As 2020 — the year that has become synonymous with the Covid-19 pandemic — comes to a close, it leaves us with a new normal, with each one counting her own novel experiences, gains and losses in social, economic and health domains. While the one-point focus on containing the spread of the contagious pathogen during the near-total lockdown from March-end to mid-May did help exclusively concentrate medical facilities towards handling the new disease and brought about public awareness about managing the virus, it worryingly came at a huge cost to non-Covid treatments and interventions. Exacerbating the situation was the resultant tottering economy marked by huge job and income losses that followed the extreme shutdown. The subsequent unlockings in a phased manner did attempt to undo the setbacks, but it is felt that the pre-Covid levels are still some time away. The scattered pieces need to be gathered in right earnest.
Luckily, 2021 is ushering in hope on the horizon. With the fast-tracked and much-anticipated Covid vaccine in sight, the New Year holds the promise of an all-round turnaround. The biggest lesson derived from 2020 is the significance of health and immunisation. Thus, it is fitting that the efforts to plug the holes in the public health sector be prioritised. Since healthy children are the gateway to the nation’s progress, the ongoing immunisation drive that was jeopardised because many kids could not receive the vaccine jabs on time needs to be brought back on track.
An intensive inoculation programme is needed for children whose doses were deferred as they run the risk of contracting diphtheria, tetanus, polio, cholera and typhoid. Over the years, India has made huge strides towards making the country free from these vaccine-preventable diseases. Prevention of any fresh outbreaks is no less important than containing Covid-19. Similarly, unattended and neglected patients of cancer, TB and other serious ailments need to be provided adequate care. These gaps underscore the need for injecting a higher budget in healthcare and strengthening of the medical infrastructure.