Is There An End To This Pandemic?
The Delta variant is spreading rapidly, while more variants are popping up too, making us question, will this pandemic ever end?
The pandemic — a word for which many didn’t know the meaning of last year — became one of the most feared words after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 as one on March 11, 2020. We all frantically googled the meaning of the word, while some started making connections with the Spanish flu, which was also a pandemic that lasted from February 1918 to April 1920.
Our lives turned upside down. Major economies collapsed, while some countries even went into recession. We were asked to adopt new habits, such as wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, staying at home, quarantining ourselves when we show any symptoms, and also, working from home.
It was told that the pandemic can be controlled in a couple of months. India went into a national lockdown in late March 2020, and everything came to a standstill. The nation-wide lockdowns seemed to have worked as India slowly recovered from the pandemic in 2020. But then came the news about the second wave. With the government waiting to relax restrictions to help companies and the people, the second wave was the proof on how we underestimated the effects of the pandemic.
The Delta variant, which was first detected in India last October, has said to be the reason behind the massive second wave of COVID-19 cases in the country. The surge in infections started around mid-March and surged rapidly, touching a peak of over 4 lakh recorded daily cases on 30th April. According to the latest data from the National Health Mission’s Health Management Information System, nearly 3 lakh more deaths were recorded by India in May 2021. This number is 2.5 times higher than India’s official COVID-19 death count for May 2020.
The recent data shared by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that half of India’s COVID-19 deaths since April 2020 took place in just two months, April and May 2021. The data also showed that 41% of total COVID death in April and May in India came from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi. These three logged the highest deaths in this period.
On the other side, when the delta variant was spreading to other countries in March, scientists were working to confirm whether the variants are more dangerous than others in circulation. Some scientists were worried about the variant, with Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said that data from Prof Ravi Gupta’s lab (at the University of Cambridge) suggested the variants, including B.1.617.2, could be more transmissible.
The Government & COVID-19
There were studies which said that the variant was dangerous, while, on the other hands, thousands of people were dying, and didn’t have space for their bodies to be cremated. The same country, which was lauded by other countries for controlling the pandemic effectively in 2020, was now on fire over its inefficient handling of the situation. In March 2021, India’s health minister Harsh Vardan declared the country was “in the endgame” of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the events that followed showed the government was worried about other things.
At February-end, India’s election authorities announced key elections in five states, where 186 million people were eligible to vote for 824 seats. The campaigns commenced in full swing, with no safety protocols and social distancing. In March, the cricket board allowed over 130,000 fans (mostly with no masks), to watch two international cricket games in Gujarat. In less than a month, things began to become worse.
Despite the country accelerating the vaccination drive by administering over 100 million doses in the beginning of April, vaccine shortages were reported. On the other hand, tens and thousands of people were following the footsteps of their leaders to election rallies and attending the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela. According to BBC, experts believe the government appears to have completely dropped the ball on the second wave of infections that was about to hit India.
At The Moment
The cases have declined to a great extent, but we are still not near the end of the pandemic. It looks like the delta variant is here to stay, and we have to be more careful now than ever. According to virologists and epidemiologists, the Delta variant is capable of infecting fully vaccinated people at a greater rate than previous versions, and worries have been raised that they may even spread the virus, writes Reuters. The experts told Reuters that the variant is the fastest, fittest and most formidable version of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 the world has encountered.
In May this year, the U.S. health officials announced that vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most indoor settings. But now, U.S. officials are considering whether to revise mask guidelines for the vaccinated due to worries about the Delta variant. Los Angeles is again requiring masks even among the vaccinated people in indoor public spaces.
Also, the city of Nanjiang in eastern China has been virtually sealed off and residents have been advised to stay indoors after 21 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday in the past 24 hours. Local health authorities told, as mentioned by The Hindustan Times, the genetic sequencing of the virus from the cluster turned out to be the fast-spreading Delta variant. Sharon Peacock, a microbiologist, told Reuters, “The biggest risk to the world at the moment is simply Delta.”
Preparing For The Future
According to the fourth round of the national serological survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), around 67.6% of India’s population and 62% of those who haven’t been vaccinated was found to have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This shows the extent in which the second wave has affected Indians. The survey also said that over 400 million Indians continue to remain vulnerable to COVID-19. So, India is not completely in the clear yet.
The other thing that we have to talk about is the unavailability of vaccines in certain countries. The countries that can afford to vaccinate most of their population were reopening their economy, but the countries that couldn’t get access to vaccines were continued to be affected by the pandemic. But the truth is we wouldn’t be able to control the pandemic until every country gets access to the vaccines.
If one developed country (for example: the U.S.) gets most of its population vaccinated, while other countries developing countries like India are left in the lurch, the pandemic might continue to stay for a while. Chandrakant Lahariya, a doctor based in New Delhi who is also a vaccines, public policy and health systems expert, told CNBC, “This is a reminder that we need to see pandemic challenges as one global community. It reminds us that we need all interventions and vaccines availability as our combined responsibility. Even if this may sound clichéd, ‘no country can be safe till every country is safe’ needs to be repeated till it is understood at every level.”
At the end of the day, the rising COVID-19 Delta cases in one particular country is not that country’s problem alone, but a global problem. There is an end to this pandemic, but the end can only come if we all take this more seriously, and not flout the safety guidelines. Developed countries should also lend a hand to developing, as well as, poor nations, and make sure that they also get equal access to vaccines, medicines and safety equipments. Also, the Indian government should pay more attention to the rising cases, and deploy measures to prevent the third wave.
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