With the nation under the grip of the second wave of COVID-19 infections since last month, a report on Thursday called for faster vaccination as a more effective way to beat it and not lockdowns as was done last year.
Lockdown is ineffective and mass vaccination is the only hope as localised lockdowns have not resulted in controlling the spread of infection. Therefore, increasing the speed of vaccination is the only way to win the battle against the pandemic, SBI's Group Chief Economic Advisor Soumya Kanti Ghosh said in the report.
When the whole nation was locked down this day last year, the total number of cases was not even 500 and as the lockdowns were extended, the number of infections just soared.
Citing the example of many states, including Maharashtra and Punjab, he said lockdowns were not effective.
Studies on the Great Spanish Flu of 1918-19 show that rapid implementation of multiple non-pharmaceutical interventions, including closure of schools, churches, and theatres, can significantly reduce influenza transmission, but that viral spread will only be renewed on relaxation of such measures.
Similarly, in none of the most affected districts across the major states, the lockdowns failed to contain either infections or the death rates.
Also, Google Mobility data shows that mobility has declined in many states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh after new localised lockdowns were clamped, but the infection level has only gone up in these states.
He also predicts that this will be end of the pandemic as the vaccination gathers speed and sees the total cases in the second wave across the country to be around 25 lakh, citing the infection trends till March 23.
On Wednesday, close to 53,500 new infections were reported across the nation. In just two days the count topped 1 lakh, taking the total caseload to 1.18 crore since late last January when the first case was reported in Kerala.
Considering the number of days from the current level of daily new cases to the peak level during the first wave, we may peak in the second half of April and the entire duration of the second wave may last up to 100 days beginning February 15, he said.
Calling for faster and increased inoculations, the report notes that Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Haryana have vaccinated over 20 per cent of their elderly population (above 60 years), while several states with higher elderly population like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bengal have vaccinated much less.
Assuming more number of people are willing to take the shots and the daily inoculation jumps to 40-45 lakh from the current 34 lakh, then with this capacity the population above 45 years can be vaccinated in four months from now, the report said.
Citing the presence of the vaccines, he also discounted the second wave of infections which so far has been more intense and fatal in most countries as these are caused by many mutated strains of the coronavirus.
Though the second wave is much higher in intensity than the first wave, the presence of vaccine makes the difference currently. Thus, we will be able to manage the situation better, he said.
Caseloads have again started increasing in top 15 districts, mostly urban, while the spread in rural districts is mostly stable and cases are largely localised and concentrated.