The four lockdowns were meant to check the spread of the ongoing pandemic and, also, provide time to governments and administrations to prepare hospital and other facilities for the testing and treatment of patients. Unfortunately, however, in the wake of the migrant breakout from locked down areas, many state governments have been found wanting. This is particularly so in the case of Uttarakhand, where it seems there has been complacency and over-confidence in the ability to manage the situation. There have been distressing reports about the screening process, delays in getting test results, pathetic conditions in quarantine centres, impractical planning even in receiving passengers arriving by flights, etc.
In many states, especially those where the pandemic has taken a strong hold, firsthand accounts have emerged of how hospitals are reluctant to admit patients, lab tests are arriving late or giving false results, and the subsequent cascading delays resulting in preventable deaths. In light of this experience, the early signs of failure in Uttarakhand are a warning signal. The confident claims on ‘being prepared’ could suddenly prove very hollow, which is by no means a desirable outcome. So, while there is still time, the government should get its act together. It is no wonder that even the High Court has taken cognisance of these failings. Would the government like to be led by judicial orders regarding even its fundamental duties?
The situation is, of course, further complicated by a large number of people providing false information to authorities on entering the state. This is making it hard to keep track of possible transmitters or victims. Clearly, a rethink is required on further refining the strategy, maybe by making fundamental policy changes. Only days ago, Uttarakhand was sanguinely preparing for a return to normal. That seems quite difficult now. Even so, necessity will require that more economic activity takes place, so it becomes the responsibility of the common people to ensure they practice maximum caution in their daily activities. Nobody can claim ignorance of what needs to be done, as this has been the basic learning of the lockdown.