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Important Test

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Politicians around the world are under pressure to end Covid restrictions as the public everywhere wants its ‘liberties’ back. While some leaders are doing so reluctantly, others have always tended to favour ‘opening up’. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to end the lockdown on 19 July, though the final decision will be taken on 12 July after further studying the statistics. The reason provided for this is the much lower level of hospitalisations despite a resurgence in cases. This is being attributed to enough number of people having been vaccinated. It will be important to keep a close eye on developments there. Similar statistical analysis also needs to be done in India.

After initial indications to the contrary, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has given the green signal to the annual ‘Kanwad Yatra’. The impact of this decision will be felt on Uttarakhand, whose Chief Minister has expressed his openness to permitting it after consultation with the CMs of UP and Haryana. The High Court, after certain unrealistic expectations of the government regarding the Kumbh Mela – the direct consequence of which was the covid test scam – has clamped down altogether on even limited clearance to the Char Dham Yatra. It is almost a certainty that one or the other ‘activist’ will challenge the ‘kanwad yatra’ decision and have it shut down, too, by court orders, as unlike Britain, policy decisions here are routinely put to the judicial test.

This fact also reflects upon the basis for policy making among governments, it seems more impulsive then well-considered.  Even the limited opening up has shown how little the people have learned from the ghastly experience of the past months. As the social media comment goes, ‘those who were crowding hospitals in the quest for oxygen only a while ago, are now flocking to hill stations’. The crowds are flouting all social distancing and masking norms, while the police are in no way equipped to enforce these. What was to be a carefully regulated inflow has already become a flood. The impact of all these ‘superspreader’ events will become known in a couple of months’ time. The best the ‘host community’ in Uttarakhand can do is to severely restrict its own movement in public spaces, particularly in the tourist resorts. The economy cannot afford to suffer another hit, nor can the children stay out of schools much longer.