As the threat of a Covid-19 wave looms large over the country for a second consecutive year, Sudhir Mehta, the president of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture, has strongly opposed imposition of any lockdown and asked for better coordination over booster doses. Mehta, while speaking to The Indian Express also spoke about how panic should be fought at all levels. Excerpts:
We are staring at another Covid-19 wave, courtesy the Omicron variant. How do you see the situation developing in the coming weeks?
I guess the third wave has already started, or is at least about to. Cases in Mumbai are doubling and the same is expected in Pune in the next week or so. Given the high rate of transmission, every single person in the country is bound to get infected.
However, medical evidence talks of Omicron being a milder variant and we need to put an end to panic. The numbers are going to rise exponentially, but this time, we are better prepared in terms of infrastructure and vaccines. However, what I fear is that we will run out of healthcare professionals as they would end up getting infected. To start with, we need to stop them from going to government-run facilities to get booster shots and allow them get their doses where they can. Secondly, genome sequencing should be done away with as that only results in money being spent. Let us accept that Omicron will be the prevalent variant now and treat patients with mild symptoms at home. Also quarantines time should be reduced from 10 to 7 days.
The health minister of the state has talked about a lockdown if things go out of hand. Do we need a lockdown to control the wave?
The idea of a lockdown to fight the spread should be done away with. Factories which need to run should be allowed to operate while allowing people who can work from home to do so. Let us accept that the wave is here and let us do everything possible to smoothen it.
The government has allowed administration of booster doses from January 10. How do you think we can streamline this process?
If the government has decided to allow booster shots, why is it not being given from today itself? Also, with vaccines available in plenty, we should allow those who can pay for it to buy it and get it administered. There is no need to ration it. The quicker we administer the booster doses, the better it is for the country.
Should malls, restaurants and multiplexes be allowed to function?
Of course. Entry at these places can be regulated for those who have not got their vaccines. At present, very few people are not vaccinated. Instead of creating a situation of panic, we should be cautious.