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ExplainSpeaking: As economy reopens, streamlining access to testing, health facilities will be key to arresting anxiety

Problems in access to healthcare facilities can emerge as a public irritant in Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad. The strategies these cities employ will serve as a template for other areas with more limited capacities.

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi |
June 8, 2020 6:05:44 am
Unlockdown 1.0, restaurants malls open, are malls safe, are restaurants safe, unlockdown rules express explained, indian express, black lives matter, india china lac dispute Staff wear face shields at a restaurant in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Hi there,

India detected over 1.15 lakh new Covid-19 positive cases (more than 45 per cent of total cases) over the last two weeks (64,485 new cases last week, and 50,275 cases in the week before that) alone. This is almost equal to the about 1.20 lakh active cases under treatment as of Sunday. It witnessed a little over 3,000 deaths during this period, accounting for about 45 per cent of the total deaths since the outbreak began.

If the trend from these statistics – substantial bunching of cases and deaths in the last two weeks – persists, it will translate into cascading pressure on testing and healthcare facilities at the ground level.

While the lockdown period was used to build necessary health facilities (testing as well as care), the access to them appears largely rationed, ostensibly on account of being driven by a set protocol.

This impression of rationing access to healthcare facilities has the potential to emerge as a public irritant in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad where cases have continued to snowball.

Accounts of struggles to get timely access to these facilities from these hotspot cities on social media in recent days has added to the public anxiety as the country opens up for normal business. Local administrations in these cities have employed different tactics – from creating makeshift facilities to forcing the private sector to open their doors wide – to deal with the problem of access in recent days. A marathon battle lies ahead, and this is an issue that needs streamlining to inspire public confidence after the unlockdown.

It will be interesting to watch how these cities negotiate the issue of access through this week. The strategies they employ will serve as a template for other cities with more limited capacities.

Their experience is important for another reason as well. As more new cases are detected every week, a shift in their geographical spread is visible. Though the four hotspot states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Delhi continue to account for the lion’s share of new cases, the contribution of the rest of India has been increasing. While the rest of India contributed a little over a quarter of new cases during the week ended May 10, this share has risen to about 40 per cent of new cases now.

The re-opening of restaurants and malls this week onward will kickstart a crucial segment in the service sector. Given the general panic in the public mind, the nature and extent of the reopening in this sector, to which social contact/gathering is intrinsic, will be a barometer of public confidence. So watch for markers in your neighbourhoods/surroundings.

While these issues will form the backdrop of the further opening up this week, the stand-off with China at the LAC in Ladakh will remain the focus of the Indian government’s non-Covid concerns. The first round of dialogue does not seem to have made much headway. Do keep an eye out on how New Delhi and Beijing continue to remain engaged in order to disengage in Ladakh.

ALSO READ | ExplainSpeaking: When and how will India’s economy recover, what will be the shape of its recovery

Meanwhile, the #BlackLivesMatter protest in the US is resonating around the world. Progressive individuals will be hoping it rekindles introspection and awareness about systemic discrimination around us all. This is an opportunity to set a few things right.

Cheers,

Ravish

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