TODAY -

The inevitable long wait alongside the increasing complacency

S. Kunjabihari Singh *



As the country entered the ‘Unlock 1.0 phase’, after near-75 days of lockdown, with restrictions eased and curbs lifted, behavior discipline at a toss, things are heading for the worse. At this phase of the pandemic, the more essential component to aid to the medical inputs could be nonmedical supplements like respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene and social distancing.

These human attributes, it appears, over time are again thrown to the sides. These are some of the behavioral changes that could shape the kind of the issues that are likely to be attended to in the months to come. Over time, as human traits falter with complacency setting in, these prescriptions, glamorously termed, ‘social vaccine’ are often thrown to the winds.

Our country was positioned somewhere around 10 in the inter-se rankings of the severity of the disease among countries, a little while ago, during the ‘lockdown-3’phase. The CORONA-Club being headed by USA, Brazil, Russia, UK, Spain, Italy, Peru, Germany, Iran, Turkey, those days, has this day embraced India as an active member to be within the ‘Exclusive Club’ positioning it at rank 4, next only to Russia.

The death toll surpassed 9,733 (as of 9.45 PM of 15 June), with confirmed case reaching 3,32,424, the position is far from being comfortable. And these changes, the 24-hour death toll being 325, it only translates into 13 or 14 deaths every single hour. With around 10,000 fresh infections, India saw a record daily rise in COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days.

The Health Ministry’s in its attempt to belittle the scenario over the serious situation now prevailing, had to invent a new weapon. The reportedly low ‘per million population death’ at 6 (349 for USA, 190 for Brazil), or for that matter, ‘per million total cases’ at 215 (6,274 of USA, 3,706 of Brazil), though sound favorable or at the least, not so uncomfortable, the fact remains that India’s total population at 138 billion is roughly 4 to 7 times those of USA or Brazil respectably.

India’s counterpart China with 144 billion populations has just only 58 and 3 as ‘per million total case’ and ‘per million total deaths’, which soundly belittles the proud claim of india. The position despite the advantage of ‘statistical lie’ is far worse in India.

After the first phase of the lockdown was announced on March 24, it was lifted on June 8. This led to easing up several restrictions imposed earlier, consequent upon announcement on ‘Unlock 1’. The mainstay in reducing the impact of the pandemic through ‘lockdown’ and other concurrent benefits derived from the four-front approach, ‘testing, isolation, treatment and contact-tracing’, had significantly tamed the onslaught of the disease.

And that strategy has hopefully to be the backbone to buy time till vaccines become available. Situations are anything but comfortable with the position that though doubling time of corona has improved from 17.4 days to 15. 4 days around a couple of weeks ago, the country recorded over 10,000 cases of new instances in a day.

But single day hike of nearly 11,000 cases can only be termed as critical. India saw a record spike of 11,929 cases pushing its COVID -19 case loads to 3, 20,922 on Sunday June 14. Precariously enough, according to the Health Ministry, the death toll too touched a new high at 9, 915, an increase 311 fatalities.

More discomforting news is in store still. Like in any epidemic, there is for sure a peak stage, a period when the disease would tend to reach unprecedented level despite sternest measures to contain the spread.

According to a study by Operations Research Group (ORG), constituted by the ICMR, the ‘lock-down’ shifted the peak by an estimated 34 to 76 days. It further observed that this helped bring down the number of infections by 69 to 97%, allowing time, precious to the core, for the health care system to shore up resources and infrastructure.

The worst days are estimated to be around mid-November, when there could be severe paucity of isolation wards, ICU beds and ventilators, according to the study. Elaborating the findings, the ORG projected that isolation wards could be short for 5.4 months, ICU beds for 4.6 and ventilators for 3.9 months.

Taking tough measures again perhaps could be one major step towards arresting the momentum of spike across the states. The earlier decision to ease restrictions might need a relook. The recent increase of cases in the NER, Manipur included may be a timely warning for stricter measures all over again.

The NER has come to the fore with a new high at 6,226 with Assam lading the race. Manipur cannot remain far behind arresting the third position with 492. With 339 active cases, Manipur is likely to face more intense surveillance, necessitating stricter measures to contain spread.

Assam has already admitted having ‘community spread’, a stage dreaded by all, a case which might lead to wide-spread contact without much travel antecedents. With the present scenario, Manipur may not fall short for long.

The immediate step may call for re-imposing strict social-etiquette practices. Containing fresh incoming natives may be another step. The Chief Secretary has already approached the Ministry of Civil Aviation to stop flights to the state for a week starting 16 June, to start with.

During this critical gap the government intends to clear the in-house internees in the several quarantine centres, to prepare for the fresh wave of corona-infected returnees. That could be one way. Meantime intensifying the already waning down ‘social distancing’ norms, stricter lockdown measures would go a long way.

China’s style of containing covid-19, by clamping martial law in select cities, calling for a high degree of vigilance to prevent fresh spread of the epidemic is an eye-opener. Behavioral-etiquette and respect for social-hygiene is the need of the hour amidst strict lockdown, before the pandemic catches up tempo for community transmission. The situation is serious.

The authority has to act now and only now before it is too late.


* S. Kunjabihari (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 June 17 2020 .



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