India must not let its guard down against Covid-19

India’s support for global initiatives ensuring fair and affordable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics worldwide is crucial.

| Updated: 16 January, 2024 3:36 pm IST
TNI Illustration by Manjul Prakash

The recent warning by the Chinese health authorities about a potential rebound of COVID-19 cases in January due to the continuous importation of the JN.1 variant strain, a decline in domestic influenza, and a decrease in population immunity should serve as a wake-up call for India. The warning emphasizes the ongoing battle against Covid-19 and the need to avoid complacency to prevent dire consequences.

India has demonstrated commendable success in containing the second wave of Covid-19, which peaked in April-May 2020. This success can be attributed to the timely implementation of a nationwide lockdown, increased testing and vaccination efforts, and the public’s adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour. However, the looming threat of a potential third wave cannot be ignored, considering the emergence and spread of new variants and strains of the virus worldwide.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India has identified 827 cases of the JN.1 sub-variant, primarily concentrated in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala. Notably, the JN.1 sub-variant is believed to be more transmissible and less susceptible to vaccine-induced immunity than its predecessors. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as a variant of concern, urging countries to enhance their surveillance and genomic sequencing capacities.

While acknowledging India’s brilliant handling of the pandemic, it’s crucial not to succumb to complacency post-COVID-19 situation. The nation faces several challenges, including low vaccination coverage, weak health infrastructure, high population density, and socioeconomic disparities. Additionally, the potential for co-infections and co-morbidities during the winter season adds another layer of complexity.

Drawing insights from the experiences of other nations, including China, the UK, and the US, India needs to remain proactive in its approach. Ensuring a proactive stance in addressing challenges, India’s immediate and decisive action is vital to thwart a potential third wave. So the country must prioritize testing, contact tracing, and isolation protocols while maintaining a state of preparedness and vigilance. Accelerating the vaccination drive, especially for vulnerable and high-risk groups, ensuring sufficient vaccine supply, equitable distribution, and securing access to essential medical resources like medicines and oxygen are imperative. Public education on adhering to COVID-appropriate behaviour remains equally critical.

Aligning policies with global and regional efforts is essential for India’s continued success in combating COVID-19. Collaborating with entities like the WHO and other international and regional organizations facilitates information sharing, resource pooling, and adoption of best practices. India’s support for global initiatives ensuring fair and affordable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics worldwide is crucial. Contributing to global research and innovation to develop new tools and strategies against COVID-19 is imperative.

India’s resilience and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic deserve recognition. The nation has demonstrated leadership and commitment to the global health and humanitarian response. However, India must not rest on its laurels or lose momentum in the fight against Covid-19. Urgency, responsibility, and solidarity should guide India’s actions to prevent a potential third wave and safeguard its people and progress.

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