Amid Covid-19 infections in India spiralling out of control, top US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci has suggested a lockdown for a few weeks in the country to contain the spread of the virus.
Fauci also said that the Indian government should work towards increasing supplies of medical oxygen, PPE kits and other important medicines required for the treatment of Covid-19.
His remarks come in the backdrop of India recording 4,01,993 new daily Covid-19 infections, becoming the first country in the world to cross the 4-lakh mark in a single day.
The country also logged 3,523 fatalities as the number of active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark during the last 24 hours.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Fauci said India should look at putting together a crisis group that would meet and start getting things organised.
Without naming any government, he said one of the things that should have been recognised that "victory was declared maybe too prematurely".
"Well, one of the things you really need to do, to the extent that you can, is shut down temporarily the country, I think is important. If we want to time out and go back to what I said: there is the immediate, the intermediate, and the long range (measures to contain the virus).
"I think the most important thing in the immediate is to get oxygen, get supplies, get medication, get PPE, those kinds of things but also, one of the immediate things to do is to essentially call a shutdown of the country," said Fauci, who is the chief medical adviser to the Biden administration.
He said when China had a big explosion of coronavirus cases a year ago, they completely shut down.
Fauci said it is not necessary to shut down for six months, but it can be a temporary one to put an end to the cycle of transmission.
So, one of the things to be considered is to temporarily shut down, he said.
"Literally, lock down so that you wind up having less spread. No one likes to lock down the country. Well, that's a problem when you do it for six months," he said.
But just for a few weeks of lockdown could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.
Some states have imposed a lockdown. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said lockdown should be the "last resort" to deal with the raging pandemic and asked states to convince migrant workers to stay put at their places of work with a guarantee for their lives and livelihood.
Breaching its all previous records, India on Saturday hit a record daily high with over 4 lakh new infections, while the active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark.
The second wave of the coronavirus has been wreaking havoc, infecting lakhs and killing thousands every day for the past few days. There have been cases where people have died due to lack of medical facilities, including oxygen. In many cases, families have to arrange oxygen for their patients as they are not able to get admission in hospitals.
"I heard from some of the people in the street bringing their mothers and their fathers and their sisters and their brothers searching for oxygen. They seem to think there really was not any organisation, any central organisation,” Fauci said.
Underlining that vaccination plays a crucial role in handling the coronavirus situation, Fauci said if India, a country of 1.4 billion people, has fully vaccinated only two per cent of its total population, then it has a very long way to go.
"You've got to get supplies. You've got to make contractual arrangements with the various companies that are out there in the world. There are many companies that now have vaccines. I think you have to negotiate with them to try and get a commitment," he said.
"And also, India is the largest vaccine-producing country in the world. That's the thing — you should rev up your own capabilities to make vaccines,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)