Explained Ideas: What can be done to contain the surge in Covid cases?

The pandemic is a grim reminder that it is high time we shift the focus on preventive services and health promotion, write Giridhara R Babu and Deepa R

Hardly any healthcare system in the world can handle the surge in COVID-19 cases, such as we are seeing in India. The country is reeling from a daily burden of over three lakh cases and over 2,000 deaths. The projections of various modellers indicate that India will touch nearly two crore cases by May 1, with four to five lakh cases each day.

What can be done to contain it? Giridhara R Babu and Deepa R (both of the Indian Institute of Public Health) list out some of the possible steps that can be taken.

“The immediate steps to be taken are mitigation and containment,” they state in their opinion piece in The Indian Express.

“The rate of spread should be mitigated to levels of cases that the health system can reasonably handle. Although it is the last resort, states should not hesitate in imposing complete lockdowns at the city or subregional levels with a higher case burden. Aggressive containment efforts should be pursued in parallel to ensure that most people with the illness are identified, isolated and do not spread the disease,” they argue.

These measures, they say, will help in minimising unfortunate deaths. Early detection of people with respiratory distress, referral and timely provision of oxygen have to be universally hastened. All available supplies of oxygen should be diverted to areas reeling from a higher burden.

“This should be supplemented by faster procurement and transportation of medicines for the patients. We should upscale capacity at the district levels for oxygenated beds and ICUs”.

Further, vaccination can minimise the adversities of a third wave.

“It is a welcome move by the government to open up vaccination for all those aged 18 and above. The proportion of post-vaccination breakthrough COVID- 19 infection is 0.03-0.04 per cent after receiving a second dose, as per authorities. This is promising. However, the speed of vaccination should increase many folds to reach at least 10 million doses per day over the next few months,” they state.

For long, India has ignored strengthening its public health system. The pandemic is a grim reminder that it is high time we shift the focus on preventive services and health promotion.

“We are obsessed with spending more money on curative services… Hiring public health practitioners, promoting data transparency and evidence-based planning is essential,” they conclude.

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