To defeat the microscopic nemesis called the Corona virus, which has made the whole world go topsy-turvy since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic back in December 2019, India has been grappling with the spread of this disease with all its might. The first wave of COVID-19 was contained with utmost perfection and the entire globe praised India for the same. India became one of the world leaders to manufacture a vaccine endemic to it, which is the Hyderabad based Bharat- Biotech’s COVAXIN. Another vaccine, AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD is also being produced by the Pune- based Serum Institute of India.
The first phase of the vaccination drive focused on inoculation of all the frontline workers- doctors, nurses, others from the medical field, police personnel, paramilitary forces, sanitation workers and disaster management volunteers. The next phase of rollout, which began on March 1, involved any healthcare or frontline worker who was not able to get the jab during the first phase, all residents over 60 years of age and anyone between the ages of 45-60 with comorbidities. Using technology at its best, the registration process for getting inoculated was made possible through the Arogya Setu and COWIN apps. The third phase, beginning on April 1, covered all citizens over the age of 45.
In the wake of the worsening second wave of the pandemic, the next and liberalized phase of inoculation began from May 1st which made everyone over the age of 18 eligible to take the shot. This is currently being carried on. During the phases involving the older age groups, India witnessed a poor turnout of citizens who were willing to get vaccinated. As a result, millions of doses were wasted. One of the prime reasons for this was many politically motivated individuals and opposition parties’ members triggering paranoia among the masses using misinformation as their tool. On the other hand, some states like Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, before the start crores liberalized phase, had announced that they would begin with it a little later in the month, due to supply issues.
Apart from administering COVAXIN and COVISHIELD, India began using the Russian Sputnik V on 14th May, with its first dose administered in Hyderabad. Soon, India will commence production of Sputnik V on its own. As of now, 18.2 crore of vaccine doses have been administered in India and 4.05 crore have been fully vaccinated with both doses. This makes 3% of the Indian population fully vaccinated to reduce the severity of infection if any.
To contain the spread amid the second wave, many states are under a lockdown. The Kerala government announced its ongoing lockdown to be extended till May 23rd as test positivity rates continue to remain high. The Jammu and Kashmir administration has extended the curfew in place till May 24th. It was imposed on April 29th. Haryana has also extended the state lockdown till May 24th with even more stringent curbs to be imposed. The partial lockdown which was imposed in Jharkhand on April 22nd has been extended to May 27th with more restrictions. The Uttar Pradesh government has also extended the curfew which was in place till 7 am on May 24th. Maharashtra, the worst-hit state has extended its lockdown-like restrictions till 7 am, 1st June. The lockdown at the national capital, which is being extended every week from April 19th, will now be in place till 5 am, May 24th. Himachal Pradesh will see a curfew till May 26th. On 15th May, Saturday, West Bengal went into a lockdown right after Eid-ul-Fitr till May 30th to curb the augmenting spread in the state.
As of 17th May, 6.00 pm, the official number of active cases of COVID-19 in India was 35,16,997. On the other hand, the number of individuals who were discharged was 2,11,74,076. And, the total number of deaths had reached 2,74,390.
Amidst the devastating second wave, India is also experiencing an ongoing crisis of liquid medical oxygen supply to hospitals. Many premier hospitals across the country from the Goa Medical College Hospital to Jaipur Golden and Batra hospitals in New Delhi have had their own set of problems about the same. The honourable high courts of the country had taken suo moto cognizance of the crisis and continue to do their part. It is a notable fact that the production of LMO is not the problem; the crux is the transportation and supply of the same.
To solve this issue, the Central Government initiated the services of the Oxygen Express trains for the transportation of medical oxygen across various parts of the nation. As per the Indian Railways, each tanker of the Oxygen Express train carries 16 tonnes of LMO and continues to transport life. So far, over 9, 440 MT of LMO has been delivered across India on these trains.
In another remarkable feat achieved by India to defeat the novel Coronavirus, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has successfully produced the anti-COVID drug 2- deoxy-D-Glucose (2-DG). Its first batch was released on Monday, 17th May by Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved this oral drug for emergency use to be administered on moderate to severe COVID-19 patients. This drug is expected to expedite the recovery of hospitalized patients and reduce supplemental oxygen dependence.
As per government sources, 43,800 ventilators were delivered to states and union territories across the nation after the pandemic hit India and the PM Cares fund was set up. The PM Cares fund has helped more than triple the number of ventilators available. Nevertheless, complete utilization of the critical care machines cannot be seen with ventilators reported to be lying idle in locked rooms in states like Rajasthan and Punjab. Along with this, by the end of December 2020 itself, India had become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, which is a crucial tool of defence against infectious diseases for healthcare workers.
With the surge in cases, the testing laboratories all across India are under unprecedented pressure. To diminish the same, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in early May, talked about the reduction of RT- PCR tests are taken to determine whether one is infected with the virus or not. As per the latest testing guidelines, it was announced that if an individual is seen to have salient symptoms similar to COVID-19, then he/she shall be considered a suspect without taking the RT- PCR test. Apart from this, due to the mutating nature of the virus, many patients with symptoms are now testing negative.
From vaccines to medicines, all provisions to stay guarded against the inimical virus have been made. Now, it is high time that India comes together as one to emerge victoriously. The politicians, especially, need to rise above petty politics and cease to use people’s lives and a national emergency for political leverage. Rather than pointing fingers at each other, they need to work together, keeping aside all their differences for now.
Even an average Indian citizen needs to understand the grim situation and take self-responsibility to break the chain. Wear your masks, get vaccinated, and trust your doctors and scientists. Educate other people, and stop venturing out in open without a valid reason. Remember, no political party or leader will come to your house and make you wear a mask, rather than blaming someone else, try and fulfil your duty as a responsible citizen. Protect yourself, protect the nation.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author