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K VijayRaghavan: Can’t ramp up infrastructure in a year for wave so intense

Acknowledging that the “sense of urgency” in ramping up well being infrastructure had “declined” after the primary wave of infections, K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Central authorities, has stated that even with the most effective of efforts it will not have been doable to improve the infrastructure to a stage sufficient to satisfy the unprecedented necessities of the second wave.

“There were major efforts by Central and state governments in ramping up hospital and healthcare infrastructure during the first wave… But as that wave declined, so perhaps did the sense of urgency to get this completed,” VijayRaghavan, the topmost scientific officer in the federal government, informed The Indian Express in an interview.

“(But)… it is important to keep in mind that it is just not possible to amplify the capacities of a public health system within a year to a level that would be sufficient to cope with what we are seeing now…You can build about 20-25 per cent more capacity in one year in some locations… A five-fold increase in capacity cannot be built within a year,” he stated.

VijayRaghavan admitted that everybody had been caught without warning on the depth of second wave and that the provision of vaccines, and the continual decline in instances after the primary wave, may have contributed to the failure to anticipate the scale of the present wave.

“While we were all aware of second waves in other countries, we now had vaccines at hand, and, there were no indications from modelling exercises that suggested the scale of the surge that what we are seeing. So, it became a race to vaccinate as many as we could, while also maintaining Covid-appropriate behaviour. Doing the former (vaccinating everyone) takes time. We slackened on the latter (following Covid-appropriate behaviour),” he stated, including that measures like face-masks and bodily distancing and restrictions on massive gatherings wanted to be strictly enforced and abided by.

“…everyone had been emphasising that until most are vaccinated, we must follow Covid- appropriate behaviour. Perhaps we got used to hearing this too often. It is not easy to be observant for so long, but this is literally a matter of life and death,” he stated.

VijayRaghavan, a distinguished biologist who has earlier served as Secretary in the Department of Biotechnology, denied ideas that India had miscalculated the demand for vaccines.

“We have arrangements to bring in more vaccines, and they would be coming in in the next few months. Serum has an arrangement with Novavax. This will come by about July. Johnson & Johnson has tied up with Biological E. This will come soon. Zydus should be ready in some time. Sputnik is already there. All of this has been facilitated actively from early last year, at the start of the pandemic. That is why we can have them now and soon. The intensity of the second wave has made everything look stressed,” he stated.

He prompt that Delhi may “soon” begin seeing a decline in its each day depend of instances, and the second wave may peak subsequent month. “But much depends on what we do by way of behaviour,” he stated.

“The situation in Uttar Pradesh continues to be a concern. Also, in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand also need to be extremely watchful. All these states, by the way, can still turn around things. It is not that the situation has to deteriorate further. With immediate strong action, it is possible to prevent further deterioration,” he stated.

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