 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine to be manufactured in India by this summer.  Centre will assess the first 100 beneficiaries of such foreign vaccines for seven days for safety outcomes before they are rolled out for further immunization programme within the country. With these vaccines the union government will be in a position to expand inoculation program in the country.
Going forward, together with vaccination, both the union government and the state governments have to also ensure a strict implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure in public life. The people have to be forced to wear masks and observe precautions and those not following the SOP should be subjected to a penal action. This alone will make people engage in responsible behaviour and obviate the need for a fresh lockdown.

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