Heat stress and summer sickness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic can be very debilitating and life-threatening for areas at risk, experts say
Just as the government and people started to believe that the COVID-19 virus was on the rise
After a grueling year behind it, life returned to normal. The sense of relief proved short-lived with the pandemic resurgence.
For countries like Andhra Pradesh with a tropical climate, the second wave, coupled with the paralyzing summer fatigue and burnout, is a double blow. The virus spread at a time when the scorching sun is wreaking havoc, adding to the misery of people who live in poorly ventilated, overcrowded homes. Low-income slum dwellers who have poor or no self-quarantine facilities to maintain the required level of hygiene and vulnerable areas such as the elderly who are prone to both heat waves and the virus are at severe threat.
The government apparatus is preparing to tackle the new wave of the pandemic, while local authorities focus on preventing heat-related diseases. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by health and medical personnel and on-site workers in this stifling heat can be a physical challenge. To optimize endurance, the people wearing the coveralls need to lower the core temperature of their body by moisturizing and relaxing in layers so that the heat stress does not increase.
Experts believe the second wave will be fueled by people who are less cautious. After being locked in their homes for nearly a year, large groups of people have started attending weddings and family celebrations without taking minimal precautions. No restrictions were placed on political campaigns, religious gatherings and festivals where exposed people conveniently turned away from mandatory COVID-appropriate behavior. “Heat doesn’t seem to have a direct impact on the spread of the virus, but medical and health authorities should be vigilant for diseases like gastroenteritis, which increase slightly in summer,” says Dr. TV Narayana Rao, doctor at Andhra Hospitals. About the pandemic, he now says that the variants seem to exist in India, caution is the word.
Medical professionals have done their part in educating people about the need to adhere to COVID-appropriate behavior. “A false sense of invincibility adds to the problem. People have become numb. They should realize that immunity can only be achieved after a gap after the second dose of the vaccine,” says Dr. Murali Krishna Ganguri, diabetologist and endocrinologist in Manipal Hospitals. He expressed serious concern about “misunderstandings” about the effectiveness of the vaccination and said the media should do responsible work. “Infectivity” and “mortality” are two different things. “People who neglect precautions become infected, while people with poor basic health contribute to the death rate.” Dr. Ganguri speaks about the possible variants of the virus in the widespread circulation, saying the only hope is that vaccination will play a role in controlling the wave.
Another grim period is facing businesses, especially small traders and micro-entrepreneurs. “Last year we faced an unprecedented crisis due to the deadly virus outbreak. Business fell nearly 60%,” said Karumuri Ramesh Babu, president of the Vijayawada Dal and Kirana Merchants’ Welfare Association. “Our buyers are mostly local hotel owners, school and college hostel managers, and organizations like Indian Railway Catering and Indian Railways’ Tourism Corporation. Money has stopped circulating and there have been no bulk sales during the lockdown. With a boost in positive cases Now I shudder at the thought of another such dark phase, “says Ramesh Babu.
M. Rama Gopala Rao, executive member of the Vijayawada Taxi Owners’ Welfare Association, has no idea how to survive a new blow of coronavirus. “We are unable to provide for our families with soaring gasoline and diesel prices. COVID has added to our worries,” he said.
Just as the sight of crowds cheered Kothamasu Venkateswara Rao on, the virus raised its ugly head again. “My daily bread and butter are directly related to crowds. I looked forward to making a decent income in May that is considered cheap for weddings and other events, but it looks like a repeat of last year’s cycle of Loss of income, “complains Rao, who runs Sree Bharat Shamiyanas near the Ratham Center on Canal Road.
Tummalapenta Srinivasulu, who runs a general store on Kotha Vanthena Road, said the government should raise awareness of the need for preventive measures and speed up vaccination. “The situation calls for door-to-door vaccination. If the government can do this for ration distribution, why not for COVID vaccination,” he says matter-of-factly.