THE Indian State failed conclusively in containing the second surge of the Covid pandemic. According to news reports, the jump in daily Covid cases in Delhi from March 1 to 31 was to the extent of 939.4 per cent, but the increase in Covid beds was by a measly 1.6 per cent. So, while busy taking over the reins of the national capital’s government through a law passed in Parliament, the Centre seems to have forgotten to take over Covid care, leaving a lot of Delhi patients to die gasping for oxygen when the second surge hit them. And the crisis continues with no sign of a let-up yet.
It is in this breathless moment that the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to Prime Minister announces the possibility of a third wave, without specifying the possible timeline or the probable target age group. We are none the wiser, nor safer, after the announcement because there still are no beds, not enough medical oxygen and there is a severe scarcity of drugs, equipment, manpower and even ambulances. The country that enforced the strictest lockdown in the world now cannot ensure that ambulances do not overcharge patients or those carrying the dead. Two days before the announcement, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had begun preparing for the third wave, setting up a paediatric Covid-19 ward with 700 beds, fearing the next stage of the pandemic to hit those below 12 years of age.
The Centre and the states now have to be ready with a national plan to manage the next wave. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to draw up a comprehensive oxygen supply plan to ensure 700 MT of the precious gas to Delhi. The country as a whole needs such a plan for all critical care components, including testing kits. There is a large share of false negative reports, and those in External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s team turning positive after reaching London has become an international embarrassment. The Centre has to urgently ramp up testing and vaccination facilities, without which we will be left paralysed during the next wave.