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Pause – Repeat

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All the hard work that went into bringing down Covid-19 cases to extremely manageable levels has been undone in the space of a week. India’s positive cases and, more importantly, fatalities are skyrocketing, once again. At the same time, there is no way that the old methods of containing the virus, such as total lockdowns, can be used anymore. The ‘opening up’ and the improved situation have made people almost entirely negligent about the essentials of wearing masks and maintaining social distance. The economic imperative of getting cinema halls, malls, restaurants and hotels going again has not been implemented responsibly enough. Religious gatherings, protest movements and election rallies now promise to become the super-spreaders of the coming days.

It is the opinion of those that have managed the pandemic in the past year that the answer lies in exponentially speeding up the vaccination process and enforcing highly localised containment zones. At the same time, responsible behaviour by the citizens can do wonders in preventing the spread. The protocols have to be followed and enforced strictly. Being populist, as in easing restrictions at the Kumbh Mela, is certainly not the way to go.

The present vaccination process takes, at least, two and a half months to provide immunity. If the entire country was vaccinated today, the benefits would be felt that many days later. It is just as possible for a person to get infected during that period. The good thing is that the most exposed sections – the health and frontline workers – as well as the most vulnerable – the elderly and medically compromised – are being inoculated at a good pace. This should bring down fatalities. There is still the problem of vaccine hesitancy owing to the stubborn belief of some in the numerous conspiracy theories and fake news making the rounds. Such people are not only a danger to themselves but also others.

Having got into the swing of things and identified the likely glitches, it is being recommended that vaccinations be opened up to everybody above the age of eighteen. This can begin in areas that have high infection rates. If required, more resources can be put into the recording of data so that the system does not get overwhelmed. Camps should be set up in residential areas, villages, even protest sites, to expand the footprint. The goal, according to experts, is covering a minimum of seventy percent of the population. All must rise above petty and political differences to cooperate in the effort.