Time to act fast

A sense of desperation grips capital Delhi and several other cities where the spread of Covid pandemic is at worrisome levels and hospitals have run out of beds, ventilators and oxygen supplies. There is also the problem of vaccine shortage but this is partly understandable. A second wave of Covid was only to be expected, but the central government was apparently not so sure about it to have taken adequate precautionary steps. Oxygen is so vital in treating the infected Covid patients facing respiratory problems. This is no time to nitpick but to act fast, affirmatively and decisively.
What’s understandable is that though India is a major vaccine producer, it is not possible to vaccinate one and all so soon. Three months ago the first vaccine dose was administered with around 13 crore doses being used — meaning one-tenth of the population was inoculated by one jab or the maximum of two on each of these persons, mostly of the upper age limit. In phases, the age limit was brought down to those above age 45 and further down to those above 18 from May 1. The need now is to overcome the shortages, arrest the spread and restore a modicum of hope. Strict implementation of the control protocols is a matter of first priority. India held back the Covid assault for several months after its eruption in March last, keeping things mostly under control even as the situation turned irretrievable in Mumbai and acute in Capital Delhi. The iterations of lockdowns did seriously hurt the national economy and now only localized lockdowns are advised depending on the acuteness of the problem. This was what should have been done in the initial phase last year too.
Of utmost priority is to save lives. Now, this principally means maximizing the oxygen production and supply even through the three extreme modes like “beg, borrow or steal” as the Delhi high court has advised the Centre. The nation has the capacity to produce adequate quantities of oxygen. It must enlarge the scope. The supply to overseas clients has doubled in recent months, though this is in part the oxygen used for industrial purposes – as different from the oxygen for medical purposes. Oxygen Express trains are reaching the supply to states in the fastest mode and Prime Minister Modi has come up with a three-point plan to overcome the crisis. This should work. India having crossed the daily infection rate at the three-lakh mark is facing the grim prospect of outwitting the US and becoming the worst Covid-hit nation. This is time to act fast.

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