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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Prevent the surge

States must be alert to potential super-spreader events, use vaccine effectively

By: Editorial |
Updated: July 15, 2021 7:55:30 am
Micro-containment strategies have been the responsibility of state governments for more than a year.

The Covid data of the past two weeks is a sobering pointer to the persistence of the pandemic’s second wave in several pockets of the country. The positivity rate remains more than 10 per cent in at least 37 districts of the Northeast, the infection graph has been rising in Kerala since June 27, and new hotspots have emerged in Maharashtra. At 5.5 per cent, last week’s decline in the country’s caseload was the lowest since the second wave peaked on May 9. There are concerns that crowded markets and tourist centres could incubate another countrywide surge of the disease. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi added his voice to messages of caution from the ICMR and IMA by flagging violations of Covid-appropriate behaviour at hill stations. His advice on being alert to early signals of a possible third wave must not be ignored by local administrations and the people at large.

Micro-containment strategies have been the responsibility of state governments for more than a year. Most states have, unfortunately, interpreted this remit in a narrow sense to impose lockdowns or similar emergency measures when faced with a rapid surge in cases. They have rarely summoned the resolve to act decisively against potential super-spreading events or censure business centres that pay short shrift to Covid protocols. Amongst the few noteworthy steps in this respect is the Delhi government’s move to shut down markets where people do not observe physical distancing norms. The Uttarakhand government has also done well to call off the Kanwar Yatra which occasions a heavy movement of pilgrims in the country’s northern states — the state was criticised for going ahead with the Kumbh Mela just before the second wave. Neighbouring Uttar Pradesh has, however, displayed less pandemic awareness, if not outright denialism. Its decision to press on with the yatra “with restrictions” has invited the Supreme Court’s intervention. Taking suo motu notice of the PM’s warning and this newspaper’s reports on the conflicting positions of the two state governments on the Kanwar Yatra, the Court said that it was “disturbed” at “disparate political voices” on Covid safety. It has asked the Centre and the two states to file a response by Friday.

The Centre’s modified vaccination strategy that came into effect on June 21 allows states more leeway to plan local-level interventions. With advance information on the shots available to them, states can now plan vaccine allocation amongst districts in a manner that can potentially check the virus from turning lethal. Maharashtra, for instance, can intensively target districts that have become hubs of the virus in the past two weeks. Vaccines, of course, are still scarce but such an approach could get a fillip from August with manufacturers expected to ramp up production and more vaccines coming into the government’s basket. In the coming weeks and months, India’s Covid trajectory will depend on the creativity and resolve displayed by the states.

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