‘If you don’t wear masks and maintain social distancing, you are an ‘anti-social’ being. Only by following the protocol can we flatten the curve in the next two-three weeks; otherwise, we will be in trouble,’ CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) director Rakesh Mishra told #KhabarLive in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

When will the current Covid-19 situation in India improve?
The situation is currently very bad in India which is a matter of concern as we are really in a bad state and it looks like things will worsen in the coming week or two and beyond that it will not be in our hands. If we take corrective measures and follow all the safety protocol, we might be able to change the trend after three weeks; otherwise the situation can become worse.

Are the new variants a matter of concern?
Any variant that spreads and becomes larger in infected people is a matter of concern because this is going to be spreading more. But at this moment the new variant don’t seem to be creating any particular clinical problem like vaccines and other things, but if we keep harbouring large numbers of people infected, new mutations will emerge certainly and they may be worse; so, it is really important to stop the spread.

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A double mutuant variant B.1.617 is prevalent and is becoming more prominent in many places. This in itself has about 15 mutations which define its lineage. So, this variant is quite prominent and other variants were found in the UK, South Africa and some other places. So, even if the variant is new, the way to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is same. And that can be only done if we wear masks, follow social distancing, and follow hand hygiene. Even vaccine will work only if we practice COVID appropriate behavior; otherwise, even vaccine will not work.

In the second wave, even kids and youngsters are down with lung infections and getting hospitalised? Why is it so?
As per government data from hospitals, death percentage has not increased, but yes there’s sudden surge in COVID positive cases. Also there’s is not any particular data that the second wave is more dangerous for youngsters or kids. More youngsters and kids got affected this time because schools, colleges and offices were open; so, they interacted due to which they got Covid. Last time, they all were at home during the lockdown. In fact all of them are susceptible, whether it is youngsters, elders, senior citizens or those with comorbidities.

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Will another lockdown or curfew help in controlling the second wave?
Certainly, it will help but I think we are already late and we are going to see bad situation in the coming weeks. Lockdown is a political decision as it means economic problem and hardships to people. It is better not to lockdown if there’s an option, but we don’t need a lockdown if people are really disciplined and strictly follow Covid protocol. But unfortunately people are not following the Covid protocol strictly.

How long is the second wave expected to continue?
If we behave well and strictly follow mask culture and follow all aspects of the COVID protocol, we can flatten the curve in the next three weeks, but for that people should be responsible as it is not an individual disease.  As it is a pandemic, people’s behavior really matters to bend the curve.

What are the reasons for the sudden surge in cases?
We did many mistakes and people took it for granted. Despite the existence of virus, we opened the malls, pubs, bars, cinema halls, restaurants, religious gatherings, elections rallies, marriages, family functions, festivals, open schools and colleges etc and openly flouted COVID norms which definitely encouraged the virus. So, obviously if everything is open, what else we can expect? Also, once the vaccination started, people started thinking that now that vaccine is here, we don’t need masks which indirectly contributed to a surge in sudden cases. We have not done well in terms of our own responsibilities which led to surge in cases, despite constant warning that the virus is still there.

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Have we attained herd immunity?
We are nowhere close to herd immunity. We need to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of people in the country to reach herd immunity. So we are nowhere close to herd immunity. I advise people to wear masks as whoever does not wear masks should be considered as anti-social being. If you don’t wear mask, you are indirectly infecting our parents, elders, grandparents, children at home. We can only survive the pandemic if we strictly follow COVID safety protocol. #KhabarLive #hydnews