After being the richest state at the epicenter of a devastating second wave, India is already taking steps to prepare for a possible third wave, according to its tourism and environment minister.
The western state of Maharashtra, home of the Indian financial capital Mumbai, has so far reported more than 5.4 million cases, including over 82,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to the Ministry of Health. It is the most severely affected state in the country to date.
Since last month, ministers of state, including Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray, have been discussing various ways to respond to an impending third wave that could potentially occur sometime between September and October, Aaditya Thackeray told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Tuesday.
“We are preparing for three important things for the third wave,” said Thackeray, who is also the prime minister’s son.
First, the state medical response, currently led by a task force composed of 11 doctors who have put together standard operating procedures for Maharashtra’s administrative and medical responses. Thackeray said the state was examining which demographic characteristics could be affected in a third wave – especially children and young people, who were largely spared from the two previous waves.
Passengers from Uttar Pradesh queue for the Covid test upon their arrival at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus on May 16, 2021 in Mumbai, India.
Satish Bate | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
The state is making greater efforts to ensure adequate hospital beds, oxygen supply and intensive care units.
Second, it also opts for social guidelines like the need to wear multiple masks, Thackeray said.
“The third, of course, is business response. Because industry has to go, work has to go on. So we’re trying to prepare for this third wave,” he added.
India’s Covid situation
India’s daily reported cases have declined since hitting a record high of over 414,000 new infections in a 24-hour period on May 7. Some have suggested that the second wave has already peaked.
On Monday, new cases fell below 300,000 for the first time since April 21. However, the death rate remained above 4,000 for the last three consecutive days, including Tuesday, when at least 4,329 other deaths were reported. Experts have suggested India’s deaths are heavily under counted.
Medical experts have said India’s best way to counter future waves is to vaccinate as many people as possible. The country has already given more than 184 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, but much of that is just a first dose. Currently, people over the age of 18 can be vaccinated.
The rate of vaccination has reportedly slowed as states struggle to secure supplies. Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement on Saturday that the country will have 516 million doses by July, including those already administered, and that that number will rise to 2.16 billion doses between August and December.
Thackeray said Maharashtra is trying to get as many vaccines as possible for the state. Municipal companies in large cities like Mumbai are also self-procuring. He explained that logistics pose a challenge to the state’s plans to vaccinate people in rural or densely populated areas.
“In terms of planning and setting vaccination rules, almost everything is there. We’re just waiting for supplies,” he said. Maharashtra accounts for just over 10% of all vaccine doses given in India to date, according to the Ministry of Health.
“The medical belief in the state is that if we want to prevent a third wave – which we believe is possible from September to October – we need to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect them,” Thackeray added.
The state has also extended its lockdown to the end of the month when non-essential activities are restricted. Thackeray said the reopening will depend entirely on how many Covid-19 cases are reported in Maharashtra and that it would still be slow and staggered.