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India is ‘better equipped’ to deal with a potential Covid third wave, WHO chief scientist says

India is better prepared to stop new Covid-19 waves from wreaking havoc on the country, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization.

The South Asian nation suffered a devastating second wave between February and early May, during which daily infection cases and death rates rose at an alarming pace, pushing the health-care system to the brink.

Since then, cases have declined and are currently averaging to around 30,000 to 40,000 a day. The pace of vaccination has also climbed sharply.

Appearing on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday, Swaminathan said that the world has learned enough about the coronavirus to understand which of the weaknesses in the human body it exploits, and which public health tools and measures are effective at tackling it.

“I think we are much better equipped now in India, but also in other countries, to prevent any catastrophic waves from happening,” she said.

Expecting a third wave

India is expecting a third wave of infections to hit sometime this year. But the consensus among many public health experts is that its impact is likely to be less severe than the first two waves.

“I think the preparations at health system level have really increased, particularly with respect to oxygen and critical care facilities,” Swaminathan said.

“What is needed also is to ramp up the health workforce because it’s not enough to just have the equipment and the materials and the drugs. We also need trained nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, critical care technicians and others,” she added.

At this rate, it should be possible to get to that goal of almost all adults being vaccinated in (India). It’s a huge population.

Soumya Swaminathan

Chief scientist, WHO

India’s vaccination targets

People wait in a queue to receive the vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a shopping mall in Mumbai, India, August 11, 2021.

Francis Mascarenhas | Reuters

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