The COVID-19 Third Wave Is Here: Short-Term National Lockdown A Must!


The fact of the matter is that the emerging trend in daily COVID-19 cases in India confirms the arrival of the Third Wave in full force, with the daily cases rising from around 6000 about a week ago to over 58000 in the last 24 hours, covering almost all the states. The fatality rates have been showing fluctuations for the past several weeks subject to the high or moderate figures in Kerala the cause of which is not known, even as more than 500 deaths are reported nationally in the last 24 hours. The concern is that most of the states have started showing rising fatality figures. The positivity rate in Kolkata is an incredible 44% plus followed by Mumbai with about 15% and at a national level the rate being already above the danger-mark of 5%. In contrast to the emerging fact about the Third Wave curbs or rules or restrictions are very different from state to state which is another point of concern. And yes, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to go ahead with the assembly elections that means the continuation of free-style political rallies.

 

The variance of the curbs in various states have definitely helped the Omicron variant spread faster. The daily cases in Mumbai have risen over 10000 and, in the state, over 18000, and yet there are no restrictions apart from the closure of schools and colleges again and the night curfews that are proven to be largely ineffective, and life goes on as usual. Mumbai authorities are reportedly waiting for the daily cases to rise above the 20,000-mark. Delhi had imposed restrictions of half-capacity operation in public transport which led to the inevitable rush for buses and trains, and thereafter the government allowed public transport to operate in full capacity. Half-capacity in offices is only applicable to private offices there so far, as if the government servants are immune to infections, conveniently forgetting that thousands of serving government officials died in the Second Wave. Kolkata has imposed 50% capacity operations in all offices and in public transport; but the latter resulted in local train blockades by protesting people making them vulnerable to infections.

 


It is very easily understandable that once you allow people to lead their lives in the usual way—coming out of homes for shopping, eating out and other things—your transport restrictions cannot be successful, and the norm of social distancing, as always, becomes a myth. There is also a growing difference between the views of the medical experts and the virologists about the ‘severity’ and ‘less hospitalization’ issues of Omicron. Some say it is a mild variant and in fact helps people to get immunity for the future variants. This kind of views has been contributing to a dangerous complacency in citizens as well as in politicians/governments. Some others do contest such disinformation, but argue that we should wait for at least two weeks to know more about Omicron. Well, if we adhere to this view the spread of Omicron in the coming two weeks could go out of control and overwhelm the health infra even if 1% needs hospitalization (we emphasized this point previously too).

 

The World Health Organization has also cautioned the countries that unchecked spread of Omicron could lead to more dangerous COVID-19 variants in future. Yes, we still don’t know much about Omicron, like we knew very little about the SARS-Cov-2 virus in early 2020, but took the necessary steps in preventing its spread and again, due to lack of knowledge about the emerging mutants, let our guard down inviting the Second Wave; and therefore, it does not mean that we keep on waiting to acquire full knowledge thus allowing Omicron to go out of control. Besides, we’ve always been witnessing in the past two years the fact the pandemic has been affecting some countries very seriously while partly affecting or even sparing some other countries. Therefore, always quoting the South Africa experience for solace does not hold water and is very dangerous.

 

Delhi has of now decided to impose full weekend curfew from 5 pm on Friday till 5 am on Monday. Now, how is this total curfew any different than a lockdown? Again, as per rules set by the Delhi government itself under the Disaster Management Act, it should already have announced ‘red alert’ in view of the positivity rate going above 5% which effectually means a lockdown. Unfortunately, we see the Delhi Chief Minister endlessly appearing in news channel ads advising citizens how to live life while he goes on for his political rallies in gay abandon. The fact that he has proved COVID positive now can very well prove him to be a super-spreader, and this applies to all the politicians of all parties who have also tested positive.

 

We strongly suggest a national lockdown for two weeks during which we’d be able to check the spread and acquire more data about the behavior patterns of Omicron, instead of waiting for two weeks only for data collection. At the moment ‘lives’ are more important than ‘livelihoods’; we should learn from the Second Wave disaster. Of course, we are more prepared this time with vaccination, medicines and medical facilities; but there is nothing wrong in trying to prevent the variant go out of control. If a two-week national lockdown seems to be too harsh for some, the lockdown can at least be imposed in the metros and major towns of the country. Further, the ECI must ban political rallies immediately and the politicians/governments must start working by examples, not by unruly, curb-free and carefree behavior. 

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