Vaccine a bright spot, but no dearth of challenges
A year has passed since the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic after over a lakh cases of Covid-19 were confirmed across the world, transforming nearly every aspect of life and livelihood in critical ways. Effective tools have been developed to control the pandemic, but the repercussions of even momentary complacency have played out in recent weeks with a surge in coronavirus cases. Downplaying the risk factor, especially with the emergence of newer variants, is fraught with danger. Some sobering statistics need to be highlighted to mark 365 days: more than 11.74 crore confirmed cases and 26 lakh deaths in 221 countries and territories.
That eight vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, have been approved by at least one country indicates a miraculous collaborative effort. Yet, the rollout can only be seen as a starting point. The race to end the pandemic and reduce it to a sporadic or endemic disease will be a long-drawn one. Studies predict that most high-income countries will have vaccinated their populations by early next year, but bigger hurdles need to be overcome: over 80 poor countries will have to wait until 2023. Simply put, the world won’t be back to normal travel, trade and supply chains until maybe 2024 unless rich countries play a proactive role in ensuring a level-playing field by waiving patents and supporting delivery. New Delhi’s outreach in this regard deserves global applause and recognition.
The post-vaccine patterns in Israel and the UK have shown promising results, as the rate of new infections seems to be declining. Extensive research is already underway the world over to determine, among other things, how long the protection lasts, whether booster doses are required and the vaccine’s impact on viral transmission. Until high levels of population immunity via inoculation are achieved, precautionary measures will have to be kept in place. Any letup in outbreak responses could mean inviting serious trouble. The year gone by has been witness to immeasurable pain. Ensuring there’s no repeat demands individual and collective responsibility.