Suspension of all non-essential activities (of little or no immediate economic repercussions) involving any kind of congregations in closed spaces, along with very strict blanket enforcement of COVID-19 appropriate protocols and behaviour in whatever remaining permitted socio-economic activities is a need of the hour. Else, we are staring in the face at national distress if numbers spin out of control or even a national disaster if we get more virulent strain(s) due to a much higher & longer second wave.
A vaccination roadmap following all precautions and strict police action against rampant 'covidiocy' is suggested to prevent future waves and outbreaks.
Only the precautions during work/travel and Testing-Tracing-Containment protocols can control the speed of the spread of this raging second wave. It is a myth that just mass vaccination without much precaution can control this surge within a month or so.
We are already seeing tell-tale signs of mutant strains of coronavirus wreaking havoc in Maharashtra and spreading fast to neighbouring states. KEM Hospital, a nodal centre for COVID-19 management in Mumbai is already reporting 30% of all Mumbai/Pune hospitalisations of patients aged between 12-30 while people aged between 35-55 is forming the largest chunk. Add to this the fact that most cases are beginning with gastrointestinal disorders and patients even after 5-7 days of mild symptoms slip very fast into the severe zone of hospitalisation with oxygen/ventilator support.
Worst of all, the new strain(s) although is spreading faster has shown no signs of less virulence. To stem this spread, besides aggressive testing-tracing-isolation and severely restricting any non-essential activities, "Covid Negative" and "Vaccination (in a month or two)" certificates should be made compulsory for any travel/commute including those going to places of work/study/exams as soon as possible.
All open-air super-spreader congregations should be brought under stringent COVID-19 appropriate protocols. If at all we fail to implement all this at the earliest, we are staring at 2-4 Lakh cases per day nationwide in May.
Amid such zooming numbers, I reiterate that the biggest danger is that of a more contagious or pathogenic rare mutation sequence. If we let the infection numbers spin out of control in India with our cavalier attitude and behaviour, there is a good chance that 3.25-6.5 crores of people will get infected and the second wave can last up to 4-6 months or even more.
The elephant in the room amid this conundrum is the issue of openly running schools in many states and the impending board and competitive exams on which even the PM recently discussed under "Pariksha Pe Charcha" as if all was hunky-dory.
I unequivocally urge the government to put all education and exams back to online mode, while the board/competitive exams if they must be taken at exam centres be "deferred" till we are able to vaccinate the examinees and most of the 35+ population in 3 months or so, a delay which can be covered by shorter winter and summer holidays next academic year.
This is vital as not only does this new mutant viciously attack children, but they also carry back the infection to largely as yet untouched and thus more vulnerable middle-class families.
To achieve vaccination volumes, the government should immediately involve the private sector in the vaccination drive too, just like it was done for private RT-PCR testing. Let the private sector charge Rs 1200-1500 per jab of which Rs 300 be taken by the government to further fund and scale up the free vaccination enabling manufacturers with healthy operating profits for rapid scaling-up of capacity and getting more players in.
In Conclusion, I can only say that... "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it!" and "We should make hay while the Sun is still shining!" by acting proactively and getting ahead of the curve.
Fighting a pandemic is like competing in a 5-day test match session by session and not going all guns blazing as in a 20-20/ODI match. We are currently on a sticky wicket under overcast conditions. Cautious pre-emptive batting with anticipation is the only way out, for now, keeping in mind the importance of teamwork for final victory, instead of this recent bickering between the Central and State governments.
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