As India continues to battle against the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor M Vidyasagar, who is the head of the expert panel of scientists appointed by the government to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, spoke exclusively to Republic Media Network on Saturday. When asked about the current crisis of oxygen and ICU beds all across the country, the head of the expert panel gave an account of precisely when various actions in relation with the second wave were taken, and on resource management for the same. Finally, he answered a crucial question regarding when he and the panel saw the second wave coming, to which he gave what he emphasised was 'the honest truth'.
Speaking on the shortage of beds being experienced suddenly after half a year of cases dwindling and COVID care facilities being wound down, Prof M Vidyasagar said, "First, you have to figure out what you are trying to do. You cannot have a huge number of beds lying vacant because that is not feasible in a country like ours. Therefore, we need a 'rapid-response situation."
#StayStrongIndia | Distinguishing feature of COVID vis-a-vis other infections is its spread via asymptomatic persons: M Vidyasagar, head of the government panel on the infection's trajectory. Tune in to watch #LIVE here - https://t.co/RZHKU3wOei pic.twitter.com/XANIEj0DiP— Republic (@republic) May 1, 2021
Stating that the steps taken by the industries which used to use oxygen for smelting purposes to make medical oxygen instead should have been taken some 10-15 days earlier, Prof Vidyasagar said that the gap is not in the production of oxygen but instead in the transportation of the oxygen.
Asserting that he is not entirely convinced with the statement of people that every hospital should set up its own oxygen plant, the Professor said, "This is not how things work. If I told you that every hospital has to manufacture its own drugs then you would laugh at me, wouldn't you?"
The head of the expert panel of the scientists appointed by the government to monitor COVID's trajectory further mentioned that there are certain reasons why some things like oxygen should be manufactured centrally. He said, "If the oxygen is manufactured centrally then its quality and efficiency will not be compromised."
Speaking about the availability of beds across the country, M Vidyasagar said that he has noticed that a lot of non-COVID-19 patients stopped going to the hospital in view of the pandemic. He suggested that the hospitals can repurpose the non-COVID-19 beds for the infected patients. Stating that the magnitude of the second wave of the pandemic is far worse than the first wave of the pandemic, he suggested that the medical system of the country should be prepared for the third wave as well.
#StayStrongIndia | The next imp thing is it's now 7.5 months since the previous peak, so many people who were asymptomatic earlier but didn't test positive will be losing their immunity: M Vidyasagar, head of the govt panel on the infection's trajectory https://t.co/RZHKU3wOei pic.twitter.com/MyTFjlJewV— Republic (@republic) May 1, 2021
#StayStrongIndia | Don't be complacent that there won't be a 3rd wave. Wave 1 led to 40-45% Indians being asymptomatically infected and getting some kind of immunity, but that's not enough for herd immunity; can be bridged with vaccinations: M Vidyasagar https://t.co/RZHKU3wOei pic.twitter.com/TdFZLXK4Cc— Republic (@republic) May 1, 2021
Asserting that all other countries of the world such as Japan, UK, USA, etc have also experience the second wave which was way worse than the first wave, the Professor said that India is no exception and hence, everyone should prepare for upcoming waves well in advance.
He stated that the "magnitude of second wave is 4 times that of first", adding "We shouldn't be under illusion that we won't have another wave."
Professor M Vidyasagar was then asked when he saw the second wave coming and what he told the government.
"You must define 'seeing' the wave. There are two aspects - One is to notice the number of cases are increasing and are likely to peak around a certain date - that we saw very early. Second is to predict the quantum of cases, which we took a long time to do, because the parameters of wave 2 were far more unfavourable for us as a society than the parameters of the first. What I mean is that the rate of spread of the second wave was much higher than the first."
"In order to conclude this definitively we had to watch the second wave for a few weeks, and that's where a lot of the shortages you see are coming. If you see our projections for the past few weeks, we've been saying always that the second wave will peak sometime around May 15 or earlier, but if you look at the quantum of cases we've been predicting, they're going higher and higher, because as we could calibrate the rate at which the second wave is spreading, you could get more reliable estimates. That's the honest truth."
"We saw the second wave coming, we saw when it could peak, but we didn't see the extent of the second wave."
Coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high with over 4 lakh new infections being reported in the last 24 hours, while the active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark, according to an update by the Union Health Ministry. The infection tally rose to 1,91,64,969 with 4,01,993 new cases, while the death toll increased to 2,11,853 with 3,523 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
Registering a steady increase, the active cases have increased to 32,68,710, accounting for 17.06 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 81.84 per cent. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,56,84,406, while the case fatality rate stands 1.11 per cent, the data stated.