As the second wave of Covid-19 infections sweeps across India and efforts are underway to bring the worrying situation under control, experts have flagged concerns that the scale of the surge could have been prevented.
At a panel discussion on ‘India’s way through the second wave’, organised by Ashoka University, Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director of Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington and New Delhi, said that the second wave was not avoidable. “However, the scale of the surge could have been prevented,” he said. “Our lack of preparedness was avoidable,” said Dr Laxminarayan and also expressed concern over the attitude of dismissing science during the pandemic.
“By not giving people accurate information, we have not allowed people to self-protect,” Dr Laxminarayan said. He also spoke of a soon-to-be-released study that indicated co-morbid conditions were the significant driver of mortality due to Covid-19 among Indians in the 40-70 age group, as compared to other countries. In India, the 40-70 year age group is filled with these risk factors at levels higher than high income-countries… with diabetes, hypertension, apart from obesity, being the significant co-morbid conditions… we should have been preparing our people for that…,” he said.
In his presentation, Dr Gautam Menon, Professor at Ashoka University and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, said that to understand the larger picture there is a need for uncorrupted data. Presently most epidemiological models say the peak of the second wave is in mid-May.
Dr Menon was concerned that the data was corrupted. “It is good in some states and bad in some others. This is going to be devastating to the larger picture… India is such a patchwork of extremely local epidemics that the only sensible way is to build up from local levels, “ he said.
Vaccine scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang said that in any pandemic, there is a need to identify and monitor the size of the problem. She also pointed out that it has become too big a problem to hide while Dr Soumitra Pathare, mental health expert, said addressing mental health requires several interventions that involves taking a more preventative and rehabilitative approach.
Dr Shahid Jameel, noted virologist and director of Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, said that “vaccine availability, coverage and our own Covid-appropriate behaviour will play a role in how long the pandemic lasts”.