EVEN AS vulnerable communities suffered the impact of Covid-19 as well as extreme heat, additional stressors like cyclones needed to be handled with a concrete back-up plan, said Prof Dileep Mavalankar, Director, Indian Institute of Public Health.
He said there was a need to ensure that all Covid centres were safe, besides having a back-up plan for oxygen and other vital supplies during disruptions caused due to Cyclone Tauktae.
Prof Mavalankar said while the impact of a cyclone could lead to flooding and power disruptions, it was essential to ensure availability of oxygen and other essential medicine, food and clean water for Covid patients.
There was also a need to prepare for cyclone-affected people – injuries, drowning, diarrhea and other infectious diseases that are caused by water contamination, he added.
Prof Mavalankar was addressing a webinar on ‘Strengthening preparedness and response to extreme heat through heat action plans and cool roofs’, on Monday. It was organised by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Natural Resources Defense Council and other partners.
He pointed out that heat was a “silent killer” and took a significant toll every year. “We do not have data of 2020-21 and not much is known about the effect of heat waves on Covid cases, but heat may put more demand on heart, lungs and kidneys,” he told The Indian Express.
Talking about the link between heat wave and Covid-19, he said extreme heat wave conditions might exacerbate and introduce additional challenges for individuals, health workers, health facilities and communities in the management of Covid-19.
He said severe heat waves in Indian cities could endanger lives and the health of people living in poorly ventilated, hot and crowded homes, low-income urban slum residents, those with poor options for self-quarantine or personal hygiene. Many people, who were most vulnerable to Covid-19, were also vulnerable to extreme heat, including older people, those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness or diabetes), homeless people and outdoor workers, he added.
Prof Mavalankar also said Indian cities should prepare for heat waves along with the pandemic, and that each district should have an action plan to monitor total hospital admissions (Covid and non-Covid) as well as deaths caused by heat stroke or Covid-19 or even other factors. Cyclone casualties should also be monitored, he added.
Earlier, Dr V Thiruppugazh, additional secretary, NDMA, gave an overview of action on heat plans while Dr S C Bhan, scientist at India Meteorological Department, spoke about the role of early warning systems in preparedness.