The number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in India, though there are indications of a welcome plateauing. The same seems to be the case with the more significant number of deaths. This would imply that the effect of the pandemic in India is peaking and could be heading for a decline. The rising number of positive cases is obviously the result of much increased testing – in many cases those turning out positive are displaying no symptoms at all. Their being identified naturally ensures they can self-isolate and not spread the virus to more vulnerable people.
Significantly, the number of recoveries is more than the number of new cases. Also, the recovery rate is the best in the world, with the rate of fatalities correspondingly coming down. This would be considered good news except for the fact that even the smaller number of new cases is threatening to overwhelm India’s greatly stressed health services. Some pressure has been relieved with the decision to allow positive cases to recover in isolation at home, but ICU beds, even oxygen, seem to be running out. So, even as the rates turn favourable, the cumulative weight of numbers may well overwhelm the system.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that people are displaying signs of what may be described as ‘precaution-exhaustion’. If they are abiding by the rules on wearing masks, it is only because they do not want to fall foul of the police, otherwise they are not serious about this most important of protocols. The sight of political activists on Wednesday crowding the streets of Dehradun near the Vidhan Sabha uncaring of the protocols is a good example of this failing. Physical distancing has almost been done away with if one visits the shops anywhere. This is why the new patients are emerging on a daily basis, thereby lessening the impact of measures such as increased testing.
This is by no means the time to relax. Particularly as there is increased economic activity, the pressure to abide by the protocols needs to be enhanced at the psychological level. It has to be repeatedly shown how wearing of masks, maintaining physical distance, avoidance of confined spaces, etc., prove effective in preventing spread of the virus. India has done well, so far, all things considered, but it should not falter just when the goal is near. What a massive waste of effort and lives it would prove otherwise!