Be prepared for third wave of COVID-19: SC tells Centre

Asks government to share plan of action for impending crisis; Centre and Delhi government slug it out over oxygen supply to capital

The Supreme Court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to describe how the Centre proposes to handle the impending third wave of COVID, which may impact children the most

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to prepare for the third wave of COVID-19. The court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to explain how the government proposes to handle the impending third wave, which could prove to be more virulent than its earlier avatars.

It’s feared that the third wave may affect children the most. The fact that there is no COVID vaccine yet for children makes it all the more critical to prepare for it.

Justice DY Chandruchud asked the Centre to explain how it was preparing for the impending third wave, according to media reports. For instance, when a child goes to hospital, a parent needs to accompany him/her. That being the case, the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group needs to completed before the third wave strikes, noted the judge.

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Also read: Why Kerala has been overwhelmed by COVID 2.0

The apex court made the remarks while hearing matters relating to oxygen delivery in Delhi, buffer stocks and oxygen audit.

Mehta told the court that allotting 700 tonnes of oxygen to Delhi would eat into the supply to  other states.  Justice Chandrachud responded that the current formula for oxygen allotment has grossly underestimated Delhi’s requirement, and therefore needs a revamp.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, said Mehta’s apprehension — that other states will suffer if 700 tonnes of oxygen is allotted to Delhi — may be out of place. The Centre had earlier stated that there was no dearth of oxygen supply and a reserve of 1,60,000 tonnes was available, he pointed out.

Delhi’s residents are dying and the oxygen supply should not be scaled down, he argued. Mehta responded that the Centre has a duty to the whole country, and cannot be solely focused on Delhi.

Dominant strain

Meanwhile, Sujeet Singh, director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has said the UK strain of the coronavirus is currently dominating parts of North India while the double mutant can be found mostly in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. However, the B1.1.7 lineage of SARS CoV-2 (UK variant) is declining in proportion across the country in the last 45 days, a PTI report quoted him as saying.

The South African variant, also known as B.1.315, was predominantly found in Telangana and Delhi. The Brazilian variant (P1) was only found in Maharashtra in a negligible proportion, he added.

He advised states and union territories to keep strict surveillance in the districts reporting new variants of concern. In such districts, the respective governments can take up stringent public health measures such as contact tracing and genome sequencing of positive samples of persons having history of international travel, he observed.

COVID cases hit new high

The health ministry said on Thursday India has registered 4,12,262 fresh COVID cases in the past 24 hours, the highest so far. With this the country’s overall count crosses 2.1 crore.

India has seen over 23 lakh COVID deaths till date, with 3,980 recorded in the last 24 hours alone. This takes the pandemic-led national fatality rate to 1.09 per cent.

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