A third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India may reach its peak around October, a committee set up by the home ministry has said, The Times of India reported on Monday.
It also warned about the lack of paediatric facilities and sought better preparedness for children who might be at greater risk.
The report is titled 'Third Wave Preparedness: Children Vulnerability and Recovery' and has been prepared by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM)
"India’s second wave of COVID-19 and the challenges posed have been alarming and need strong policy interventions at all levels with immediate, short, and medium to long term priorities, in order to be best prepared for the third wave," the NIDM report said.
The report has been submitted to the PMO (Prime Minister's Office).
'Paediatric Facilities Nowhere Close'
The committee also flagged the lack of paediatric facilities in case a large number of children get affected.
“Paediatric facilities — doctors, staff, equipment like ventilators, ambulances, etc. are nowhere close to what may be required in case a large number of children become infected," the report said.
The experts have also suggested prioritising vaccination for children with co-morbidities and those with special needs.
"There is a cause for worry if not panic according to public health experts, since the children below 18 years remain unvaccinated in India," the report said.
India’s drug regulators have approved Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D vaccine for children above 12 years of age. But the vaccine is yet to be rolled out.
The Warning Signs
The NIDM report highlights two signs that predict the onset of a third wave.
slowdown in the rate of decline of new cases
uptick in the R-value
It referred to slowdown in the in the rate of decline of new cases and a slight increase in the positivity rate as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
It also said there has been an uptick in the R-value, which is the reproduction rate of COVID-19, from 0.96 to 1 in the last few days of July.
Key Recommendations of Experts
Vaccination among young children and children with comorbidities should be an immediate future priority.
Immediate increase in paediatric medical capacities and prioritising mental health issues among children.
A holistic home care model.
Covid wards should be structured in a way that guardians of infected children could safely stay with them.
Awareness programmes which make people understand that children are different from adults and their needs are different.
Teachers and guardians should be trained as to what to do if a child is infected.