Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reminded the people of India to keep their guard up at a time when the number of daily cases has crossed the 18,000 mark, and fatalities are approaching 17,000. He is right when he observes that people have become relaxed towards basic precautions that were learned during the lockdown period, now that unlock has begun. Physical distancing and the use of masks remain the cardinal principles for the common people to follow, without which all the efforts of the government and the ‘Corona Warriors’ will go waste. One needs only to go on the streets of the towns and cities to witness firsthand the complacency being shown by the people. This is despite the fact that the return to normal functioning can only become possible if these absolutely necessary precautions are taken. This is why, perhaps, the decision by the Uttarakhand Government to withdraw its decision on weekend lockdowns is a little hasty.
Hopefully, with everything else, the state governments and local administrations around the country will take the cue from the PM’s appeal and strictly enforce this aspect of the battle against COVID-19. It has been seen that in the states where the pandemic continues to rage unchecked, the lockdown has been extended to 31 July. At the same time, though, the less affected states have to ensure they do enough to prevent community transmission. At this point in time, there are signs of, both, recovery and continued threat. It is the actions of the people that will decide what prevails.
An important frontier of the battle is also how people conduct themselves in the newly opened sectors of the economy. It has already been seen that many workplaces, factories and offices have had to be shut down again because people have become infected. Demands, such as those raised by the hoteliers of Mussoorie, that the protocols mandated by the government be diluted overlook this danger. If, from a healthy situation, things get worse again, the setback to business will be even greater. It has been seen how at many places across the world, which were declared COVID-19 free, it has made a comeback. India, being on the tail of the global outbreak, has the great advantage of learning from others’ experiences. So, while there were no earth-shaking announcements by the PM, it is the mundane content of his speech that remains important. The battle will have to be fought in the everyday lives of ordinary people.