“We are better prepared today to face Omicron virus” —Dr Vinay Agrawal
“Our hospitals handled the waves first and second. Now the wave third is there. When the first wave came we were not ready—we never had PPE kits, etc. We did not know what to do. The good part was the government was directly handling the whole situation and the private sector was kept away. Incidentally, the number of cases was also less,” said Dr Vinay Agrawal, Chairman, Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital, in an interview to Ashok Kumar. Excerpts:
Omicron is rising day by day. Do you feel hospitals are ready to face the third wave?
We need to understand Omicron. So far, Omicron is not that fatal, though it is more infectious and spreading fast but I.C.U admissions are not much. There is one more thing, in diseases like Covid-19 or any variant of Covid, it is difficult to say that we are totally prepared for that but I can definitely say that we are better prepared in combating this disease today. Here, I want to appreciate our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is fighting this battle from the front. The oxygen supply is now much better than that in 2nd wave of Covid-19 and hospital beds are ready in much better condition today. More than 150 crore vaccinations have been done in our country now. More so, the public is cautious now. Against this backdrop, you can say that we are better prepared today to face this Omicron virus.
You must have gained lots of practical experience in handling Covid patients. Can you brief us on your arrangements for the third wave?
Truthfully, our hospitals handled the waves first and second. Now the wave third is there. When the first wave came we were not ready—we never had PPE kits, etc. We did not know what to do. The good part was the government was directly handling the whole situation and the private sector was kept away. Incidentally, the number of cases was also less. The restrictions put across the country were much more. The fatalities in wave one were much lesser than that in wave two. When the second wave came, we had the protective kits, but we became lax. There had been disputes between the states and the centre. In this dispute between the states and the centre, there had been a lack of arrangements. Also there were election rallies; markets were opened up; temples were opened up. And the second wave was very lethal. Nobody knew what was happening. In fact, the four weeks between April and May were very dangerous. Oxygen supply was not there. Rather I would say that the distribution of oxygen was not proper. Take the example of Delhi: neither it was producing it, nor it had proper arrangements to store it. In the meantime, owing to the panic, the public started storing it. Even some of the hospitals started storing it. Just after the second wave, the government started the vaccination drive on a massive scale. Now you can see more than 150 crore vaccination has been done. Now the vaccination has started for children between 15 and 18 years. Besides, the third booster dose has also started. So I feel our hospitals now, looking at the intensity of the disease, are prepared today. In the third wave, cases are high but mild symptoms.
In 2nd wave there was a huge crisis for oxygen. Is your hospital ready to provide health infra and medicines for new variants?
I told you the entire country was facing the shortage of oxygen, particularly the northern states and Delhi to be very precise because there was no coordination between the centre and states. What is more, there was no coordination between states and states. Oxygen tankers were stopped at the borders, not being allowed to supply in a particular state. Now the government has made all-out efforts to streamline that. Now production is enough and storing facilities are also adequate. These facilities though cannot be at an optimal stage, but are better prepared. So I think we are better prepared and nothing to be panicky about.
Vaccination above 15 and under 18 has started now. Don’t you feel the third wave has started and all children cannot be covered so quickly?
Basically, in the second wave and before that, a lot of people were vaccinated but they got infected. In fact, it is like a community spread, which is already there. And with that there is herd community. Besides, we are still not able to cover the entire population above 18 years with two doses, and we started vaccinating children below 18 years, which means neither are we covering them nor the children. It is worth mentioning that the younger population has more immunity and that is why their vaccination was delayed. And I am sure in the next two-three months this section will also be covered.
What do you expect from central and state govt’s to face the third wave?
My suggestion to both the centre and states is that when it is the matter of mortality, disease, etc, forget your political differences. Don’t politicise the issue. Don’t take out political advantage of the situation.
What are the precautions the general public must take to avoid infection and what to do if one is tested Covid positive?
Follow the appropriate Covid behaviour: hand sanitisation, masking and social distancing.