With the double-mutant strain of Covid-19 wreaking havoc across India, the J&K administration still has time to procure essential medical supplies and gear up for the inevitable second wave, writes Javed Beigh
As someone who is currently recovering from a deadly bout of Coronavirus infection, I am saying this with the conviction of my own personal experience that the so-called “second wave” of coronavirus is far more infectious and vengeful than the first one.
It has been over ten days since I tested positive. I continue to suffer from classic symptoms of Coronavirus including nagging dry cough, loss of sense of smell and taste, and extreme physical weakness. While the severity of my symptoms has gone down, I have still not fully recovered and I might even suffer from consequences of what is called “long Covid” or lingering long-term health damage.
All of this as a young man in thirties.
The evil behind this deadly and extremely contagious second wave in India is believed to be an indigenously mutated Indian strain of coronavirus dubbed as “Double Mutant” because of simultaneous mutation caused not only in the base round body of the coronavirus but also the so-called “spike proteins”, the tentacle shaped structures that are attached to the coronavirus, which hooks the virus to the human body.
Unlike the mutations caused in Brazil and UK strains, which occurred in spike proteins only, the double mutant Indian coronavirus has “double” mutations, which makes it both easy to infect and deadly at the same time. According to still evolving studies, the double mutant virus takes just less than 30 seconds to infect another person if no one is wearing a mask unlike 15 to 20 minutes for the original coronavirus.
“There is no room for complacency and any theory that the second wave of the novel coronavirus will not hit J&K as badly as other states of India is highly misconceived”
Also, while the original coronavirus could infect up to a maximum of 3 to 5 persons, the double mutant Indian strain can infect up to 25 to 30 persons. Also, worryingly, unlike the original strain which would attack the nose and develop a cluster of colonies before invading the lungs, the double mutant Indian coronavirus is able to directly attack the lungs and damage it within 3 to 4 days.
No wonder that there has been a nearly sudden exponential growth in infections all over India, which have grown nearly 10 fold in a matter of only three weeks. At the time of writing this article, India had set a new world record with over three lakh daily infections and over 3000 deaths in a single day, the highest since the outbreak in Wuhan, China in 2019.
The union territory of Jammu & Kashmir has also seen a dramatic rise in the growth of daily cases in the last three weeks in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley. At the time of writing this article, J&K witnessed its highest single-day count of over 3000 cases and 30 deaths. The situation remains grim not just in Kashmir valley, which was badly impacted in the first wave but also in Jammu region, which seems to be impacted worst than the last time. Nearly 70% of deaths are in fact being reported from Jammu region this time, even though the number of infections is affecting both regions almost equally badly.
Hospitals, both private and government, are nearly full in both Srinagar and Jammu city. While the situation has still not reached the levels of devastation happening in bigger cities like Delhi and Mumbai, it is well moving towards a tipping point. Hospitals in Srinagar are reporting much younger patients with severe problems in breathing and pneumonia asking for immediate medical attention.
The population density in Jammu city and almost across Kashmir valley is especially vulnerable to the exponential explosion of the highly infectious strain of Double Mutant Indian Coronavirus. The Kashmir valley in specific also suffered a lot in the first wave-driven not only by inappropriate public behavior but also due to the high density of population in Srinagar, as well as towns and villages.
Having said it, J&K still has time. It has not reached the levels of Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra yet. The UT administration still has time to put its act together and work on various fronts to mitigate the impact of the second wave. Vaccination drive should be increased at a faster pace. Unlike bigger states of UP and Bihar, the relatively less populated J&K UT can be easily and rapidly vaccinated without much problem. This would help in taming the spread of this deadly epidemic in J&K.
Also learning from the experience of Delhi, UP and Maharashtra, the UT administration must not only make advance preparations for increasing beds with ventilators but also make suitable arrangements for procuring enough oxygen cylinders and life-saving medicines that are used for treating the deadly disease.
There is no room for complacency and any misconception that the second wave of Coronavirus will not hit Jammu and Kashmir as badly as other states of India should be set aside by looking at the worst condition of a small state like Chattisgarh, where infections are hitting over 10,000 cases and over 150 deaths per day. All administrative efforts must be collected to make sure that things don’t escalate to that extent in J&K.
There is also a need to enhance and upgrade the medical infrastructure in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley and a contingency plan to set up a large-scale temporary medical facility must also be envisaged. Kashmir valley is also home to the densely populated army and paramilitary cantonments, which were also hit very hard last time. Thus, the need of the hour is to execute a holistic plan for the entire J&K keeping in mind the size, diversity, and remoteness of the terrain and density of population, quality of the medical infrastructure of the entire UT, so that both the administration and the people of the UT can fight the inevitable tsunami of the deadly and highly contagious second wave of double mutant hitting J&K with its full might.
Views expressed are personal. The author can be reached @javedbeigh across social media platforms.