Although the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths has gone down in India over earlier highs, there can be no place for complacency among the people. This has been seen in other countries, too, but the virus has hit back with new variants that are more infectious, going completely out of control again. In India, too, while the news seems to be good in many states and UTs, the epicentres of the pandemic – Maharashtra and Kerala – are seeing a resurgence. In fact, the Mayor of Mumbai has had to warn that, unless people continue to observe strict precautions, she could be forced to enforce a lockdown again. She has even taken the message to the streets, personally, in a desperate bid to attract attention to the danger.
Considering the fact that India is fully into opening up, especially in the most impacted sectors of the economy that require social gatherings, it would be an unmitigated disaster if closures have to be enforced again. It would seem that the complacency among the people is fuelled by the seeming ‘herd immunity’ that has developed and the availability of vaccines. It must be realised, however, that while the first is unproven, the vaccination drive at the present rate will take over two years to immunise the nation’s population.
The only alternative, therefore, is for the Central and State Governments to ramp up vaccination at a much greater pace. It has been seen that a significant number among those eligible for vaccination are not turning up. It should be made clear that, although the drive requires voluntary involvement, not having been vaccinated could render persons ineligible for a number of activities, including at the work place. This would not be discrimination as public safety is of paramount importance.
The decision makers must also consider that even as there are unwilling participants hampering the process of achieving the required level of immunity, there are many eager to be vaccinated. Should not a process be introduced to reach them? When the process of vaccinating the general public begins, it would also require substantially increasing the outreach – the present interfaces are by no means enough. Also, there will come a time when vaccines will have to be made available in the market. All this is necessary as two years is too long a time, particularly when the virus could very well make a comeback.