Niti Aayog member VK Paul on Tuesday said India has limited the spread of COVID-19 and also the mortality rate from it, but cautioned that challenges have increased with loosening of lockdown provisions.
Paul, in a virtual interaction with Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on the topic of 'Self Care of Elderly During COVID-19' pointed out that "herd immunity is something that would happen to all of us, but we cannot have free run for the virus".
"We are passing through difficult times in the COVID-19 pandemic. We have limited the spread of coronavirus. We have also limited the number of deaths in our country," he said.
On curbs being relaxed despite rise in the number of virus cases, Paul said the government is "mindful of the fact that when we are loosening provisions of the lockdown and moving towards more normal life, the challenges have become even more... The virus is around us."
According to the health ministry, the number of fatalities due to coronavirus infection in the country rose to 3,163 on Tuesday and the total cases reached 1,01,139.
On the way forward for the country in its fight against the crisis, Paul said, "We should protect ourselves with the extent possible, keep the pandemic under such a control level that morbidities and sickness volume that comes up is eminently manageable by the heath system, across the country and we can not allow this pandemic to go out of control."
He further said that herd immunity generally comes after two-thirds of population is exposed to a particularly agent.
"Then infection cannot go further because lots of people already have protective anti-bodies and therefore the virus finds it very difficult to reach unprotected individual," he said adding that herd immunity "has a cost".
Noting that herd immunity comes with certain amount of mortality, Paul said, "they (mortality numbers) are staggering numbers, they are worrying numbers".
Paul, who is heading an Empowered Group on medical equipment and management plan to tackle coronavirus outbreak, stressed that India should continue to protect itself to the extent possible.
"We take all precautions, we particularly look after our most vulnerable, those with morbidities and those with particular age," he said.
"We do know that increasingly, people would get exposed (to coronavirus) over a period of time. Let that happen slowly," he said.
Paul noted that it may have happened in the same way in the 1918 flu pandemic but this cannot be India's choice.
"If it happens in an uncontrolled way, we may have a load on our health system, which we would not be able to bear...that is not a good scenario to work with, that is unpredictable scenario and very costly scenario," he warned.
Suggesting precautions and tips such as wearing mask, following a nutritious diet and regularly exercising, Paul said there should be no shortage of compassion and people need to maintain physical and not emotional distancing.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very challenging time for the country.
On elderly people at more risks from coronavirus infection, he said, "We have to take extra care of them, including their mental health.