Updated: August 5, 2021 8:02:36 am
In the past four days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released a set of sobering figures on the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline in the country’s caseload, after the second wave peaked on May 9, slowed down considerably in early July because the infection had not abated in Kerala and other pockets in the country. Data now shows that the virus is rearing its head again. On Tuesday, the health ministry reported that the R-value — the rate at which an infected person transmits the disease — has gone beyond the danger threshold of I in seven states and UTs other than Kerala: Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry. Though only 44 districts have a positivity rate above 10 per cent, the fact that the country’s weekly caseload spiked by 7 per cent in the last week of July should warrant a rise in vigilance levels. The Centre has asked states to consider local-level containment strategies in districts witnessing a surge. Their prime objective should be to stop crowds from gathering at busy urban centres — the Delhi government’s crackdown on markets that violated Covid protocols in late June could be a good example to follow.
The uptick in the country’s Covid cases comes at a time when the US, Japan, Southeast Asia and parts of Europe are confronted with a fresh surge. Random changes in the contagion’s genetic code are threatening to undo the progress made in containing the pandemic’s spread. There is, however, enough evidence that the current crop of vaccines, globally in use, blunt the virulence of the new variants, limit the number of people falling gravely ill. Though India has done well to meet its July target of administering 13-crore shots, the country’s Covid challenge demands a quickening of the pace of inoculation. A little more than 55 per cent of people over the age of 60 have received one shot — about 27 per cent have received both doses. This means that a significant number of people, most vulnerable to the lethal ways of the virus, are still unprotected against the pathogen.
The government has maintained that vaccine supply will be ramped up in the next five months. Abiding by this commitment would, of course, be decisive in meeting the year-end goal of inoculating all adult Indians. In the coming weeks, increased supplies could also be crucial in helping state governments frame strategies to use the vaccine more effectively in curbing a potential surge — giving special attention to areas with a high incidence of Covid and priority to people at greater risk.