NEW DELHI: President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said the country is yet to come out of the devastating effects of coronavirus recurrence this year and that this is the time of extra care and caution.

“We shall not let our guard down. Vaccines are the best possible protection science offers to us,” he said, addressing the nation on the eve of India’s 75th Independence Day.

He said the second wave brought the country’s public healthcare infrastructure under stress.

The reality is that no infrastructure, even of advanced economies, could withstand a crisis of such enormous proportions, Kovind said.

“Efforts were made on war-footing to plug the gaps. The leadership rose to the challenge, and the government’s endeavours were supplemented by initiatives of the states, private sector healthcare facilities, the civil society and others,” he said.

The intensity of the pandemic has come down, but the coronavirus has not yet gone away, Kovind warned.

“We are yet to come out of the devastating effects of its recurrence this year. Last year, with exceptional efforts from all, we had succeeded in bringing the spread of infections under control. Our scientists had succeeded in developing vaccines in a very short time,” the President said.

He said due to the new variants and other unexpected factors, the country suffered from a terrible second wave.

“I am deeply sad that many lives could not be saved and many more suffered immensely in this phase of an unprecedented crisis. I speak for the whole nation when I say that I share the grief of all the affected families with the same intensity,” Kovind said.

The science is coping with this invisible enemy of terrible might with remarkable speed, he said.

“We can take solace from the fact that more lives have been saved than the lives lost. It was our collective determination to overcome the challenge that helped us see the weakening of the second wave. Once again, our corona warriors, the doctors, nurses and health workers, the administrators, and others, risked everything to contain the impact of the second wave,” Kovind said.

In this extraordinary mission, foreign nations shared the essentials generously, just as India had reached out to many nations with medicine, equipment and vaccines, the President said.

Due to these efforts, the nation breathes a sigh of relief with the return of a semblance of normalcy, he said.

“If we have learned our lessons well, we know that this is the time of extra care and caution. We shall not let our guard down. Vaccines are the best possible protection science offers to us,” Kovind said.

“Under the world’s biggest vaccination campaign going on in our country, more than 50 crore fellow citizens have been vaccinated so far. I urge all eligible citizens who are yet to get vaccinated to do so at the earliest and also inspire others,” he said.

Kovind said the economic impact of the pandemic is as disastrous as its health impact.

The government has been concerned about the lower-middle classes and the poor as well as about small and medium industries, he said.

It has been sensitive to the needs of the labourers and of employers who have been facing hardships due to the lockdowns and movement restrictions, Kovind said.

This year also, the government had distributed food grains to about 80 crore people in May and June, he said, adding that “this benefit has been extended till Diwali”.

“Moreover, the government has announced a new stimulus package worth Rs 6 lakh 28 thousand crore to boost the selected Covid-affected sectors.

In particular, it is heartening to note that an amount of Rs 23 thousand 220 crore is being spent over one year for expansion of medical facilities,” Kovind said.

It is heartening to note that rural India, particularly the agriculture sector, has kept growing against all odds, he said.

“The series of agricultural marketing reforms will empower our ‘annadata’ farmers and help them get better price for their produce,” Kovind said.