THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For the past 18 months, we have been battling against the Covid pandemic since the first case was reported in the country on January 30, 2020. So far, we went through a milder first wave and a disastrous second wave. From the history of Spanish-Flu, we believe Covid also will have four or more waves over two to three years. That means we will be back to normal life only by 2024. While everyone wants to go back to normalcy, we all must be responsible when restrictions are formally lifted.
As a doctor, I believe continuing to be cautious is the right thing to do. There is little doubt that things will get worse before they get better. We are already at the brink of a third wave and cases are rising dramatically. Thankfully, due to the success of the vaccination campaign by the Kerala government, cases are not translating into the previous levels of hospital admissions and deaths.The number of people attending surgeries and emergency departments has also increased causing further problems for the government hospitals.
The growth of long covid, particularly in younger adults, present additional pressures and challenges. Hospitals are also trying to tackle the huge backlog in elective works, which has built up over the pandemic.Everyone, including adolescents, has been offered vaccination. With the ongoing monsoon season (with other respiratory infections including flu waiting on the sidelines) the longer we ‘relax’ the more likely the inevitable ‘exit wave’ will be hard to cope with. So, it is important to try and get the public on board as relaxation starts. Wearing face masks indoors, working from home where possible, and avoiding crowded places would be a good start.As and when restrictions are lifted we will be going to see increases in other respiratory infections adding to the pressure.
We have already seen this in children and Covid alone is very unlikely to cause severe illness or death among children or teenagers. Time will come when this dangerous and erratic disease is largely under control and everyone will ‘learn to live with’ Covid.
We should learn from mistakes and promote self-distancing and other precautions. Educate everyone to live with this virus by exercising caution. There should be proper research on the available data and we should publish the results in landmark journals like Lancet. This will help us formulate our own guidelines. The government should allocate more budget for healthcare and medical research.
What can government do?
- Government should take expert opinions from healthcare workers to avoid lockdowns and continue on restrictions on gatherings
- Businessmen need financial aid and an interest-free moratorium
- Bank employees should give confidence to customers
- Psychological help should be provided to all citizens
- All religious places can be opened
- Health professionals should be motivated and protected from the bystanders
- Before lifting lockdown TPR and the number of vacant ICU beds and oxygen facilities should be taken into account
- Many countries like Australia are open by closing all the borders
The author is chairman of board of governors of the Indian Association of Clinical Cardiologists and president of the Association of MD Physicians