In yet another big warning, the experts have now alarmed the Indian government to brace for the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which is imminent and could harm children and adults. The warning has come in the midst of a slew of predictions of the third wave surfaced around the country. It has drawn major attention at a high time when the country is witnessing the mitigation of the horrendous second wave, which had devastated the country and distressed millions of people.
According to reports, a committee of experts constituted under the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) has warned of an imminent third wave of the pandemic that could attain its peak in October and could be a menace for children. The warning has come parallelly to India's major leap in the Covid-19 vaccination drive with the country preparing to vaccinate minors above the age of 12, which will begin in September. NIDM falls under the Union Home Ministry and its report about the third wave has been submitted to the Prime Minister's Office.
In its report, the NIDM had sought better medical preparedness and infrastructure to deal with the third wave, which, as per many reports, is inevitable to the country. The report has shockingly highlighted that the paediatric facilities - doctors, staff, equipment like ventilators and ambulances are nowhere close to meeting the requirement scale of infrastructure when it comes to treating a large number of children affected in wake of the third wave. The report has pressed the government to prioritize vaccination among children with comorbidities and a special focus on those with disabilities.
Though curbs and restrictions are put in place, the third wave of the pandemic could attain its peak by late October and the report has suggested the Union government restructure the Covid wards for children in a way that their attendants can stay with them. The committee's study titled "Third Wave Preparedness: Children Vulnerability and Recovery" and has looked into the possibility of Covid-19 affecting children and the required strategies to deal with the pandemic.
The committee has suggested the government built a holistic home care model, immediately increase medical capacities in paediatrics and prioritizing mental health issues among children. The experts had expressed concern about 82% shortage of paediatricians in primary health centres and 63% vaccines in community health centres and the report further said that the situation is already attaining a setback and it might worsen due to the violation of Covid-19 guidelines, insufficient medical facilities, and lagging vaccination.
Speaking to the media, Santhosh Kumar, coordinator of the committee of experts and professor head of governance and public policy at NIDM, said, "Preparedness is the key, learning from the past two waves. We need to take proactive measures in anticipation of the third wave and states have to begin augmenting paediatric Covid care facilities for treatment, ICU, paediatric ambulance, medicine, and paediatricians." The report said that the country has begun witnessing the signs of the third wave as the reproduction rate of Covid-19 had increased from 0.9 to 1 over the last week of July.
The committee has noted that Kerala is reporting a high daily caseload of Covid infections and it indicates that a third wave has begun approaching the country and these indications should not be ignored. The third wave would hit the country with dangerous variants that can escape antibodies and immunity that were built during the first and second waves and by the vaccines. The third wave can pour dire complications and the report has reiterated the government to expedite the vaccination drive and India's vaccination rate is at 9% compared to the USA's 52%.
The experts have called a scientific approach and focused public spending to deal with pandemic management. It has noted that there has been a huge gap between urban and rural India in terms of awareness, digitization, and medical facilities. It has further underlined that about 60% to 70% of children hospitalized due to the pandemic had comorbidities and their low immunity was the primary cause behind developing 'Multi-system inflammatory syndrome' a rare but serious condition. According to reports, the committee of experts set up by NIDM include Anurag Agarwal- director of CSIR-IGIB, MC Mishra - former director of AIIMS, Naveen Thacker - President of the Indian Paediatricians Association, Gagandeep Kang - professor of CMC, Vellore, and AK Pandey - Chairman of state monitoring committee on shelter for urban homeless.