New Delhi, May 4
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Dr Randeep Guleria said on Tuesday that India may see a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic if the virus continues to evolve further and develops an immune escape mechanism. Randeep Guleria also rejected the night curfews and weekend lockdowns that some States have imposed to bring down the Covid-19 cases, saying they hardly work.
When asked if a Nationwide shutdown is the only option left in view of the Covid emergency in India that has overwhelmed hospitals and caused a crisis of resources such as oxygen, Randeep Guleria said a lockdown for a sufficient duration is needed to cut virus transmission.
Speaking with India Today TV, Randeep Guleria said, "Three things need to be looked at here. The first is improving the hospital infrastructure. The second is decreasing the number of cases in an aggressive way and the third, rolling out of vaccines. We have to break the chain of transmission. If we decrease the close contact between humans, there is a possibility that the cases will come down.
"We can call it a lockdown, a regional lockdown based on a grated response like the UK did, depending upon the criteria you want -- State-level or larger level. It is something that policy makers need to decide because it's an issue of organising everything in terms of lives and livelihood and that essential services are maintained and at the same time looking after those people who are daily wage workers. It [lockdown] has to be aggressive," Randeep Guleria said.
No point in weekend lockdowns, night curfews
Randeep Guleria further added that focus can't only be continued on hospital infrastructure unless the focus is also on decreasing the number of Covid-19 cases. The AIIMS chief said there is no point in weekend lockdowns and night curfews. The lockdown has to be aggressive for a sufficient period of time, Randeep Guleria said.
"I do agree that we can't only continue to focus on hospital infrastructure unless we also focus on decreasing the number of cases. If we talk about the lockdown, it has to be for a sufficient duration of at least two weeks. It has to be aggressive. There's no point in having a weekend lockdown or a night curfew. We can unlock early if it's needed depending on how the cases pan out," Randeep Guleria said.
Third wave a possibility if virus evolves further
Dr Randeep Guleria said the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India is a possibility if the virus continues to evolve. "One has two understand a few things. How quickly can we vaccinate individuals to give them immunity ? And second is how does the virus change ? If the virus evolves further and it develops an immune escape mechanism, i.e., the immunity that people have developed becomes less effective and you can get the infection again, then there is a chance that we may see a third wave of the pandemic," Randeep Guleria said.
"We will possibly see another wave but I am hopeful that by that time, because a large number of people will get vaccinated, the wave may not be as big as the current wave of coronavirus and it will be easier to manage," he said.
On the double mutant variants in India, Randeep Guleria said the variants in India are more infectious than what was seen last year.
"The virus is spreading at a much more rapid pace, the curve itself is so sharp, it's vertical, as compared to the last time. We can't keep on blaming this on lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. There has to be some degree of change in the virus," Randeep Guleria said.
On the deadly Covid-19 cases surge, Randeep Guleria said, "If you look at the 1918 pandemic, the second wave was much more ferocious than the first wave.
It was linked to the appropriate behaviour but somehow we felt, because of our preparedness and vaccinations, the wave would not be as sharp as what we saw," he said.