Why are Covid cases not coming down?

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Covid-19 has spread to all corners of the world, infecting more than 18 crore persons, with 40 lakh plus fatalities. India has more than 3 crore persons infected, with over 4 lakh fatalities. Arunachal has 36,572 infections with 176 deaths.

India has achieved more than 34 crore vaccine doses, with 5.77 crore persons fully vaccinated. The present vaccination rate of 40-50 lakhs needs to increase to 90 lakhs per day to achieve 70 percent herd immunity by December 2021.

Arunachal has completed more than 6 lakh vaccine doses, with 87,483 persons fully vaccinated. The present daily vaccination rate of 9,000-11,000 should increase to 16,000 vaccinations per day to achieve the target of 70 percent herd immunity by September 2021.

Despite a reduction in Covid cases in other parts of India, Covid cases/fatalities are not reducing in Arunachal. This is despite periods of total lockdown, curfews, and partial lockdown still being enforced. It is seen that, despite awareness programmes, many people are still not following mask discipline and social distancing. Many masks do not cover mouth and nose, with some persons not wearing mask at all. Social distancing is not being followed in markets, ATMs, banks, LPG outlets and even at vaccination centres.

Covid-19 has spread to rural villages where most villagers do not use masks and remain physically close. Most villages do not have home isolation facilities, and home isolation is difficult to implement in villages.

Covid-appropriate behaviour is rarely followed at traditional gatherings for rituals, deaths and illnesses in villages.

There is also vaccine hesitancy in many people due rumour-mongering and negative publicity on social media. There are issues with the mandated CoWIN application also. Online booking requirements are leading to vaccination problems in many villages. Many do not have smartphones and do not know how to operate them. There are network issues in rural areas, leading to unforeseen delays and vaccine wastage.

As per experts, a third Covid wave is expected and to resolve teething issues, walk-in vaccinations should be allowed with spot registrations. Registration and documentation should not be the prime criteria for vaccination. Towards requirements of vaccination certification, DMOs should be authorized to issue vaccination certificates. More awareness programmes should be undertaken in rural villages. Covid focus should shift from towns to villages and from urban to rural.

The only way to reduce Covid cases is by enforcing strict compliance of Covid-appropriate behaviour, especially in villages. Masks must be made compulsory by village gaon burahs/leaders. Social distancing should be strictly enforced and large gatherings should not be allowed. Community leaders and intellectuals must play a role in removing vaccine hesitancy among the rural population. The vaccination process should be simplified by allowing walk-in vaccination at all centres. The only way to defeat Covid-19 is by ensuring rapid mass vaccination to achieve 70 percent herd immunity before the third wave hits us with another virus mutation. Go, Corona, go! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)