India Cross 2 Million COVID-19 Cases!

India has crossed 2 million or 20 lakh COVID-19 cases with the record high spike of 62538 new cases in the last twenty-four hours. The 1 million mark was breached on 17th July and so, it has taken just 21 days to double it. The doubling rate at 21 days seems to be quite alright, but considering the numbers at this stage the overall situation is far from healthy. The twenty-four-hour spikes of new cases were in the 30s leading to the 1 million mark and then the spikes began to ascend to the 50s and now even 60s to breach the 2 million mark. We had emphasized earlier that total active cases of around 3,00,000 in the country looked to be under control as far as the limitation of the health infra was concerned.  But now, although the recovery rate has further improved to over 66% and the fatality rate has declined further to around 2.1%, the increasing active cases of more than 6,00,000 might put the health infra under tremendous pressure, at least in some states. The peak levels, as usual, seem to be eluding the country still, barring the metros of Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. This scenario is reflective of the Indian reality.

Various states of the country are resorting to haphazard impositions of lockdown instead of looking at the Indian reality and taking the new normal seriously. The bursting population and almost over-the-limit population density of the country demands strict adherence to and the complete implementation of the precautions and norms to be followed. Trains and airplanes have been operating since May, but the new normal measures last up to boarding only and what transpires after the alighted passengers land at various destinations is anybody’s guess. Masks are compulsory no doubt, but what about social or physical distancing! Some states, in the spirit of Unlocks, have allowed 100% attendance in offices without ensuring full operation of the public transport system. They should, instead, have encouraged the new normal of ‘working from home’ making it absolute necessary for the coming months. When you cannot take the risk of opening up public transport, including metro railway, fully, you have no right to ask everyone to attend the offices. Frequent lockdowns, asking them to stay home again, is not a solution at all.

Of course, implementation of social distancing is going to be a huge challenge here. I have seen myself the crowding at grocery stores despite the attempts at social distancing: if the stores do not allow more customers in they would crowd the entrance and the streets, and so, when they are forced to allow entry for disgruntled customers, crowding would take place inside the stores with people totally disregarding the norms in desperate bids to shop all they want and falling over each other in the process. This scenario applies to all public stores, supermarkets and other public places. Bigger challenge is how to implement social distancing in the metro trains whenever the services are allowed: authorities will have to supervise every station and every coach of the trains, and if they restrict passengers boarding the crowds would then swell in the stations and spill over in the streets. Reopening schools, colleges and educational institutions would the next huge challenge. Some states have announced SOPs for opening these, but the practicability of such measures is likely to create dissent and unrest. Not to speak about reopening cinema halls, bars and all entertainment outlets.

The Indian reality stares at all of us, and how to go about it is the trillion-dollar question. The most practical thing to do at the moment would be to ensure only a limited number of people going out on a daily basis, by fully implementing the norms of work-from-home, online classes, online exams, online shopping, online entertainment programs by allowing television channels to make or continue the serials with strict SOPs and even making new and newer movies available online. Compensation packages must be announced for the hospitality and the entertainment sectors.

This is the Indian reality that is making the behavior of the Coronavirus unpredictable in this country. We had seen it fully from the beginning when the left-dangling migrant workers’ issue forced the governments to start the railway operations much too early leading to the spread of the virus to the interior regions. Even after relating aggressive testing at 6-7 lakh daily at the present stage to the rise in new cases, we are at a loss to explain the scenario convincingly. Every state in India is like a country in terms of area and population, and so, when the spread is contained in a particular area or city, the virus invades the other regions in the meantime. In Maharashtra, the surge began in Mumbai from April and by July the peak seemed to be over; but the virus started invading various other districts which accounts for the continuing 10000+ new cases daily in the state.

At the moment, situation in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, even Kerala which state showed exemplary containment in the beginning, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam. Although Tamil Nadu is the second worst-hit state the number of active cases are declining there with the recovery rate reaching nearly 80%. Some other states where testing is still comparatively low are also of great concern, because the surge there may intensify further in near future. The killer virus capitalizes on different weaknesses in different countries to maximize its spread and the examples are ample from USA, Brazil, India and others. As I have been emphasizing repeatedly in these pages, the citizens of the world must take it upon themselves to defeat COVID-19 adapting to the new normal with utmost sincerity, at least till the time when an effective vaccine arrives. 


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