Even as the graph of positive COVID-19 cases and subsequent mortalities continues to rise, there are positive signs available in several parts of the country. Uttarakhand, for instance, had on Sunday not recorded a new case of the virus for four days. Gurgaon has not seen a new case for almost a similar period, nor has NOIDA. UP, with its huge population, is showing comparatively smaller numbers. All this indicates that the lockdown is not just having effect, but also providing an opportunity to restore some modicum of normalcy. It is still a long way to go for other states, particularly Maharashtra, where its appearance in the Dharavi slum has generated much concern, forcing the state government to take even stricter measures including extension of the lockdown.
The Uttarakhand Government, although in favour of lockdown continuation for another two weeks, has also prepared a phased ‘exit policy’ that will differentiate between the still unaffected districts – those in the hills – and the ones that have had an outbreak of the problem. This will ease restrictions within each district, while banning inter-district travel. The state will operationalise the plan once it gets clearance from the Centre.
With every state having its particular set of circumstances, the tele-conference between the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers on Saturday did arrive at a consensus on changing the approach from ‘Jaan hai to Jahaan hai’ to ‘Jaan bhi, Jahaan bhi’. This is a clear indication that, while favouring extension of the lockdown, the nation’s leadership is looking ahead to the next phase. As the nation’s preparedness increases with availability of ventilators, test kits and other equipment, the greater will be the confidence regarding resumption of normal activities, which was the whole purpose of ‘flattening the curve’ through the lockdown.
The decision on continuing the lockdown is expected to come soon after thorough deliberation by the Prime Minister on the suggestions made by the Chief Ministers, but it is certain that the parallel measures on the economy will also be initiated. With its relatively better performance, Uttarakhand should expect the go-ahead on its exit policy, thereby easing conditions for the local people. It will, however, remain the responsibility of the general public to ensure that all this effort does not go in vain. People will need to be even more self-disciplined and do voluntarily that which they have, thus far, been compelled to do.