Covid-19 cases have increased manifold in the space of a week to levels that have led experts to believe that India is in the grip of a ‘second wave’. It is not just the number of people infected, the fatalities have also gone up disconcertingly to over five hundred per day from two digit levels. Also, there is concern that the virus has mutated into new forms that show fewer symptoms and directly affect the lungs.
There is no doubt that complacency has led to this situation. From a point where economic and other activities were returning to normal, there is fear now of having to go back to lockdown like drastic measures. This comes as a major blow, particularly for the hospitality, entertainment and tourist industries. Schools and colleges that had reopened are being closed down again. And, the people have only themselves to blame. Having seen how much the basic precautions of wearing masks, social distancing and other safety protocols had helped curb the virus, these were the very practices that were too hastily abandoned. People congregated in large number at events such as the farmers’ protest (a likely reason for the surge in Punjab), and are continuing to do so on occasions such as Holi. The ongoing elections and the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar promise to become major super-spreaders.
The Union Government, on its part, has got into the next gear by opening up the vaccination process for those above 45 years of age. The process will now run through the week, with no breaks. This should help in the long run. All the same, the preventive measures need to be further ramped up and the testing process improved. It has been reported that a pocket sized machine has been developed in the US that can test for Covid-19 in fifteen minutes. This is the kind of technological advance that can help enormously in identifying infected persons without too much disruption and delay.
Uttarakhand too is facing a crisis with the number of cases and fatalities increasing. With the Mahakumbh underway from 1 April and the tourist season, the challenge will be to prevent the spread of the virus while impacting economic activity as little as possible. As such, all energies must be put into enforcement of preventive measures. The people should cooperate to the fullest, otherwise more draconian measures will seriously affect livelihoods and ‘normal’ life.