There is no wishing away masks even next year as the battle against Covid will require a studied combination of vaccines, effective drugs, and disciplined social behaviour, according to Dr VK Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, India's public policy think-tank.
Hoping the world would be as lucky with the medicines as it was with vaccines, veteran paediatrician Dr VK Paul -- not ruling out a third wave of the pandemic -- cautioned that the country was entering a risky period, especially with several public festivals lined up.
"Wearing the mask will not go away...for some time...We will continue to wear the mask even through the next year..." Dr Paul told NDTV in an exclusive interview on Monday.
"My view is that it will be a combination of vaccines, drugs, and reasonably disciplined behaviour that will finally (see us through)."
He emphasised that effective medicines are required to stall the progression of the disease.
Referring to the status of WHO's approval for Covaxin, the anti-Covid vaccine developed in India, the NITI Aayog member for Health, expressed reasonable confidence that the global body would come out with a positive response and that, too, before this month-end.
He addressed what is perhaps the most pressing question among most Indians: Will there be a third wave of COVID-19?
"It cannot be ruled out. There is a period of the next three-four months when the vaccine is rolling up to build the Great Wall of herd immunity. We need to protect ourselves and avoid the outbreak. To me that is possible if we are all together in this show," Dr Paul said.
He also cautioned against the season of big festivals like Diwali and Dussehra that are coming in the next few months, which, if not managed well, could potentially lead to a massive spread of the illness.
When asked if he recommended restrictions on people under such circumstances, the senior doctor was unsure of that even possible in India.
"We have a risky period coming forward. There are ways to ward off the virus, in theory, in such a situation. And there are guidelines that are available to invoke restrictions in a graded manner. And they should be invoked when the time comes," he said.
"It is a timely intervention on the part of the administration and the people above which can and should and will avoid any significant outbreak."