Earlier this week, the Jammu and Kashmir government set up a 10-member committee for formulating plans to tackle a possible 3rd wave of the covid-19 pandemic.
Among others, its focus has been ordered to be directed at preparedness in terms of creation of health infrastructure, enhancement in testing capacities, treatment protocols, arrangement in drugs or logistics, machinery and equipments, oxygen supply, manpower, etc.
Besides, it has been also tasked to ramp up COVID hospital beds and Critical Care Units especially for pediatrics and neo-natal age group, strengthening of healthcare facilities in the rural areas of and devising additional Covid appropriate behavior and required SOPs.
The announcement is welcome. Preparedness is always good and more so when the administration was caught napping by the second wave. It alludes to learning lessons from the gaps in the preparedness in meeting the challenges by the ongoing waves. Checking the spread of contagion methodically should be the foremost agenda of the government, more so in respect of rural areas which are vulnerable. Importantly, the third wave is projected to impact children adversely as been underlined by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. It becomes imperative that administration puts in place the necessary medical infrastructure and equipment so that the cases and fatalities may be limited. Covid-19 second wave has laid bare the health infrastructure and stretched it to the breaking point. It is vital to get paediatric infrastructure in place immediately so as to minimise the damage that may be caused by the projected third wave.
The call by the experts should be given heed and one well-known reason for multiple waves is the mutation in the genetic code of the coronavirus. Slow vaccination pace gives it more time to mutate and find ways to evade or trick antibodies. This accelerates the appearance of new variants as the continued spread of the virus allows it to get trained to detect and bypass antibodies, since the immune system merely looks out for the original strain.
The government would be better advised to have the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) upgraded as also put in place Neonatal or children Emergency Transport Service.
It is also important that administration readies plans to manage the third wave on all fronts—lives and livelihood. It is not only children that are said to be affected by the next wave and as such the government needs to devise plans for all critical care components, including testing kits and vaccination facilities.