The detection of a new coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom has come with its own set of challenges for India. It has led to the cancellation of flights from that country amid the New Year festivities and raised doubts over the proposed visit of the British PM for the Republic Day function. Then there is the task of tracking the travellers who have moved to different states upon their arrival, crucial to containment and surveillance. While the government has clarified that the new mutant strain has so far not been detected in the country, contact tracing and screening are imperative to rule out a recurrence of the disease that has tested the limits of the healthcare system. Sharing the list of passengers with the states may be the right thing to do, but the problem gets compounded with details of close contacts not always forthcoming and the absence of channels of communication due to passengers travelling to remote and rural areas after landing.
Institutional quarantine being recommended in case of the new strain will not help matters because of problems like inadequate availability of hospital beds and the burden it puts on the people economically. Amid apprehensions about the new strain, which is more transmissible, being drug-resistant, the government has clarified that it will not impact vaccine development and that the jab will be equally effective in this case too. But the government has not come out with the exact roadmap for rolling the vaccine out and plans still appear to be nebulous, with pricing and efficacy yet to be spelt out.
With many countries imposing fresh lockdowns to check transmission, safeguards are needed to prevent any exigency. Night curfew had been imposed in some states but has been relaxed after protests. Restrictions on social gatherings though continue as a safety measure, but all this only impede a return to normalcy. Reviving the economy will require that no more shutdowns are imposed and for that prevention, rather than the remedy, will hold the key.