India can avoid third COVID wave with effective precautions, says scientific advisor

Will depend on effective roll out of preventive measures, says Vijay Raghavan

India can avoid a third COVID wave, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India K. Vijay Raghavan said on Friday, stressing that, “If we take strong measures, the third COVID wave may not happen in all the places or indeed anywhere.”

Dr. Vijay Raghavan’s statement comes just two days after he said, “Third COVID wave is inevitable in India given the high levels of virus that is circulating. But it is not clear at what time scale this Phase 3 will occur.”

Speaking at a Health Ministry press conference, Dr. Vijay Raghavan said preventing a third wave depends on how effectively the guidelines are implemented and followed. “Infections rise when the virus has the opportunity to infect humans,” he added.

Responding to a question on when the second wave which has already infected lakhs and killed thousands, will ebb, Dr. VijayRaghavan said it has already started declining in some places. The number of cases and the positivity will decline and there will be a lag in hospitalisation and mortality, he added.

Cautioning against the misuse of steroids and stressing the need to adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by doctors, NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul said people displaying symptoms — fever, headache, body ache, sore throat, breathlessness etc — should consider themselves COVID positive unless tested otherwise and strictly follow COVID isolation and treatment guidelines.

“Use of Remdesivir at home is a big no and oxygen should be used for patients at home under medical guidance. Secondary infections, thrombosis/stroke and adverse effect on lungs are all matters of concern post-COVID,” he said.

Replying to a question on India approving more COVID vaccines, Dr Paul said all new vaccines would be allowed in only after they clear the regulatory process.

“Both Sputnik Light and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are promising candidates and can help in hastening the vaccination cover in our population but their clearance will be based on the vaccines’ scientific merit,” he added.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry noted that it has now advised State governments to prioritize due beneficiaries of the second dose for COVID vaccine and ensure timely completion of the recommended vaccination schedule.

“State governments have been told to utilise supplies of vaccines in a 70:30 ratio for 2nd dose and 1st dose respectively. Regular review of coverage of COVID-19 vaccination drive should be undertaken to formulate and implement a strategy for such prioritization and an effective communication strategy must be implemented for full two dose protection to all priority beneficiary groups,” said the Health Ministry.

The Ministry added that it has reviewed the COVID-19 situation and management with eight States — Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

“While Maharashtra, U.P., Delhi and Rajasthan are among the areas showing continued plateauing /decrease in daily new cases, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, A.P., Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha are States where daily new COVID cases are rising,” the Ministry said.

It added that the recent review by the Health Ministry focused on containment strategies, testing infrastructure and healthcare infrastructure augmentation, availability of trained human resource, availability and supply of medical oxygen, ventilators and other logistics and improving the vaccination coverage.

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