While we all are looking forward to ushering in the New Year 2022 with joy and fanfare, the third wave looks like it is upon us. Even as many Indian states have banned large gatherings and prohibited mass celebrations of the New Year, most of us still intend to ring in the New Year with gusto. However, the dampener (yet again!!) is the much anticipated and equally not welcome Third Wave of the Covid infections, this time driven by the less milder, though highly contagious, Omicron variant. With this third wave likely to play spoilsport, my suggestion is to practice caution and be circumspect as the Omicron variant arrives on a weary and wary populace, fatigued as we are by repeated lockdowns and quarantines and endless restrictions on mobility and constricted lifestyles.
Indeed, the Omicron variant proves that “we are not masters of our fates” as this strain evades the effect of vaccinations and is airborne meaning that no matter how guarded we are, we might not get away this time. Moreover, the Third Wave is expected to be “short and intense” which means that the “shock” value is higher. In other words, there would be no time to waste, once symptomatic (I haven’t mentioned infected, since sero surveys have found that almost the entire population is a carrier of any of the variants of the novel Coronavirus). In addition, the Third Wave can test our patience, yet again, and this time, it is likely that this wave would be significantly different from previous iterations.
However, this does not mean that we have to “surrender” to the dictates of the Third Wave. For instance, there are many ways in which we can prevent this wave by turning lethal by not repeating the “mistakes” of the Second Wave, such as enhancing cooperation and coordination between the many governmental departments and the urban civic corporations as well as by being more “responsible” in following Covid appropriate behavior. While this seems as commonsense, it is sad that large gatherings and masses thronging public places are allowed to happen, risking super spreader events, that can easily defeat any of the many precautions that are followed.
Moreover, the Lives vs. Livelihood debate would rear its head again which makes the government’s job incredibly difficult as they decide on lockdowns, quarantines, night curfews and other restrictions. Convincing a “tired” public that they stay at home or forego economic activities, at a time when the Indian economy is yet to fully recoup the “losses” of the last couple of years, is a herculean task. Added to this are the increasing polarization and divisiveness of the mainstream rhetoric, risking logic and rationality at a time when being factual and sticking to reason is necessary. Indeed, if we do not rein in all these trends, the Third Wave would be chaotic, much like during the Second Wave, when patients died waiting for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders.
Having said that, there are some encouraging signs like decreased vaccine hesitancy, increased surveillance, and better triaging of patients to decide on home quarantine or hospitalization. Moreover, vigilant citizen groups and NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) look ready to step in wherever and whenever the state is limited or for that matter, absent. Of course, these are the learning’s from the Second Wave and hopefully, the Third Wave should prove that we are not discarding them. In addition, there is greater awareness of what needs to be done and thankfully, this should come in handy as the Third Wave progresses.
Last, it is disappointing to bring in 2022 feeling blue all over and though unavoidable, is inevitable. So, here’s hoping that 2022 would be the last year of the pandemic and the Third Wave is the final tide before Covid ebbs away. We badly need a break from this devastating virus and provided we walk the talk together, we can defeat Corona and restore normality, whatever the New Normal would be. To conclude, Happy New Year readers (assuming you have read this far) and let us not forget that “the only thing we need to fear is fear itself” !!
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