The virus : Always one step ahead The new normal

Hectic election campaigning underway, at least 42 cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus detected so far, rising instances of new cases and deaths due to the virus and people letting their guards down-most visible on the roads of Imphal. Top this off with a low vaccination rate, with the hill districts, notably Kangpokpi and Ukhrul occupying the last two spots on the vaccination table and clearly the script seems well written for the virus to spread, infect and kill at will. This is what is worrying. For all practical purposes, those infected and those who have fallen to the virus appear to be not much more than statistics to the people and this is what has added to the worry. Low vaccination rate in the hill districts is a point which has already been touched and highlighted on Page 1 of this newspaper on more than one occasion but then it should be obvious that this has not had much impact on the thought process of the people. Else how does one explain the low vaccination figure of just 44.41 percent of the eligible population even after more than a year since the vaccination drive was rolled off ? A figure of just 44.41 percent (fully vaccinated) sounds unhealthy and definitely unsafe. This is where the Government will need to sit down and study why vaccine hesitancy is so rampant, especially in the hill districts. The vaccine hesitancy will need to be understood from a larger perspective and the Government will need to study and try to understand the lifestyle and living standard of the people, particularly in the hill districts. To many in the hill districts going for vaccination may mean trudging long distance, in the absence of vehicular service and losing one day of labour, which can mean a loss of one day’s earning. This is an avenue which ought to be studied with the seriousness the matter deserves, for no one would want to let one day’s labour go abegging and lose out on earning the next meal of the day. Moreover how far is the health centre from the place where the villagers have to trudge to get the vaccine shot ? These are all probabilities, which the Government would need to study, else a good percentage of the people will not get vaccinated. This is the bottomline and the Government think tank ought to study the feasibility of stationing some vaccination centres at the interior villages. Or else offer a one day labour fee to the people who stand to lose a day’s income. Far fetched ? This however is an avenue that needs serious deliberation.
That the virus has always been one or two step ahead of mankind is a given and even as the world is reeling under the onslaught of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, scientists from Wuhan in China have warned of a new variant of the coronavirus, the NeoCov in South Africa which is stated to have a high death and transmission rate. No report of humans being infected by this strain yet, but it has the potential to infect humans. Only one mutation needed for the virus to infiltrate the human cells, according to researchers of Wuhan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Biophysics. Maybe it is just a preliminary report, but it is nonetheless disturbing and underlines the point that the virus will be here much longer. This is about the probable direction in which the virus may proceed and while it is for Science and scientists to study and get a better understanding of the virus and how it manages to mutate so fast, it is up to all Governments across the world to be on the ready to face any eventuality. The same degree of responsibility also lies with the people and that is to adapt to the new normal. From 2020 the call for the new normal has been the calling card of the World Health Organisation and given that it is already two years since the two words gained currency, there should be nothing new in urging the people to adhere to the Covid appropriate behaviour, which is the new normal.