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Halfway There

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India’s Covid-19 graph is giving indications of some flattening, but it is a given that the time for ‘opening up’ is not right now. A balance has to be struck between the precautions and the urge for normal. Eventually, this will be found through the minimum level of vaccination and a near permanent change in people’s behaviour. Nations like Japan and Singapore have for long practiced strict protocols like mask wearing on public transport and social distancing to prevent flu epidemics. As scientists and doctors learn more about Covid-19, appropriate practices will have to be introduced worldwide. The present pandemic may end, but there can be others in the offing ready to make it through the cracks in humanity’s defences.

There is so much that is at stake. Consider the ongoing debate in Japan over the holding of the Olympics. The pandemic is under control there but could receive a fresh lease of life if fresh virulent strains are brought in by athletes from other countries. Even if the decision is taken to continue as planned, it will still be a truncated version and there is no certainty that spectators will be present in the stadia. The IPL experience shows that bio-bubbles can be punctured. How many more of ‘normal’ human activities will require to be sacrificed to appease this demon?

And even as major Covid affected cities like Mumbai and Delhi are presenting a rosier picture, Dehradun still remains a hotspot. The pressure on the city is coming from the overall growth in the number of cases in the state. Patients are not only being brought in from other districts but also the proximate areas of neighbouring states. Someone out of the direct firing line can pontificate on the virus’s ‘desire to live’ (Covid-19 is scientifically not ‘alive’), those still in charge have to work out the complex arrangements for combating it. Capacities are being expanded, be it regards supply of oxygen and beds, but making them available when needed is the big challenge – leading to short tempers and frustration. A major bulwark is testing capacity and that is under enormous strain. The point has been arrived at where it is failing to play its role. In whichever aspect of the battle that powers are being delegated, corruption is taking a strong hold. This element must definitely be impacting the overall performance. It is difficult, therefore, to be too optimistic about a return to normalcy. People will have to prepare for a longer run of the present ‘curfew’ and, sadly, suffer the economic consequences.