We were bombarded with such headlines in the last three months. Those of us who probed further were dismayed to find that there are many districts in our country where there are no paediatricians. That there is a shortage of about 50% personnel in the nursing cadre of our state government hospitals, chiefly in the emergency and intensive care departments. Covid fatigue from the two waves has dampened the spirit of many of them and they wish to leave their present jobs. We also learned that the shortage of paediatricians, pulmonologists, and trained nurses can be made up only in 4 to 5 years if serious measures are initiated. On the other hand, there are ultra optimistic people going about their jobs without masks as if the pandemic has ended. But most of us have reached a saturation stage and need some answers.
When will this pandemic end? Now that the number of cases and deaths due to Covid has stabilised in our vast country, do we still observe Covid appropriate behaviour? These questions are very pertinent. In many districts, there are more deaths from dengue or other viral fevers. The third wave has not yet come in our country, so why continue with stringent precautions?
First the bad news. The mutating virus has struck again in countries like Israel and Singapore which had near 100% vaccination status. Further, island countries with very strict immigration policies like New Zealand have had fresh episodes of the disease. Also, virus mutants have begun to cause illness in certain states of the US.
The good news is that the vaccines have proved effective in preventing deaths and have reduced serious illness. Even though children have fallen sick, their mortality has been extremely low. Finally, vaccines have been found to be safe in children. Many countries are in the midst of vaccinating their school-going children.
The situation in India is being critically reviewed. Sero-surveillance* (See explanation at the bottom) is carrying on in population groups. This week it was reported that 87% of citizens of Himachal Pradesh have antibodies against Covid. The situation in other states is the same. Many scientists feel that India has reached a state of endemicity to the prevalent virus and its current mutant.
LIfestyles in Endemic Stage
Most of us have already adapted to the new situation in the last year and a half. Masks and hand sanitisers are placed next to the front door, lest we forget. Surface sanitisers have become a part of dusting. Most housewives have kept non-toxic vegetable & fruit cleaners next to kitchen sinks. Below is the current scenario of other activities:
Jobs and small businesses
An increasing number of businesses have now opened up due to high vaccination rates. New job opportunities are available. However, many companies have realised that a lot of jobs can be ‘Work from home. These can be financially beneficial too. On the other hand, many people couldn’t cope up with Covid fatigue in the two waves and are thinking of changing jobs.
Working to fulfil passion has also become fashionable. A number of artists are offering art, craft, music, and dance lessons on social media. Many of these small-time business owners are also able to offer their creative pieces to the public online.
Full capacity domestic airline traffic has already resumed. Buses, local and interstate, and metros are also on track. Rail travel is likely to resume for the vaccinated in the not too distant future.
The policy for vaccinating the below 18 population has not been announced. Hence, colleges and schools are still being run online while some are being re-opened on a hit-and-trial basis. Coaching centres are also shut and their place has already been taken by the mushrooming online tuition companies. Students appear to have adapted well to them.
Normalcy will return only when school-going children are vaccinated and this may occur by the next academic year. Once schools open, care should be taken and all school-going children and staff should be instructed to wear masks and follow Covid appropriate behaviour. As per recent studies in the US, schools that have mandated masks for Students and Staff have 3.5 times fewer corona cases as compared to schools where masks are not made mandatory.
Other Group and Leisure Activities
In this endemic period, baby steps are being taken by states to open up such activities. Processions may be banned but entry to religious places, marriage/ celebration halls, malls, cinema/ entertainment halls can be regulated and they are slowly opening up.
Our primary responsibility should be to follow Covid’s appropriate behaviour
Masks protect not only the users but their friends and relatives too. The seniors and those who have comorbidities should avoid spending time indoors with other people at home, hotels, and bars especially if masks are not being worn there. Hopefully, by the middle of next year, most school-going children will also be immunised. A booster dose to the senior citizens and those with comorbidities would bring us to pre Covid times. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there are no dangerous mutations that bring further havoc.
*Sero-surveillance provides estimates of antibody levels against infectious diseases and is considered the gold standard for measuring population immunity due to past infection or vaccination”.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies
Article courtesy: https://genkris.wordpress.com/2021/09/26/endemic-times-coping-with-covid/