The government has issued new guidelines in consonance with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, to check further spread of novel coronavirus during the winter months, starting with December.
The guidelines essentially aim at keeping the gradual reviving of the economic activity unaffected while taking containment measures. Viewed in the broader spectrum, the onus appears to have been shifted to the citizen to avoid getting infected.
At the same time, people seem to be hardly concerned about safety measures, notwithstanding the fact that the virus cases continue to be in higher numbers especially when RAT remains the preference over RT-PCR for testing. This is a time to reiterate proven safety norms, considering that Jammu and Kashmir has about 4908 active cases, most of them confirmed through RAT, out of a total of 110678 cases recorded thus far. Amid encouraging results from vaccine trials and the likelihood of early emergency use authorization, there is weakened voluntary caution, and it seems that people are yielding to pandemic fatigue. However the government especially Health authorities must reinforce the message that low-cost interventions such as masks, good ventilation and distancing norms cannot be abandoned and could prove perilous.
As the lockdown rigour eased, last four months saw many cases cropping up. It reached over one lakh and ten thousand while deaths crossed the grim milestone of 1700 mark. Until the vaccine is available, the prime task before health administrators should remain focussed to convince the average citizen that there is much to be gained through inexpensive lifestyle modification. Surveys have showed that universal masking, with 95% compliance, is projected to reduce deaths dramatically. Also, the entire economy stands to benefit from such painless interventions, while sparing doctors and frontline health workers of deadly risk. The government has rightly prioritised targeted containment and started focus to “ensure hassle-free and time-bound” delivery of Covid-vaccines across the J&K.
Three companies are frontrunners in developing Covid-19 vaccines in India- which are currently in the third phase of clinical trials, suggesting that it will be shortly available for usage. The government needs to focus on developing respective databases to prioritize various vulnerable groups of people.
While the administration, rightly so, has started preparations to place human resource requirements for organizing dedicated COVID-vaccination drives, it should also standardise testing protocols across the districts, and not dilute the message of safe behavior till the vaccine was finally available.