Masks and micro-containment essential; preparation should be on war footing, they say.
Doctors in Kolkata are of the opinion that its present situation — quieter ICUs, with admissions and fatalities dropping — was like the lull before a storm, and if citizens weren’t careful, a third wave of COVID-19 would hit the city sooner than later.
“A third wave is hanging on our necks like the Sword of Damocles. We know it is imminent, but we don’t know when it will hit us. RNA viruses are known to undergo antigenic variations, which is why even fully vaccinated individuals may become vulnerable. We simply cannot afford to become complacent,” internal medicine specialist Dr. Rahul Jain, who has attended to over 3,000 COVID-19 patients so far, told The Hindu.
“The humble mask is still the most vital equipment in the fight against the dreaded coronavirus, whether the ‘plain vanilla’ variety or the mutants. It is also incumbent upon the authorities to go for micro-containment and geotag all cases. If, for example, cases rise in a particular area like, say, Jadavpur, then only that area should be cordoned off rather than restrictions being imposed on the entire city,” Dr. Jain said.
Eminent dermatologist Dr. Koushik Lahiri, who is an advisor to the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, also warned against complacency on part of the public. “Lockdown and restrictions can’t remain for ever, therefore people will have to behave in a responsible manner or else a third wave is a distinct and disturbing possibility. If we stick to protocols and vaccinate as early as possible, the wave can be delayed and dwarfed,” Dr. Lahiri said.
“If we continue with irresponsible behaviour and vaccine hesitancy, the third wave will be a bigger tsunami. Kolkata has hospitals, ICU beds, ventilators, ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) facilities. I am more concerned about the districts, which are going to be hit worse than before,” he said.
According to the data available, Dr. Lahiri said, West Bengal is doing better with vaccination — ranking fifth among the States — than with testing people for COVID-19, an area in which it is jointly ranked 10th with Assam. “Unless you test properly you will never know the real positivity rate, which is required to arrive at any scientific conclusion. But we all are happy that, as per the records, the rate [in the State] has dropped to below 5%,” he said.
Dr. Koushik Chaki, a founding member of the forum, said the only way to mitigate the impact of a possible third wave was to vaccinate on a large-scale over the shortest period of time, take a quick call about the pros and cons of vaccinating those 14 years and above, and to ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour among the general population. “Preparation should be on war footing to develop manpower and infrastructure and to mobilise other resources to ensure that those horrendous scenes during the second wave are not repeated,” Dr. Chaki said.