In the last one-week (May 10-17) India added 27,988 Covid-19 positive cases, which is over 20 per cent more than the 22,959 (May 3-10) cases added the previous week, as per the latest statistics of Health Ministry on Sunday. The week before (April 26-May 3), 13,484 cases were added, under the relatively stricter restrictions under Lockdown 2.0.
This may indicate potential trend in coming days, as the country migrates from Lockdown 3.0 to a more relaxed Lockdown 4.0. But this momentum of case rise should be seen in context of rising testing number. Testing has jumped to over 93,000 on May 16 from about 40,000 per day on April 26. The cumulative positive rate, consequently, remains hovering around four per cent mark during this period. More you test, more cases you will identify to isolate, track and treat.
From this week, this strategy – test, isolate, track and treat – will be tested for its capability as public movement increases with restrictions are eased in Lockdown 4.0.
You may have noticed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last address to the nation on May 12 and the series of subsequent press conferences by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week focused virtually on mid-term/long-term post-Covid plan for the economy. This appeared suggesting the Centre’s willingness to retreat from direct control of Covid-19 response to an increasingly advisory and supplementary role in steering the lockdown. Even the guidelines on containment, identification of zones entrust states with additional responsibility.
After the three sets of lockdown steered tightly by the central government, the ownership of the Covid-19 response has shifted more to the hands of states from today. To begin with, this will be reflected in state-specific guidelines that will be issued by respective states today or in the coming days.
Most importantly, states will be announcing their Red, Orange and Green Zones to regulate/modulate restrictions. Since inter-state travel has been permitted with mutual consent of states, this is likely to become a friction point that states may struggle to iron out through this week, to ensure it doesn’t compromise their handling of the outbreak.
Though the variable performance across states has already been visible, these are likely to get more pronounced under increased stewardship of the state governments during these relaxed norms. One may expect that states have turned wiser after the experience picked up during the last three lockdowns and will utilise this to better their performance, as more migrants shuttle between states, more cases emerge, more unforeseen challenges emerge.
So, it is time for us to start keeping an eye out for states’ performance in identifying clusters, enforcing guidelines and their clinical management arrangements even as we keep tab on the central response to the unfolding pandemic.
As for the brass tacks, four states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi – continue to shape the disease trajectory (see graph) in the country. However, if you look carefully at the daily increase in Covid-19 positive cases, the rest of India seems to be on a slightly ascendant path since the last one week, when inter-state migrant movement has gained pace with special train services. While these hotspot states struggle to control the outbreak, it will be interesting to watch out the outbreak trajectory during this week.
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In particular, if you are associated with any one of these 30 municipalities — Brihanmumbai, Greater Chennai, Ahmedabad, Thane, all Delhi MCs, Indore, Pune, Kolkata, Jaipur, Nashik, Jodhpur, Agra, Tiruvallur, Aurangabad, Cuddalore, Greater Hyderabad, Surat, Chengalpattu, Ariyalur, Howrah, Kurnool, Bhopal, Amritsar, Villupuram, Vadodara, Udaipur, Palghar, Berhampur, Solapur and Meerut — you need to keep additional watch, because these cities currently account for 79 per cent of India’s case load. If you are associated with these cities, you should wait for respective state guidelines to plan your activities in or around these towns.
After these relaxations, the shape of the outbreak curve in the rest of India on the one hand, and these 30 cities on the other, by the end of this week has the potential to inform the shape of the next stage in this battle to tackle the pandemic.
With more opening up comes more responsibility in these times. Let’s act responsibly and not drop our guard as we move around under Lockdown 4.0.
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