The second wave of Covid has stressed and stretched India’s healthcare infrastructure to the limits. It was heart-wrenching to see people losing their loved ones during the wave. It is a time to reflect. There are learnings for the government, the healthcare sector as well as the citizens.

The government and the bureaucracy’s mantra for handling Covid should be “only the paranoid survive”. Our government called victory against Covid-19 much too early. On the vaccine front, there was laxity in procurement and the government had do get into firefighting mode.

The opposition parties, by vilifying the vaccine policy, ended up creating vaccine hesitancy, which only added to the chaos. Better planning could have helped reduce the misery to a large extent.

The government would do well to form an empowered group of experts for regular advice and strategy. This group could comprise experts from institutes of national importance and research bodies, and industry leaders.

Digital divide?

Developing an application for scheduling 200 crore vaccinations is not an easy task. While the government is responsible for the below par user experience with the CoWIN app, the current version of the app is much better than the March 2021 one. Proactive planning and extensive testing would have helped in creating a better solution for public use.

As CoWIN is available in many local languages, why is there still talk about digital divide? There are 75 crore internet users in the country. The digital literacy has improved significantly over the past few decades, unfortunately it is limited to digital entertainment.

The government should be held accountable for not having brought in more innovative solutions and in not envisaging the challenges being faced by the people in remote parts of the country.

One other important reason for the spread of the virus has been our callous attitude. The authorities are seen pulling up people for not wearing masks or for stepping out during lockdowns. This shows either our don’t care/ chalta hai attitude or sheer disrespect for rules.

A country well-known for discipline is Japan, where the people are known to follow rules and care for fellow citizens. The Japanese have a long history of wearing masks. Over the past 50-60 years, masks have been commonly used by the people when they have common cold/flu, etc. This prevents others from catching infection.

In India, rather than totally blame the government for the spread of the second wave, people on their part will need to be more careful and sensitive to the well-being of fellow citizens.

Doctors and hospitals

Indian are known to glorify doctors when they save lives and, at the same time, blame them for the death of loved ones.

Doctors serving Covid patients admit that they are learning every day, as each patient responds differently. Considering the unknowns in the treatment of Covid, increased transparency on a patient’s condition would help reduce any possible friction that may arise with the patient’s family members. While medical negligence must be strictly dealt with, it must be acknowledged that most doctors are doing their best in the given circumstances.

For handling the surge in patients, allowing students pursuing medicine and nursing to assist will prove handy and, at the same time, it will provide excellent hands-on experience for them. The government could also consider allowing ayurveda and homeopathy doctors/students to handle the patient load. This can potentially offer a large buffer pool of healthcare staff during crisis times.

Some questions that beg answers from the healthcare professionals are: Why didn’t they not alert the government strongly enough about the risk of a second wave? Also, why didn’t the private hospitals not prepare proactively if they knew the second wave was certain?

As the second wave of Covid recedes, it’s time for the government, the healthcare sector and citizens to pause and reflect. While a large part of the learnings from the mishandling of the second wave must be for the government, it is equally important for the people and the healthcare system not to repeat the mistakes committed.

The writer is a Bengaluru-based columnist. Views are personal