COVID-19 is like no other pandemic we have witnessed in 100 years. It has disrupted and destroyed our lives, our economy, our healthcare system and has caused unimaginable misery.
Just when we thought we had won our war against COVID with reasonable success after the first wave last year and were lulled into a sense of complacency, the second wave hit us like a tsunami with millions being washed away in the deluge of COVID. Lakhs of people died and the healthcare system was left in a shambles.
With the imposition of a second lockdown in many parts of the country, implementation of COVID-appropriate behaviour and the arrival of vaccines, we have managed to bring down the new cases from almost 4 lakh per day to about 40,000 to 50,000 per day. I do believe these numbers will come down further if we control our behaviour.
It seems very likely that COVID is here to stay but the number of waves and the peak of the waves that we see in the future really depend on us.
The very important lessons that we need to learn are that we should not let our guard down even when the second wave has been controlled, vigorously follow COVID-appropriate behaviour and adopt an aggressive vaccination strategy. Rigorous testing, tracking and genomic analysis should help us predict the future waves and prepare for them in advance.
If we maintain this strategy long enough, we might move the COVID pandemic to an endemic status like the seasonal flu, which is more manageable. There is also a likelihood of yearly COVID vaccination for high-risk groups, similar to flu vaccination.
Another very important lesson to be learnt and not forgotten is that although lockdowns break the transmission of COVID and control the pandemic, they have devastating consequences for the economy and livelihoods of a large section of the society and could push us back to the Stone Age. It certainly is not a long-term solution to controlling this pandemic.
Only rigorous testing , genomic analysis, detection of mutations and clustering of cases, along with rate of vaccination and sero-surveillance, travel patterns within and outside the country and the pattern of COVID-appropriate behaviour can predict whether the third wave will start from Maharashtra, Kerala or some other corner of the country.
One must reiterate that the only ways in which we can save ourselves from severe future waves of COVID are by adopting strong public health measures, strict COVID-appropriate behaviour, aggressive mass vaccination in a short period of time, and a robust plan to boost the healthcare infrastructure of the country, especially in the rural areas.