As the number of new Covid-19 cases continues to surge, state immunisation officer Dr Rajendra Borkar says this new virus is smart and evolving and will do everthing to survive. He also said they are expecting the third wave to peak with daily count reaching 12k cases. Excerpts from an interview:
How serious is the third wave and how long is it likely to take for the situation to come under full control?
Everyone should understand this, we went through the first wave and after that second wave and what we found out is that more than the first wave, the second wave was far more serious. Usually, every time the new wave comes, it becomes more serious and after 3-4 months new waves keep on coming. The second wave was due Delta variant. This virus is also smart, just to survive, it kept on evolving and modifying itself. This is the worst part that the virus keeps on changing itself but we humans are still behaving the same. We should also change ourselves. The third wave will be more serious than the second wave because the virus will do whatever it can to survive. During the second wave in May, the daily cases count was higher than 4,500. According to our prediction, there are chances of cases going up to 12k daily. But the good thing is that this variant is from South Africa and after looking at our data, South Africa data and UK data, we have found that the infection spreads three times faster but the number of hospitalisations and deaths have not increased significantly. However, as per the Indian population, even if it spreads three times and even if one person gets serious, the death toll will also increase immensely. We are worried about this trend and preparing in this direction.
There is only one hospital, GMC, allotted for covid patients. In South Goa, many patients are Covid positive. Even elderly patients are in home isolation. Do you think this might lead to an increase in the death toll?
We have not opened all the hospitals as Covid hospitals as we have a greater responsibility. If 50 per cent of beds get occupied then we the time we will open district hospitals for patients. Our director Dr Ira Almeida has taken this proactive step and submitted a plan to the government. This is typically called as the graded response. We will take measures according to the number of cases in Goa.
When will we be able to achieve 100 per cent double-dose vaccination?
In Goa, the vaccinated population is 96.24% and more than 3.75% of people are still pending to take their vaccine dose. People give excuses and say that we already got Covid once, we don't need vaccines, some say they get side effects. People have N number of excuses and reasons to not take the vaccine. The vaccination that we are providing helps one not get infected from Covid. According to many records and data, people who are vaccinated can get Covid but the chances of recovery is higher.
What is the strategy for administering booster doses?
This time the booster dose in India is called a precautionary dose for frontline, health workers and citizens above 60 years and people with comorbidities, as they are people with a high risk. We are studying, implementing and changing our strategy time to time. The booster dose will be given to around 1.5 lakh people first, those with comorbidities and frontline workers. We are happy to tell you that we have received 1.5 lakh doses of Covidshield. From January 16, when the programme started till now we have never had short of vaccines. According to Government instructions, the same type of vaccines will be given as a precautionary dose, so whoever has taken covidshield will get Covidshield and if Covaxin then covaxin.
Is the government well equipped to tackle the third wave? As the elections are approaching, what message would you like to convey to the people of Goa?
Yes, the government is well equipped this time. During the first and second waves, we were not experienced and now we know a lot of things like what to do and what not to do. At this point in time, it is not the government, hospital, medicine or doctors that can save you. It is you who are going to save yourself. Avoid going out or crowded places as much as you can. For example, I cannot avoid certain things like office but I can definitely avoid attending functions and zatras. I am pleading with people to avoid the temptation of going to crowded places as much as they can. Looking at the present condition saving your life is important and taking measures are important. What can save us is only Covid appropriate behaviour that is, 3 Ws and 2Vs - wear a mask, watch for social distancing and wash your hands. V stands for Ventilated places and vaccinations.