As the claims of a third wave of COVID-19 set to hit India rustle up, the Indian government’s approach and handling of the second wave has raised many eyebrows.
From shortage of oxygen, black-marketing to clumsy vaccination drives and soaring prices, the public has faced the worst case scenario. But with the probability of a third wave spiking the medical radars, it seems that the government still hasn’t quite learned its lesson.
Government Ignored Red Flags
“Soon after the curved flattened last year, medical experts had urged the government to stock up medicines, injections and develop more COVID-isolation facilities. But the central government officials refuted all claims and didn’t heed to their advice”, says Dr. Gyanendra Kaushal, ex-member of IMA, Lucknow.
In December 2020, the government was advised to establish a genome task force to study and analyse the genome sequence of the mutating virus and devise combative plans. “It was in early February that the government woke up from its deep slumber of election agendas and set up the genome task force. Again the budgets were too insufficient for the tasks in hand”, adds Dr. Kaushal.
In January this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the World Economic Forum that India has “defeated” Covid, instead of paying head to expert advice that had predicted the second wave. “In March, the Health Minister, who is himself a doctor, claimed to the Delhi Medical Association that India was in the endgame of pandemic. Empowered government committees that recommended enhancing oxygen production in April 202 were ignored. The Health Ministry later sanctioned 162 oxygen plants but only 33 were built”, says an administrative official of the IMA, Lucknow.
The Current Façade Of Preparations
While the Karnataka High Court has asked the state government to prepare action plans for the third wave, on the other hand, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has proposed increasing oxygen beds for the same. Bengaluru too has adopted Mumbai’s COVID action plan for tackling the third wave. “The Supreme Court too has asked the central government to start preparations for the third wave and maintain buffer stocks. But the officials can be caught napping on these advisories”, remarks the official from IMA.
Unfortunately, states like UP and Bihar are still behind. Uttar Pradesh’s CM has also directed officials to set up paediatric ICUs in the state hospitals. However, the minimum number of beds advised for each district hospital is 10-15 beds: a number that’s mockingly low. However, Bihar’s preparations are still vague and paint a hazy picture of the government’s “smart” policies.
“Another problem which the government has to tackle is the vaccination. People are not getting their second doses, slots are full for those between 18-45years of age and now they need to come up with vaccines for children. If the government keeps on overlooking the facts and boasts only of its leadership, the third wave might be the worst we face”, concludes Dr. Kaushal.