Don’t let Covid Back In
By Prof. Vikram Soni
Dehradun, Dec 11
The fourth wave of the Covid is pounding Europe now. It is incredible that such exalted countries have not managed to contain it after the huge casualties from the earlier three waves.
But there is a new alarm call – which is yet to be fathomed but is causing worldwide mayhem. A highly infectious mutation of Covid , Omicron , which carries an unusually large number of potentially dangerous variations is the new scourge. Since we are mostly ignorant of its understanding or implications, it is positively important to stop its spread. Already over thirty countries have reported cases of Omicorn and the list will only grow .
There is only one way to stop the pandemic and that is to isolate and quarantine any cases of Covid promptly or it will morph into an outbreak. Given the genocidal second wave in India and its huge population with little infrastructure to control it, it is imperative that India close down all but essential travel not only from Omicorn affected countries but also from Europe and scrupulously monitor its entry points before another wave of Covid gets through our defences and overwhelms us. Now is the time for a moratorium on flights from Omicron affected countries, Europe and Russia or any country that has Covid outbreaks.
Holland, Belgium and Austria are witnessing violent protests against lockdowns though their infection curves and hospitalisations are going up steeply enough to break records. They have to act. Germany has gone from four figures to almost 70,000 infections a day and the new German Minister for Health Jena Spahen has warned the public about the alarming rate at which the increase is taking place, `We will soon have only three categories of people left, those with Covid, those who survived Covid and those who are dead from Covid.”
An extremely grim warning indeed. These countries are having to deal with over two million new cases per week and health services are finding it difficult to cope. Britain has a high percentage of jabbed population, but also high infection rates too, yet they have been cavalier in not imposing even masks and social distancing – a grossly optimistic view of the situation, which they may regret. Russia is also going through a full scale pandemic. For India not to be alarmed and act to strictly regulate traffic from these countries and the rest of Europe would simply be an invitation for Covid.
Though the Government has announced measures to monitor all incoming international travellers and impose a quarantine on them the protocol is not working effectively. There is chaos at all international airports in the country as all passengers have to wait upto 8 hours to get their Covid results and there is huge over crowding at the airport making it a perfect hotspot for the virus to become a superspreader. It is clear that we were not prepared for this. But one way to handle it , for example in Delhi, is to mobilise the hotels in the Aerocity and immediately bundle off all passenger to them and clear the airport. They can accommodated in the halls and even rooms while they await their results . Those found positive must quarantine for two weeks at the hotels. It is of course essential that masks and physical distancing be rigouously imposed.
The quarantine regime at present is very leaky – especially home quarantine can be easily violated with domestic staff and others moving in and out. Delhi and Mumbai have over 5000 incoming international travellers coming in every day . To keep track of them in strictly observing quarantine in not easy. It would require mobilising a huge force which is not available – this is carried out by some kind of young home guards who are not professional. Thus, at the moment there is no organised dispensation and it is clear that in the absence of a stringent regime the virus will likely defeat these efforts.
Let’s recall how Covid came to India. We cannot forget that the Covid virus was first reported on January 30 2020 in three Kerala towns. It was found among three Indian medical students who had returned from Wuhan the epicenter of the pandemic. Also ,it came from Italian tourists who were visiting India after having been to China and contracted the virus there. And there is the hub. There is no alternative but to exercise extreme caution and surveillance with people coming into the country so we do not repeat the blunder. And the authorities must trace down all arrivals into the country. It must also deal with any cases that arise with urgency and complete vigilance.
At the moment we are sitting comfortably in India with Covid under control . We cannot afford another wave and as pointed out above our present strategy of testing and quarantine is unlikely to hold the virus that is carried by incoming travellers. The only way that is likely to work is to temporarily stop all but essential international incoming travel from Covid countries. This is to alert the Government and population that the time to act is running out, so let’s do it before we let Covid strike again
(Prof Vikram Soni is emeritus professor of physics and ecological wisdom at Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)