Tempered optimism: On India’s sliding COVID-19 graph

Even with declining infection rates, public activity needs to be guided by caution

India’s declining infections have prompted a further relaxation of activity curbs, but there is no cause to lower the vigil. Genetic mutations of the coronavirus in South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil pose a new worry, with implications for those who have avoided infection so far or have recovered after a difficult battle. Poor communication and lack of transparency on vaccine efficacy data have produced hesitancy, resulting in low uptake in some States. On the other hand, the virus variants have turned the spotlight on second generation vaccines that are expected to protect against them but will take time to arrive. Without ready pharmaceutical remedies, citizens and policymakers have to fall back on the default toolkit of safe behaviour. There will be considerable interest in new measures in Europe, where governments now require use of masks of N95 or FFP2 standards, to offer higher protection in public places and transport; Germany is to give these free to people over 60 and to vulnerable individuals. In India, even with a sizeable population exposed to the virus, as seropositivity surveys show, the spate of infections in Kerala and Maharashtra underscores the value of the precautionary principle on the road to universal vaccination.

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