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Second Waves and Second Opinions

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Covid-19, wrecker of the earth and destroyer of lives, seems to be a recurring occurrence that is going to linger for a while. We all know that the second wave of Covid hit India like a truck and it was one of the worst waves in the world. Scarcity of oxygen, swamped hospitals, overburdened cemeteries, and bodies on the banks of the river Ganga were just some of the intense repercussions the second wave of Covid had. Having stated all of this, this blog aims to discuss whether the Indian Government handled India’s second wave well.

Before the details of the arguments are put forward, it is important to note that this work does not intend to offend anyone. In addition, the opposing side of this argument will be found in Aditya Meharwade’s post so do check that out as well. Alright, time to dive in.

Was the government reckless before the second wave?

According to multiple news reports, it’s safe to say yes, the government was reckless before the second wave. As a body that leads the country, the government failed to acknowledge the threat of an inevitable second wave that had already affected multiple countries in Europe by November 2020. The second wave peaked in America while the first wave was coming to an end in India around January 2021. In addition to this, the Indian government increased its oxygen exports by over 700% in 2021. Lending a helping hand to other countries is understandable, however the threat of a second wave was glaring at India which made this decision uncalled for. The government blissfully ignored the identification of new coronavirus variants as well. In fact, the month of March saw the Union Health minister say, “We are in the end game of the covid-19 pandemic India.” Now that we’ve reached the month of July, we know for a fact that this was not true.

Could a higher vaccination rate have reduced the impact of the second wave?

In January of this year, India began shipping its vaccine doses to foreign countries as part of vaccine diplomacy. This decision however backfired terribly as seen by the knee-deep mess that the country was stuck in around April 2021. A higher vaccination rate would not have necessarily reduced the number of cases but it could have reduced the number of deaths. Since the vaccines (covishield) reach 90% efficacy only after the second dose which needs to be administered 8-12 weeks after the first dose, a higher vaccination rate probably wouldn’t have helped. In addition, the Indian government made the mistake of opening up vaccinations for around 960 million Indians without having the 1.8 billion doses required.

What steps could the government have taken to prevent the severity of the covid spike?

There are quite a few things that could have been done differently to reduce the severity of the covid spike. First off, the government could have waited for a long time before declaring victory over the pandemic. As humans, we tend to follow our leaders, and a declaration of premature victory led to a false sense of safety among the masses. Second, elections. Voting for leadership is important, however, the existence of an ongoing pandemic and the lingering threat of a second wave were important factors that should have been taken into consideration before the elections were put into motion. Election rallies led to mass gatherings with minimal social distancing and standard operating covid procedures. The lack of a united front being posed by the central and state governments added fuel to the fire. The warnings issued by the election commission were not taken seriously by the state governments which could have assisted the spread of the virus. Third, Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela is an important Hindu festival but was it so important that we needed to celebrate it while covid cases were on the rise in our country? Since thousands of people came together from different parts of the country, the Kumbh Mela served to be a super spreader of coronavirus with around 2,642 devotees testing positive at Haridwar. It was disastrous and the worst part? It was preventable.

Will the third wave be as severe as the second wave?

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Imperial College of London, U.K., a potential third wave is not likely to be as severe as the second wave. However, it is advisable to be careful. Taking into consideration the manner in which the government handled the second wave, using our personal discretion would be better. In addition, despite the multiple second wave forecasts, no group managed to gauge the severity of the same. India saw a spike in infections up to 400,000 a day and it wrecked the country. We are currently the second most affected country in the world. This only stands as a warning to be cautious. Especially with the new Delta Plus variant that is now in the picture.

Could the government have done a better job in handling the virus overall?

Taking into consideration all that has been said in this post, yes. The government could have undoubtedly prepared better and handled the virus in a well-equipped manner. Despite the unpredictive nature of the coronavirus, the warning signs were evident. The government could have taken cues from the pattern seen in other countries and prevented the devastating loss suffered by the people of India.

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