Dr VK Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, said the battle against COVID is not over yet and masks are going to stay even through 2022. Talking to NDTV, he said to end the pandemic, a studied combination of vaccines, effective drugs, and disciplined social behaviour, will be required.

The veteran paediatrician did not rule out a third wave of the pandemic in India and cautioned people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour as the country was entering a risky period, especially with several public festivals lined up. He hoped the world would be as lucky with the medicines as it was with vaccines.

"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.

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He emphasised that effective medicines are required to stall the progression of the disease.

The NITI Aayog member also expressed also confidence about WHO's approving Covaxin, the anti-COVID vaccine developed in India.

He said a third wave of COVID-19 in India 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.

The senior doctor said with big festivals like Diwali and Dussehra coming in the next few months, people need to get vaccinated and follow all COVID norms and restrictions.

He told NDTV that he was not sure about imposing restrictions on people in India during festivals.

"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."

India's total infection tally now stands at 3,32,89,579 with the death toll pushed to 4,43,213.