As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic lashes the country resulting in surge in positive cases, the Centre has unveiled a slew of measures to contain the spread and bring succour to affected people
–Rajgopal, New Delhi
With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting Bharat, it looks as if we’re back to square one. Really? No, today we’re way better prepared than the last time.
Newspaper pages, social media posts, TVs and websites are full with news about the latest wave of COVID-19. And no surprises, most of them are gloomy.Some of the pictures will really break your heart and haunt one for too long. People desperately running around for some medicine, for oxygen cylinders for their loved ones, for hospital beds. The pictures of unending trauma are everywhere to see.
Till the first week of April everything looked fine. It seemed as if we’d defeated COVID-19, probably forever. Daily new cases of the virus had gone below 50,000. Excluding Maharashtra and Kerala,cases were in few thousands. Bharat’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, was reporting new cases of just about 100.But, everything changed after that.
For the first time we’ve surpassed 3,00,000 new cases per day. On Wednesday, 3,15,802 new cases were reported, highest ever in any country. More than 2000 people had lost their lives in a span of 24 hours, 2102 to be precise.It’s like waking up to some bad dream and realising you’re not dreaming.
There was a sense of disbelief in the top echelons of the bureaucracy. It was hard for them to come to terms with the reality which has literally changed overnight. The soul of the country looked traumatised, again.Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled up the strings. All across the country, arrangements were made to increase the supply of the medical oxygen as many were found to be gasping for breath. Pharma supplies ramped up to take care of the new reality. PM Modi called an emergency meeting of the chief ministers and deliberated on the steps to be taken to check the new reality.
It did not stop here. The Prime Minister had meetings with the doctors, pharma executives and the vaccine manufacturers. All in a span of a few days.
First and foremost, it was ensured that there was adequate production of medical oxygen and all supply bottlenecks were removed.And finally Tuesday evening, the prime minister addressed the nation. The address had a healing touch. He reassured the nation that although the situation was grim, the country would successfully tackle it.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported from Kerala in January last year. A 20-year-old student in Thrissur in Kerala reported to a local hospital on January 27, 2020. She had returned from Wuhan in China on January 23. The National Institute of Virology in Pune confirmed it to be a case of COVID-19. On February 20 last year, she was discharged from the hospital after testing negative for the virus.
Reports were coming in about the spread of the virus in Wuhan in China. But, the Chinese Government suppressed the news in connivance with the World Health Organisation.State Governments were alerted to make arrangements to check the spread of the virus. The Union government set up a national team to coordinate with the States. And finally in March last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown of three weeks.
The Centre has made everyone above 18 eligible for vaccination from May 1. Also, the State Governments have been given autonomy to procure vaccines on their own. The Government, through different channels like DRDO, HAL, etc., has been going the extra mile to ensure the supply of life saving drugs and equipment
It was no easy call. The country came to a halt within hours. The shops were shut. The economy came to a grinding halt. As the prime minister indicated later, the issue of livelihoods of millions of people weighted on his mind. But saving lives was equally important. The period of lockdown was used to ramp up the healthcare infrastructure. The period of lockdown was extended and finally the gradual opening of the country started.
The disease was unknown so the fear was high. Scientists across the globe were working overnight to create some vaccine for the virus.Bharat was not behind. If anything, it was way ahead in the race. Two Bharatiya vaccines were authorised for emergency use: Covishield, manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, developed and manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.
Prime Minister Modi visited three vaccine developers in the country in November last year. He reviewed the preparations for the vaccine rollout. It was a proud moment for the country when Bharat started the world’s largest vaccination drive against COVID-19 on January 16 this year. To start with, frontline workers were given the priority in vaccination as they were the first respondents in the COVID-19 crisis. It included healthcare workers, doctors, paramedics, sanitation workers and security forces.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The Union government Tuesday provided monetary help of Rs 3,000 crore to Serum Institute and Rs 1,500 crore to Bharat Biotech for capacity expansion.To accelerate the vaccination drive, the Union Government also provided emergency use authorisation to foreign vaccines which have been cleared by the regulatory bodies in their respective countries. Bharat Biotech will be manufacturing 700 million doses of the vaccine per annum. At least three other vaccines are in the pipeline in the country.
The efforts have resulted in Bharat becoming the fastest country to administer 1,32,330,644 doses of the vaccine. Multiple reports have suggested that the vaccines administered in Bharat, Covishield and Covaxin, are highly effective in containing the virus.
The Prime Minister was not only battling the virus at home. He was also battling the rumours and fake news spread by the opposition parties.In the first week of January, when the government was gearing up to start the vaccination drive, Samajwadi Party president and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav raised many eyebrows when he claimed in a Press conference that the vaccine was a BJP’s vaccine and he wouldn’t trust it. He also said he would be waiting for the BJP Government to go before he would take his vaccine.
Akhilesh Yadav was not alone in issuing a reckless and irresponsible statement. Chhattisgarh Congress leader and State Health Minister T S Singh Deo criticised the Government for putting pressure on the autonomous bodies for clearing the vaccines. The vaccines were cleared after the due process but it didn’t convince the opposition. Or they pretended not to be convinced.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a mass campaign to overcome the vaccine hesitancy. People were requested to convince others to get vaccinated. The Prime Minister got himself vaccinated and also put the picture out to convince others to get vaccinated. But many opposition leaders still decided to play politics.
Rahul Gandhi, former Congress president and MP from Wayanad, has been attacking every single move of the Government without fail. But he goes silent when asked what’s his contribution to the fight against COVID-19.On many occasions, Rahul Gandhi has been caught spreading fake news. The most recent being news about scrapping of insurance cover of Corona warriors and the export of oxygen to foreign countries.
Both the news items were retracted by the respective news organisations which published them. But, a full 24 hours after they were retracted, Rahul Gandhi shared the news on his social media platforms. His sister, Priyanka Vadra, was not far behind. She too shared the fake news.
Lackadaisical Attitude of State Govts
When the country had nearly tamed the virus, two States, Maharashtra and Kerala, were contributing more than 70 percent of the new cases. Maharashtra’s individual contribution stood around 50 percent. The State ruled by the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP, was embroiled in massive corruption charges. Also, the State machinery was busy with settling scores with personalities who either opposed the State Government or were critical of its policies.
Rahul Gandhi has been caught spreading fake news. The most recent being news about scrapping of insurance cover of Corona warriors and the export of oxygen to foreign countries
Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was booked in fake TRP scam and also an old case of suicide, which was closed after investigation, was reopned. The Bombay High Court came down heavily on the state government.
Another opposition leader, Mamata Banerjee, who has been the Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2011, has not attended any review meeting about COVID-19 in the last three months.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been missing in action at every critical juncture. He was not only missing in action in Delhi but also encouraged the protesting farmers to continue their protest against the three progressive farm laws passed by the Union government. When the situation worsened further in Delhi, he requested the Union government in a Tweet to take care of the city.
The Prime Minister’s Tuesday address to the nation was critical as it reassured the country that the situation might be looking grim for the time being but it would be overcome soon.
He ruled out nationwide lockdown saying both the people’s as well as economy’s health were top priorities for his Government. He also requested the State Governments to resort to lockdown only as the last measure. The Prime Minister also emphasised how the Government machinery was tackling the situation. Of all the important measures taken, the Government has made everyone above 18 eligible for vaccination from May 1. Also, the State Governments have been given autonomy to procure vaccines on their own. The Union Government, through different channels like DRDO, HAL, etc., has been going the extra mile to ensure the supply of life saving drugs and equipment. The Ministry of Defence has opened up its hospitals across the country for civilian use and DRDO has set up multiple temporary hospitals to take care of COVID positive patients.
Three most reliable medical experts, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, Narayana Health Chairman Dr Devi Shetty and Medanta Chairman Dr Naresh Trehan, Wednesday held a joint Press conference about COVID-19. They reassured the people that the country would soon overcome this crisis. And advised the people to follow COVID compliant behaviour.