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Evolving Response

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The challenge before state governments now is how to use the autonomy provided by the Centre on opening up the lockdown within the new guidelines. Every state, including Uttarakhand, was involved in consultations in this regard on Monday, with some announcing their plans by evening. There is absolutely no doubt that, for many states, the bursting out of migrant workers from host cities for home has complicated matters considerably. Many areas where COVID-19 was almost under control have now become vulnerable to its spread. At the same time, the economy has reached a point where it can no longer be kept in suspended animation.

Even though the news, these days, is almost entirely focused on the corona challenge, there is not much information coming out on exactly why the virus is continuing to spread despite the lockdown and social distancing. Why does Delhi, for instance, which is strictly abiding by the recommendations, have rising numbers of patients? Could it be that reporting has improved, rather than the actual number of patients? Is it that asymptomatic infection has made its way across the community already and is showing up among the more compromised among patients? This would mean the mortality rate is even lower than is being stated at present.

There are those who are recommending that people begin to take personal responsibility on warding off infection, rather than have the system make the arrangements. This spotlights the Centre’s recommendation on children and those above 65 years of age being extra careful and staying as much at home as possible. Also, those directly involved in combating the infection have to be provided the best equipment possible, as well as other necessary facilities. Most others with healthier systems could be left to develop ‘herd immunity’.

One area of worry in this regard is the failure of testing to pick up to any substantial level. There has been a lot of positive reportage on test kits of various kinds and efficacy having been developed within India, but why are these not showing up where they are needed? Why hasn’t Uttarakhand, for instance, introduced group sampling faced as it is with the flood of incoming migrants? Another area of concern is the seeming failure of the system in utilising Ayurveda and other natural ways of boosting immunity. Recommendations are being made only on an individual basis – why are not studies underway on the potential for prevention and cure through this system? A multi-pronged approach to prevention and cure, even as the world awaits a vaccine, will prove particularly useful for the government and the system in gaining the confidence to reboot the presently comatose economy.