The number of Covid-19 positive cases in India has risen by almost 60 per cent to 67,152 today (May 11) from the 42,533 cases recorded by the Health Ministry last Monday (May 4). Deaths too have risen about 60 per cent to 2,206 today as against 1,373 last Monday.
Although the numbers may appear to be gaining momentum, these can still be considered modest, given that they have come during a liberalised lockdown regime that kicked in last Monday.
Almost 50 days of the nationwide lockdown has not only begun testing the patience of the population, especially the migrant daily wage workers, but also exacting an economic toll that has started to weigh on the mind of the government.
The balancing of the trade-off between the lives purportedly saved by the ‘social medicine’ of lockdown, and the livelihoods destroyed by this same medicine has begun to gain centrestage.
By announcing special to-and-fro passenger trains on 15 routes on Sunday, the government has already indicated its willingness to further calibrate the relaxations instituted since last Monday. The Prime Minister’s marathon meeting with chief ministers that began this afternoon is going to craft the next stage in India’s response to the pandemic.
The hints from the PM-CMs interaction suggest a general consensus for further relaxations, but one will have to wait through the week to see the physical contours of the relaxations that are not only simple and enforceable, but also meaningful in terms of the objective of kickstarting the economy.
But in a way, the die has been cast for the unlockdown. The exact shape and design of the die is likely to be finalised this week.
Though government claims to have used the 50 days of lockdown to enhance its preparedness to deal with the pandemic, the inter-state movement – Shramik Specials as well as special passenger trains on select routes – will test local governments’ preparedness to deal with enhanced movement.
The next one week can serve as a trial to identify the issues that need to be fixed before a full unlockdown.
The 50 days of lockdown have provided a better understanding of the geographical spread and concentration of the pandemic in the areas that need more focused attention. While 11 states have recorded more that 1,000 positive cases, accounting for over 97 per cent of case load, the disease dynamics in four states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal – demand special attention.
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In particular, the disease dynamics in major urban centres like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad will require additional attention this week. This reality will form the backdrop as the government works on further calibration of the next stage of the administrative response to the pandemic through this week.
If the enhanced inter-state movement doesn’t throw up surprises – either by creating new clusters in green zones or exposing the vulnerability of the local administration in adhering to the protocols – this week, one can be fairly certain about which areas require more focused attention.
The data from ramped up surveillance will also add to the information available to the government to make confident moves towards the next step – living with the virus.
The rush at liquor shops last week sent alarm bells ringing in the government over community compliance during relaxations. It also reminded us about the importance of each individual’s public responsibility.
Let us stick to the basics of behavioural hygiene required to live with the virus.
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