COVID-19: All countries must extend caution

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The disease continues to pose a big threat not just to those who are yet to be inoculated but also who have received both the doses
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In interview on July 10, World Health Organisation’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said new coronavirus infections are growing in several parts of the world.

During the previous 24 hours, she said, almost 500,000 new cases and 9,300 deaths were reported. Also going up are severe cases and hospitalisations, leading to shortages of oxygen and hospital beds. “ … now that’s not a pandemic that’s slowing down,” she added.

Swaminathan’s perception is shared by health experts and epidemiologists in every continent. VK Paul, India’s Covid point man said the second wave which has killed tens of thousands in this country isn’t over, cautioning people against crowding at tourist spots.

In US, where cases grew by over 20,000 — highest since May — for four consecutive days last week, officials said than nine million people live in counties where cases are rising and where less than 40 per cent are vaccinated. Similarly, UK reported a worrying surge of Delta with over 216,000 cases in one week, posing a challenge for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who wants to ease restrictions on July 19.

Transmission taking place

A WHO official pointed out to the unmasked crowd of football fans singing and shouting during the soccer final on Sunday. “Am I supposed to be enjoying watching transmission happening in front of my eyes,” Maria Van Kerkhove tweeted on Sunday in a hard-hitting commentary on the alcohol-fuelled frenzy on the streets of London.

More disturbing reports are coming from South Africa, Indonesia and Australia where millions are under lockdown in Sydney region. The warnings by experts and hard numbers are the most definitive proof that the pandemic is not slowing down. New infections may have dipped in countries with good vaccination record, but the disease continues to pose a big threat not just to those who are yet to be inoculated but also who have received both the doses.

Therefore, unmasking communities and allowing street revelry at this juncture is not the wisest thing to do. There is a growing evidence that vaccinations and masks are both essential in protecting people against the virus.

In several countries, lessons learnt from the pandemic are quickly forgotten by both the governments and people. For example, in India, a nation which has barely recovered from a devastating second wave in April and May, religious gatherings have been allowed again and people are crowding markets and tourist spots in the mountains.

This recklessness, experts warn, may lead to an early onset of a third wave which is likely to hit children who are yet to be vaccinated. Just yesterday, the Indian Medication Association, a powerful body of doctors, warned of an “imminent” third wave, requesting people not to lower their guard.



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