TODAY -

The aftermath of Unlock - 2, more perilious days lying in wait

SK Singh *



In the near-8 months that we face COVID-19 virus head on, we were better of till around mid-september. We of course experienced strict lockdown protocols. Things were new then and we as human traits demonstrate bore all hardships, restrictions to the core. As human behavior dictates, impositions on personal liberty and freedom however much indispensable, falter after a certain phase, complacence sets in and we become more vulnerable to external forces.

In our state, after Unlock-2 since October, the incidence of infection, cases of fresh transmission is on the rise rather rapidly to the extent of being precarious. A stage is set where, an urgent relook at the paradigm of safety measures being in force, is called for.

The death toll may not be as good an indicator on the intensity of the disease or even the recovery percentage may not. What is most intrinsic input could be the fresh cases of transmission, of new infection over a period of time, say 24 hours, as is presently available.

A central government appointed committee of experts to overview the profile of the pandemic then and henceforth with the onset of winter coupled with elections round the corner has brought out several revelations.

The study, “Progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in India: prognosis and lockdown impact” published recently in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, quantified the effects of lockdown, impact of migrants returning home on spread of the infection and economic optimization. The Committee headed by IIT Professor M Vidyasagar was constituted to evolve a national supermodel for Covid-19 progression in order to help the government make short term and medium term plans and decisions.

The committee concluded that India has already crossed its covid-19 peak in mid-September and will record minimal active symptomatic infections by early next year if safety protocols are followed. “If there was no lockdown, we would have had a peak that was 15 times higher in the middle of June, which would have been overwhelming.

By enforcing the lockdown in March we not only reduced the load on our system but also pushed the peak to September from the projected May-end”, said Vidyasagar. He added that with non lockdown, the pandemic would have led to a peak load of 140+ lakh cases by June. The committee also predicts that the ensuing festival and winter seasons may increase the susceptibility to infection, district and higher level lockdowns were not recommended any further.

Relaxations in protective measures can lead to a significant rise of up to 26 lakh infections within a month. Maintaining personal safety protocols need to continue in full measure. Otherwise we will see a sharp rise in infections, said Vidyasagar. India has one-sixth of the world’s population, (one-fifth excluding China), and one-sixth of the reported cases. However India accounts for only 10% of the world’s deaths. And its case fatality rate of less than 2% is among the lowest in the world.

With by elections in 5 constituencies round the corner, religious festivities lined up in order, the natives have more testing times at a time when the pandemic is rampaging the society. The state faced the severest onslaught with 426 fresh cases last Saturday, 17 October. Imphal west alone recorded 181 new infections of which a paltry 9 have travel history, the rest 172 is solid local transmission.

This scenario speaks volumes about the quality of maintaining SOP in our society. As we see people on the roads invariably with masks on, the question arises about the other two prescriptions. Do we wash hands as frequently as called for; do we keep physical spacing as laid down nationally. Perhaps we are not, if what is going around on the roads, market places, work places is any indication.

Worst scenario is the total disregard for social distancing in public places. Throwing caution to the winds, people gather at market places as they jostle to get their items. Unless restraints are exercised, mass infection and a second wave of the pandemic may not be an exaggeration.

People are conscious in other states. In west Bengal known for its grand and gaiety Durga Pujah preparations, the Kolkata HC has stepped in and ordered that only organizers will be allowed inside the pandals. Even there, for big pandals only 25 persons would be allowed; for smaller ones restricted to 15, in view of the corona virus outbreaks. In addition, it is ordered that barricades will be erected at the entrances, a distance of 5 meters for small ones with double for larger ones. Such are the precautionary measures in place elsewhere now.

I happened to see the election address by the Chief Minister in Lilong on the 19th. A couple of ministers, their cronies were around while the would-be voters, the audience were shoving in close formations though masks were on. The government talks about social distancing of 6 feet now, not one yard or 3.3 feet earlier. They also urge for hand washing for 40 seconds now, not 20 seconds in the past.

And the crowd in the election meeting or campaign or even in close door discussions, the desirable spacing of 3 feet at the least would be thrown to the winds. In open addresses by the candidates, the situation would be far worse for sure.

How do then we contain community spread? The CM on the occasion of the 222nd death anniversary celebration of Late Rajarshree Bhaigachandra, toyed with the imperative imposition of total recalling the wide spread transmission of the virus.

The GOM has reportedly approached the MHA for approval of the proposition. Even while total shutdown measures are under consideration, we the people need to follow restraint on our manners, disposition recalling that the virus is far from being contained and more spread is imminent.

On the side of the government, enhanced protocol of the 3T (trace, test, treat), prescription need be emphasized more effectively. The recent call of the PM rather desperate, for awareness campaign by government agencies, CSOs, local clubs and the like to remind the people and enthuse to taking precautionary measures could be the call of the day.

The PM is still worried about the reality that already the country is ranked second in Covid-infection, has over 76 lakh cases, with daily surge of around 60 to 70 thousand. He is set to address the nation again, his 7th so far since lockdown in mid-March. He is concerned about the impending verge of series of festivals and more so the onset of winter.

Government interventions or not, don’t we discipline ourselves a little bit? Don’t we, as responsible citizens restrain our ways to adhere to the SOP more than anytime before. The simple logic is, the virus is highly contagious, there is no proclaimed medicine as yet and most panicky, a state of community transmission has already set in, in this state too. There is no escape; we have to go by the protocol.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 21 October 2020.



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