The Ministry of Home Affairs has extended the COVID-19 ‘guidelines for surveillance’ till January 31, 2021. It comes at a time when the vaccine is just about to be rolled out for the already identified priority category.
The underlining principle has been spelled out in the order itself: “While there has been a continuous decline in the active and new COVID-19 cases, there is need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and emergence of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom (UK).”
The virus continues to rage in some countries with daily infections and deaths scaling fresh peaks in Europe and the U.S. Of late, Jammu and Kashmir has seen a drop in the number of daily infections even as almost 1800 cases have been added to the tally in the last one week. Across India also, there has been a drop in the daily cases but the virus is far from overcome. Based on serosurveys, many virologists believe that one-third of the population had already been exposed to the virus in September when infection peaked in India. In other words, half of the “herd immunity” level required to end the spread had already been reached by mid-September.
The argument behind herd immunity is that the degree of exposure will protect those who are not immune to the disease. For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick and won’t spread the disease any further. IgG antibodies against the virus usually develop two weeks after the infection and should be perceived as diagnostic of COVID-19, the experts say. However, there is a word of caution which seems to be underlined in the MHA order. The new variant can even infect those who have successfully defeated the earlier variant. While the caseloads have reduced and the vaccine is around the corner, the dangers in contemporary times continue to lurk, more so because of the new variant found abroad. There is no need to panic but at the same time guard cannot be lowered. In March people might be ignorant about the virus but a lot has been known since about the pathogen. People are now acquainted with how it spreads from person to person and that two-fifths of infected people can be asymptomatic. Also, importantly the virus is more life-threatening for the elderly and people with comorbidities. The standard safety measures like wearing mask, hand hygiene and absence of crowding must stay put.