Ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour while attending weddings: Expert

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In the wake of the ongoing wedding season, Dr R R Gangakhedkar, former ICMR epidemiologist who is part of WHO’s expert group probing Covid origins, has cautioned that people attending events should not let their guard down and continue to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.

“We should be careful and ensure strict compliance to Covid-appropriate behaviour such as masking and social distancing,” he added.

With talks of Covid booster shot gaining momentum, Dr Gangakhedkar said a third dose could be considered if there was sufficient evidence.

While there has been a drop in the caseload of Covid infections, the expert said the wedding season is one such setting where people actively engage with each other. “Hence, care must be taken to ensure Covid restrictions are not flouted. As against festivals, the marriage season is more difficult to handle,” Dr Gangakhedkar told The Indian Express.

“If Covid restrictions have been lifted (in a particular city or area), a strong cautionary note should be given and if Covid restrictions are in place, they should not be violated,” he added.

Till now, over 116.97 crore people in India have been vaccinated against Covid while the active caseload of patients across the country stands at 1.18 lakh. The weekly positivity rate, according to the Union ministry of health and family welfare, has been less than 2 percent for the last 59 days.

Despite the steady progress, Dr Gangakhedkar said, there is “no room for complacency”.

According to a survey conducted by social media platform LocalCircles, which included more than 17,000 responses from citizens across 319 districts of India, at least six out of 10 citizens surveyed are likely to attend engagements and weddings in November-December. The survey pointed out that vaccination has given people a sense of confidence, adding there is a “general fatigue” about coronavirus.

Warning against this, Dr Gangakhedkar said, “We cannot be complacent. Getting a full course of vaccination apart from maintaining social distance and masking is the way forward. Vaccination coverage has to be cent per cent.” He added, “The virus is still there and will continue to find its way to those who are vulnerable and unvaccinated.”

Explaining the surge in Covid-19 cases, which is leading to shutdowns and restrictions in Europe, Dr Gangakhedkar pointed out that vaccination coverage has been high in countries in the European Union but the Delta variant has become predominant there. In India, Delta variant was the predominant one in April-June, which was followed by an uptick in the vaccination programme.

“In India, the vaccination programme picked up during the second wave – people were getting natural infection and then the vaccination percentage started increasing,” Dr Gangakhedkar said.

On booster dose, the expert said, “A Pfizer trial has shown that vaccine protection tends to drop off after six months. However, we will have to wait for more evidence and conduct studies so that an informed decision can be taken.”

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