Second wave of COVID-19 can't be ruled out in winters: Expert panel chief

Updated: 19 October, 2020 10:57 IST | PTI | New Delhi

Paul, who is also the chief of an expert panel coordinating efforts to tackle the pandemic in the country, said that once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, there will be enough resources to deliver as well as make it accessible to citizens

Train passengers wearing facemasks as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus are pictured at a railway station in New Delhi. Pic/PTI
Train passengers wearing facemasks as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus are pictured at a railway station in New Delhi. Pic/PTI

The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths have declined in the last three weeks as the spread of the pandemic has stabilised in most of the states, Niti Aayog Member V K Paul said on Sunday but did not rule out the possibility of a second wave of infections in the winter season.

Paul, who is also the chief of an expert panel coordinating efforts to tackle the pandemic in the country, said that once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, there will be enough resources to deliver as well as make it accessible to citizens.

"In India, the new coronavirus cases and number of deaths have declined in the last three weeks and the pandemic has stabilised in most of the states. However, there are five states (Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal) and 3-4 Union Territories (UTs), where there is still a rising trend," Paul told PTI in an interview.

He is heading the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC). According to him, India is in a somewhat better position now but the country still has a long way to go because 90 per cent of the people are still susceptible to coronavirus infections.

On whether India could see a second wave of coronavirus infections in the winter, Paul said that with the onset of winter, countries across Europe are seeing resurgence of COVID-19 cases. "We cannot rule out (a second coronavirus wave this winter in India). Things can happen and we are still learning about the virus," Paul noted.

He stressed on COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during festival season and winter months. "Because of the winter season, some increase in pollution in north India as well as festival season, we have to be very careful... coming months are a challenge. One would be worried that we could lose the gains that we have made," Paul said.

He also cautioned against any complacency about the decline in the number of new cases and called for keeping up the efforts to contain the pandemic. "If we don't take precaution, if we are not careful, because we are susceptible there can be escalation. God forbid, but we can avoid it."

"This is in our hand, whether India has another wave or not is very much in our own hand," the Niti Aayog member said.

To a query about storage and distribution of vaccine once it is available, he said India has enough cold storage facilities to an extent and this can be readily augmented as required.

"Once the vaccine is available, there will be enough resources for delivering vaccines and making it accessible to the citizens and there will be no concern about resources under those circumstances," Paul said.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister's Office said the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) in consultation with state governments and all relevant stakeholders have prepared a detailed blueprint for vaccine storage, distribution, and administration.

The group, in consultation with states, is working actively on prioritisation and distribution of vaccines. The coronavirus death toll climbed to 1,14,031, the health ministry's data updated at 8 am on Sunday showed. The number of active cases of coronavirus infection remained below eight lakh for the second consecutive day. India is the second worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-19 cases after the US.

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First Published: 19 October, 2020 10:41 IST

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