‘The virus gave us a chance’
Dr. Roderick H. Who is the India Representative: It is important to remember that by early February this year, the economy and social activities had reopened. We also saw that people were not behaving appropriately to slow down Covid-19And I think that’s why we’re where we are. There are many reasons, but basically, the virus has given us a chance to continue transmitting.
Dr. Yasmin Ali is right UNICEF India Representative: In 2020, we have been working closely with the Indian government to spread health messages and prevent infection. Life began returning to normal this year, and that’s when the second wave struck.
Dr. Afrin: The way the virus has spread is similar to what we have seen in Europe or the United States, but the size is very different. Population density is likely a factor as well, and we have seen the sharp rise in urban areas. In weeks of high cases, the system was able to accommodate patients, and extra beds were made available last year. So, it’s a scale issue: scale of increase and volume of response.
This virus is adapting so quickly that no model has been able to predict how it will spread. We must be at the forefront: it is the cycle of preparedness, preparedness, response and recovery. You can’t stop.
However, we know how to deal with it: consistent testing, contact tracing, active state detection, early treatment, and appropriate treatment. People need to notice behaviors appropriate to COVID, such as 3W’s – wear a mask, wash your hands, pay attention to the distance – and get vaccinated. This is a whole arsenal of ammunition to fight the virus. Now it’s about using these tools consistently and on a large scale.
Listen below for our full audio interview with Dr. Afrin:
All hands are on deck
Dr. Ali Haq: At the moment, we are focusing on acquiring basic oxygen equipment. We are also working on purchasing testing machines, and getting COVID vaccines to people. We have a lot of experience vaccinating children, and we adapt that experience to anticipate the type of bottlenecks we are likely to face, as well as issues of vaccine hesitation or desire to get vaccinated. We administered nearly 160 million doses in about 110 days which is possibly the fastest in the world.
The challenge, of course, is the numbers and the size of India and the distances and terrain that sometimes need to be covered. It’s not an easy task, but I think if it were possible anywhere, it would be possible here.
Dr. Afrin: India is one of the countries that is doing very well blanket immunization. If you look at how things started in the United States, they weren’t used to mass vaccination campaigns. India has a strong tradition and history of vaccination, which is why the launch on January 16 went so well. However, to achieve herd immunity, we need to vaccinate everyone but people also need to act in appropriate ways.
We have taken advantage of our network of 2,600 public health professionals in India, and our industry experts have been supporting our response: all of this is within our reach. Several of our priority areas will continue to inform the maintenance of essential health services. Of course, infection prevention and control is important, but the first priority is to close critical gaps.
Listen below to our full interview with Dr. Ali Haq:
The consequences will last for years
Dr. Ali Haq: The consequences of this pandemic will be with us for years. We are already seeing secondary impacts, especially on children and the poorest and most marginalized groups.
In the best case scenario, we estimate that about 50 percent of children have access to distance learning. This means that about 150 million children of school age cannot access it. We have already heard stories of increased child labor, early marriage of girls in particular, and even child trafficking.
We need to address the psychological trauma children are facing now, and be prepared for the long-term effects. With so many people dying, children are left without parental care or without caregivers, so there is a need to invest in foster care and foster care arrangements for these children.
But I think the way we saw communities come together, and the extent to which the public donated, was unprecedented. This will be critical if we want to see investment in vital services that allow children to stay healthy, thrive and recover from the trauma this pandemic has wrought.