As the number of Covid cases continue to spiral in the state of Kerala, IMA president Dr J.A. Jayalal lashed out at the Kerala government saying that reopening without a plan led to rise in cases. Batting for starting schools again, the IMA president said that ‘schools should be opened in a graded manner’. Here also he hit out at the Kerala government saying that had the state acted responsibly and ‘started opening up gradually, the situation would have been better’.
Notably, IMA has already called Kerala government’s decision to ease COVID-19 restrictions on the occasion of Eid al-Adha or Bakri Eid as ‘unwarranted’. In an exclusive interview with Medically Speaking, the IMA President claimed that the Kerala government was adamant on opening the schools and relaxing covid restrictions which lead to thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths in the state.
He further added that the massive shortage of vaccine is a result of the lack of planning on the part of the state & Central government. On the third wave he said “I do not agree with the prediction that the third wave will have a disastrous effect. I am confident that the third wave will come. The way in which we have taken up the vaccination drive, followed by the Covid appropriate behaviour and the natural immunity of the people- all these things will ensure that the third wave will not be as disastrous as the second wave,”. Following are a few snippets from the exclusive interview:
Q. The IMA has time and again warned the central and state governments. You told the Kerala government not to go ahead with the bakr eid celebrations. What will be your first reaction to those state governments and people who are going ahead with festivities thinking that the second wave is over and we have a short window to celebrate?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: Democracy always leads by popularity. During the pandemic, the health of the people is of utmost importance. The IMA plays a major role to tell what is right and how the people should mend their ways to ensure safety and security in the country.
Q. What do you say about the Kerala government? The IMA government asked them to not go ahead with the bakr eid celebration. Also, the number of tourists in states like Himachal Pradesh have peaked in the past few days. What do you think the state governments should do and where are they lacking?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: It is the duty of the government to tell the people what to do. Unfortunately, the Kerala CM was very adamant on opening the schools and relaxing the Covid restrictions. This led to 17,580 cases and 138 deaths in Kerala. India is a federal structure. We cannot allow one state to go according to their whims and fancies. That is going to have an impact on the entire country. That is why we are asking the government to come forward to curtail these cases. The cases are increasing day by day. That is why the IMA is asking the people and governments to mend their ways.
Q. Do you think that schools should remain shut for the time being?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: We need to exclusively plan about reopening the schools. People should not come in crowds. They should maintain social distancing, wear masks and follow the vaccination protocol. The schools should not be kept closed for a long time as it can have a psychological impact on the children. We will advise that schools should be opened in a graded and sustained way. The schools need not be open on all five days. The students can be called for just two days.
Q. Children have been silent carriers of Covid in the last wave as well. How important is it to vaccinate them? Where are we when it comes to vaccinating the children in our country?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: If the parents and the adults of the family are vaccinated and masking is practised then Covid will not have a disastrous effect on the children.
Q. Where do you see we are months from when the drive started? Many experts feel that we would not be able to vaccinate the whole population of the country by the end of the year. What will be your reaction to that?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: On June 21, India proved that 8.8 lakh people were vaccinated. That means that we have the capacity to vaccinate upto ten million people. Secondly, the country needs to have a sufficient supply of vaccines.
Q. Where are we lacking? Why such a massive shortage of vaccines?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: We are lacking because the government did not plan on how they would be going with the vaccine production. They were just depending on two companies which had a limited capacity. They can make 2.5 or three million vaccines. That does not meet the needs of the ten million people. We are taking a lot of time to import the Sputnik vaccine, although the permission has already been given. In Tamil Nadu, a big nine hundred crore vaccine unit is idle. If the government was really interested, they would have worked some ways by which the vaccine production would have augmented. But we are ready to support the government and before 2021 we plan to vaccinate the complete population.
Q. When we speak of shortage of supply, we have seen a great tussle between the state and the centre. Similar tussle played out when the Centre said that ‘no deaths have been reported because of lack of oxygen supply’. How would you react to the politics happening around it and to the statement that ‘no deaths happened due to the shortage of oxygen’ ?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: What the mind does not know, the eyes will not see. That is what is happening with the Honourable Health Minister today. He has said that none of the states have given an official report about deaths due to shortage of oxygen, so he is not wrong on his part. This is the most painful thing during Covid. There have been so many doctor deaths but the government has no official data about their deaths.
Q. Many doctors say that the third wave is impending. Some say that it is already here. Where will you say India stands when it comes to the third wave?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: I do not agree with the prediction that the third wave will have a disastrous effect. I am confident that the third wave will come. The way in which we have taken up the vaccination drive, followed by the Covid appropriate behaviour and the natural immunity of the people- all these things will ensure that the third wave will not be as disastrous as the second wave. I expect that the number of cases will be lesser than projected. The mortality rate will also be less because we have augmented our infrastructure, manpower and the resource material. When we are well prepared to face the situation, we have nothing to worry about.
Q. Do you think we are well prepared?
A. Prof Dr Jayalal: In comparison to the second wave, we are well prepared for the third wave. We know our faults and gaps now. Those gaps have been filled up. Unless the virus is arrogant with us, we will sail safely through the third wave.