Coronavirus spreads faster indoors when compared to outdoors as people stay inside their homes during winter which is a perfect set-up for the contagion, said Dr Vivek Murthy, the top Indian-American Covid-19 advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.
The 43-year-old former US surgeon, who co-chairs Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, told Fox News on Sunday that people are tired from the pandemic fatigue. “We've been at this pandemic now for many months and I get that. A part of that fatigue means that people are letting others into their bubble, they're getting together for in-person dinner parties, game nights and public health departments are now tracing more and more cases back to these kinds of gatherings,” Dr Murthy said. All this put together has resulted in the recent explosion in Covid-19 cases in the US, he added.
The US is the worst affected country with over 11 million Covid-19 cases and 246,000 deaths due to the virus.
Dr Murthy, who was asked to resign as the US surgeon general during the early part of the Trump administration, is speculated to get a prominent position in the next Biden-Harris administration.
Dr Murthy has said that one of the most immediate issues for the new administration to focus on will be to stop the spread of the virus. “It actually lies in our behaviour and the choices we make. It turns out that wearing masks, keeping our distance from others, washing our hands, might seem almost too simple but very powerful in actually reducing the spread,” Dr Murthy said.
Joe Biden has talked about expanding the testing capacity and also increasing contact tracing so that the infection could be contained, he added. “He (Biden) wants to increase the production of personnel protective equipment so that all our healthcare workers have masks and gloves. And he wants to really put clear guidance together, evidence-based guidance so that schools and businesses, but also state organisations, huge sports leagues and families know how to operate safely,” Dr Murthy said adding that none of that would be possible if public trust is not gained.
“The way you do that is by communicating honestly, by leading with science and scientists in the face of this pandemic and ultimately by delivering results,” Dr Murthy observed.
Responding to a question on a possible lockdown in the US, he said that that a national lockdown is the last resort. “If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the pandemic fatigue people are feeling, you're going to hurt jobs and the economy, you're going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children. So, we got to approach this with a precision of a scalpel rather than the blunt force of an axe,” he said.
Delivering the vaccine, Murthy said, is going to be the most challenging part in the fight against the pandemic. “We vaccinated Americans for many years in our country, but the campaign we're going to have to build to vaccinate enough people, to create herd immunity in America will be the most ambitious vaccination campaign I believe in our country's history. And being that requires people to trust that the vaccine is safe and that it's effective,” he said.
He also said the onus was on the US government to be transparent with regards to the vaccine development and distribution process, to win the trust of the people. “Unfortunately, we know from the recent polls that a significant number of people are worried that the process of developing the vaccine, approving it may have been politicised. So, now, the onus is on us to be as transparent as possible and helping them understand what the scientists say, having experts review the data, making that data readily so that even people outside the government can review it,” Dr Murthy said.
“That's what we're going to have to do, and ultimately, the way we allocate this vaccine has to be determined based on needs… We can't afford to let politics creep into decisions we make around the vaccine, because otherwise, we're going to put lives at stake,” he added.
According to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, the coronavirus has so far infected more than 54 million people and killed over 1.3 million others globally.