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 10 days since I was diagnosed as positive for Coronavirus, and I continue to suffer from classic symptoms of Coronavirus including nagging dry cough, loss of sense of smell and taste and extreme bodily weakness. While the severity of my symptoms has gone down, I am still not fully recovered and I might even suffer from consequences of what is called “long Covid” or lingering long-term health damage, all this as a young man in my early 30s.
The evil behind this deadly and extremely contagious second wave of coronavirus in India is believed to be an indigenously mutated Indian strain of coronavirus, which is dubbed as “Double Mutant”, so called because of simultaneous mutation caused not only in the base round body of the coronavirus but also the so called “spike proteins”, tentacle-shaped structures that are attached to the coronavirus and which hooks the entire virus to the human body. Unlike the mutations caused in Brazil and UK versions, which occurred in spike proteins only, the double mutant Indian coronavirus has “double” mutations, which makes it both easier to infect and deadlier at the same time.
According to still evolving studies, the double mutant Indian coronavirus takes just less than 30 seconds to infect anther person if no one is wearing a mask, unlike 15 to 20 minutes for the original coronavirus. Also, while the original coronavirus could infect up to maximum of 3 to 5 persons, the double mutant Indian coronavirus can infect up to 25 to 30 persons. Also, worryingly, unlike the original strain of coronavirus which would attack nose and develop a cluster of colonies before invading 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 the infections all over India, which have grown nearly 10 fold in a matter of only 3 weeks. At the time of writing this article, India had reported nearly 3 lakh cases and over 2,000 deaths in a single day, the highest since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
The union territory of Jammu & Kashmir has also seen a dramatic rise in the growth of Coronavirus cases in last three weeks in both Jammu region and Kashmir valley. At the time of writing this article, J&K witnessed its highest single-day rise of over 2,000 cases and 14 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 worse than the last time. Nearly 70% of deaths are in fact being reported from Jammu region this time, even though number of infections are affecting both Kashmir valley and Jammu region almost equally.
Hospitals both private and government are already full in both Srinagar and Jammu city and while the situation has still not reached the levels of the devastation that is happening in bigger cities like Delhi and Mumbai, things are fast deteriorating in the entire UT. Also, unlike rest of India, Jammu region and Kashmir valley don’t have the internet culture of asking for medical help relating to blood plasma, medicines or life saving injections on internet. Even though internet services are now fully restored in all parts of UT, the people of J&K rely solely upon government and private medical services, which are coming under severe strain gradually. Hospitals in Srinagar are also reporting much younger patients with severe problems in breathing and pneumonia and asking for immediate medical attention.
The urban conglomeration of Jammu city and the almost entire Kashmir valley are especially vulnerable to the exponential explosion of the highly infectious strain of Double Mutant Indian Coronavirus because of the high density of population of Jammu city and most of Kashmir valley. The Kashmir valley in specific also suffered a lot in the first wave, driven not only by inappropriate public behavior but also due to high density of population of most cities, towns and villages.
Having said the above, J&K still has time. It has not reached the levels of Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra yet. The UT administration 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 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, UT administration must not only make advance preparations for increasing beds with ventilators but also make suitable arrangements of procuring enough oxygen cylinders and life saving medicines and injections that are used for treating the symptoms of Coronavirus.
There is no room for complacency and any misconception that the second wave of Coronavirus will not hit either Jammu region or Kashmir valley as bad 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 deaths over 150 cases per day. All administrative efforts must be coordinated to make sure that things don’t escalate to that extent in J&K. There is also 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 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 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 Indian Coronavirus hitting J&K with its full collective might.
The writer is State Secretary of People’s Democratic Front. Views are personal.