With the possibility of India hurtling towards a COVID-19 "third wave", the Maharashtra government on Friday cautioned that the state could witness around 60 lakh cases in such a situation.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that while around 20 lakh were affected in the first wave followed by 40 lakh in the second, the dreaded next wave may lead to over 60 lakh cases.
"Of these, nearly 12 per cent would require oxygen support during treatment... We are trying to achieve 100 percent vaccination as soon as possible," he said.
Contending that the third wave has already started in the US, the UK, Russia, and other countries, he called upon people to take extreme precautions during the upcoming festivals like Janmashtami, Ganeshotsav, Navratri and Diwali to avoid a surge in the cases.
Tope has discussed the issue with his Kerala counterpart Veena George, whose state recorded 31,000 new cases on Thursday with the Onam celebrations considered the prime reason, but the authorities have stepped up testing.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
He revealed that to tackle the upcoming health crisis, the Maharashtra government is in the process of recruiting more doctors, nurses and other medical-paramedical staffers besides enhancing health care capacities including for juveniles.
"By September end, we plan to recruit 7,000 medical staff including 1,200 doctors. We are enhancing the production of liquid medical oxygen, increasing the number of beds in COVID hospitals, and getting 1,000 new ambulances," Tope said.
Additionally, the government has approved an increment of Rs 1,500 in the salaries of 71,000 ASHA workers for which an an amount of Rs 275 crore will be included in the budget.
Health Department officials said that at least nine of the worst-hit districts in the two previous waves "are being monitored very closely" to ensure that infections and fatalities can be controlled, besides taking measure to shield children and infants.
The situation has already become worrisome as the state has already recorded over 200 cases of the COVID-19 variant, Delta Plus, which has claimed 5 patients till date.
This week, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation authorities were stunned after 22 young students, mostly below 18, were found infected out of 95 in the St Joseph's School & Orphanage in Dongri, and the institution was promptly sealed on Thursday.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.