The last month, and particularly its second half, has been hard on everyone. It isn’t easy to go back into lockdown mode. In worrying about physical health and stopping the spread of Covid-19, certainly no government and hardly any private facility has the time to think about mental health. Given the stigma against mental illnesses, even mild and temporary ones, most of us do not take into account the fact that we may be severely depressed.
But the effects are not simply on physical and mental health of people. The economy of the country, and indeed the world, has taken a beating. The cash flow has ground to a halt, and we are in an awful situation where everyone needs money and no one has any. Companies are owed by their vendors, and have had to take their employees to take pay cuts.
How long will we teeter on the brink?
No one knows.
The second wave appears to be ebbing. But there will most likely be a third wave, and no one knows what to expect.
We need to use the reprieve between the second and third wave differently from that between the first and second; perhaps, instead of holding rallies, we can hold vaccination camps.
At this time, there are slight variations in data on what percentage of the country’s population is vaccinated. According to Our World in Data, 13.6 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, while 3.3 per cent is fully vaccinated. This translates into 185.5 million and 44.9 million people respectively. The Ministry of Health maintains that, as of June 9, 2021, 192 million people have received at least one dose, while 46.9 million people have been fully vaccinated. The daily inoculation rate is around 2.7 million. In most countries, this would make for a fairly large chunk of the population, but since we have gone forth and multiplied over the last century, it is only a small fraction in India.
We must go about vaccine procurement on war footing, and introduce restrictions based on whether or not someone is vaccinated.
Naturally, this would create a huge controversy unless the government made enough vaccines available.
Second, vaccination should be open to anyone who is willing so that there is zero wastage. There are debates over whether children will be as susceptible to the third wave as adults are to the second. But with so much of the adult population not vaccinated, the question may be moot.
It has been observed that the moment the numbers come down drastically, people will become less cautious. The conspiracy theorists who believe Covid-19 exists only in the heads of the gullible will continue to hold forth, and mask-wearing will become lax. It is crucial that state governments channel their resources towards setting up police checkpoints; those who flout norms should be fined, and their vehicles impounded. Doctors vouch that wearing one’s mask correctly and washing one’s hands after contact with objects that have been touched by others are reasonably effective measures against the virus. For as long as at least half the country is not vaccinated and ideally after, these norms should be enforced strictly.
At one point, the number of active cases had touched 4 million and new infections per day were at over 400,000 across the country. This has now come down by three-quarters. And this is the right time to step up vaccination.
There should be efficient delegation of vaccine distribution and inoculation from the federal level to the states and then to the districts.
There are certain things we must make our peace with, as a species. For one, vaccine production cannot be accelerated overnight. In a country as large as India, it could take up to a year for even seventy per cent of the population to be vaccinated—and this is considered the tipping point at which an infection is no longer in danger of rapid spread. It will take at least a year and a half for the entire citizenry to be covered, by which time everyone will be due for their next annual dose.
The old normal is now a memory, and we are not going to return to it any time soon.
What we must focus on is adapting our lives to the climate in which we live.
Of course, it would help if the government worked on preventing misinformation of the truly dangerous kind—that the infection does not exist, or that vaccination is ineffective—than on shortlisting apps to ban.
Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com