Mahadeep Singh JamwalIf we traverse pages of corona pandemic since the day, this unpredictable enemy, attracted attention of ‘World Health Organization’ and the Governments world over, the aware community comes to un-debatable conclusion that the countries that best succeeded in curbing spread of the virus were not necessarily those with more resources, but rather those who did not hesitate to implement aggressive measures to contain virus (testing, contact tracing, isolating) or eventually control its spread (restricting mobility or closing businesses) as early as possible.Asian countries were quick to react while Western countries often floundered with basic public health procedure for such pandemics.Our experience of Spanish Flu of 1918, guided us that first wave was mild, many people fell sick, but the mortality remained so low that virtually no quarantine measures were imposed.There was a sense of complacency in societies across the world that the worst of Spanish Flu is over and most people found it tough to absorb that there was a bigger second wave coming.Just by the time the second wave arrived, the infection had reached all the continents of the world and it proved to be extremely deadly. Across India, the death toll was about 20 million within this short span of time. One of the principal reasons why the second wave proved to be so fatal was the fact the science of those times was not advanced enough to even understand what was causing the infection.It was deadliest of all. Similarly, the first phase of corona in India was not as severe as the second phase.We forget the lessons from a century ago and as the situation normalized, parades were held, travel was promoted and festivals were resumed and adopting the principle ‘life must go on’ we moved to free for all. This false positivity proved lethal in the mind. The severity of the second phase was well in domain and within knowledge of Indian Government. The so-called UK variant was detected in September 2020 in India.As revealed by Dr T Jacob John, ex-director of ICMR virology centre India advised India to be on guard and look systematically for variants of concern.In December, the lab consortium was networked but the goal of gene sequencing in 5 percent of all cases was not taken seriously.The labs were not given the necessary funds for additional personnel and reagents.So, India was slow to understand the importance of mutants.WHO Executive Director, Mike Ryan had suggested that lockdowns alone will not eliminate coronavirus. He advised that India must take necessary measures to prevent a second and third wave of infections. But the government took it as ‘Ek Kan Se Sunakar Dusre Kan Se Nikal Dena’. Our lesson from the first wave of COVID-19 earlier this year – in a severe healthcare crisis, failed – and we are practically left to itself.The general standard is 300 hospital beds per lakh population; India has 50 beds per lakh in company with poorest countries of the world. Bangladesh has 80 beds per lakh. By bed availability, India’s is ranking 155 among 167 countries. Meanwhile corona vaccine came as a big relief and the Government jumped in to vaccinate corona front warriors, above 60 years, above 45 years and now above 18 years without strategic planning.Vaccines have two purposes: healthcare’s purpose is to prevent deaths, severe disease, hospitalization and the need for ICU beds.The purpose of public health is to reduce the burden of disease by population-based vaccination.Even if we get vaccinated, there is no guarantee that it will be effective beyond a few months, as the virus is already showing the ability to mutate (alter its structure).Former American President, Donald Trump, on the advice of his medical fraternity, is rightly saying that more than vaccines to stop coronavirus, it is medicines for treating coronavirus which is more important in short run.Vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases.Vaccines reduce risks of getting diseases by working with our body’s natural defenses to build protection. When we get a vaccine, our immune system responds to it.The country’s needs in vaccine volumes never appear to be calculated and we distribute the vaccine and other medicines to more than 100 countries as a political game at the cost of the domestic population without realizing the production capacity as a result we are handicapped and the sufferer is the domestic population.The cost of political gaming is now proving to be heavy for the population of the country.Health ought to be non-partisan above politics and all political parties should have been on board for decisions on health that does not become visible.The Government was making castles in the air so far the oxygen plants were concerned and as a result SOS because of non availability of oxygen attracted the other countries to land in India with oxygen facilities and health related requirements.The planning costs nothing, when a strategy and tactics are defined, practicalities can be enumerated and taken up one by one but we missed the most opportune time and future generations will never issue clean chit for having missed the best opportunity.Concluding we have to admit that there is no peace with an unpredictable enemy and we have to look forward to measures already in place i.e., staying home, wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, regular hand washing, fumigation and to go for vaccination.
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