Restaurants and shopping malls opened last week after a gap of over two months. But there was no rush of people flocking to these places even after having been bottled up inside their homes and localities for so long. Just use the parking index – the ease with which you get a spot near your shopping destination will tell you the story of public confidence or the lack of it.
A fortnight into Unlock 1.0, these places bear the telltale signs of the continuing uncertainty in the public mind. Two weeks (since the unlockdown began) is a short time – but enough to serve as an indicator. There is visible reluctance in the public to go full-on into the pre-lockdown life.
Covid-19 cases are continuing to gallop. India has added about 1.4 lakh new cases in the last two weeks – continuing with the trend of each week adding more cases than the week before. Most likely, all these cases are still active. Basically, these numbers increase the probability of bringing the disease closer to you (you know someone or have been to a locality where a new case has emerged) than before.
Last week, the four hotspot states – with urban centres like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Ahmedabad — bucked the trend of the last month. Their share in the national case load had been declining for the last four weeks as cases from the rest of India increased on account of the movement of migrants. However, the growth of cases in the rest of India has not progress that fast – while hotspot states have continued to frenetically add new cases. (See charts)
This trend last week has been visible in the strain that health facilities in these hotspot states have come under. If this trend continues, the health facilities in epicenters such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Ahmedabad would face a bigger challenge in the coming days. This got the Supreme Court exercised last week, and the Cabinet Secretary told states to look at “fatality mitigation” as an additional focus area over and above containment and testing.
The reports from these epicenters are not only grabbing national headlines but also adding to concerns over the ability to deal with the pandemic. The irritants at different points – from symptoms to testing to ambulance to hospitalisation and critical care requirement – being reported from these epicentres is eroding public confidence.
Efforts at streamlining end-to-end case management for each patient is likely to remain the focus this week. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already chaired a meeting last week, and called for “emergency planning” for hospital beds given the rising trend of the outbreak in the medium term. Home Minister Amit Shah has stepped in to lend support to the efforts of the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi.
These efforts are likely to get more focus as the Prime Minister interacts with chief ministers on June 16-17. The mounting cases in hotspot states may serve as a reminder to states with comparatively small case loads to not be lax in the marathon battle that lies ahead.
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Meanwhile, our forces remain in a stand-off with the Chinese at Pangong Tso in Ladakh, even after limited disengagement in other sectors along the LAC. The issue is likely to keep our military and diplomatic corps in a state of utmost alert. Keep an eye out on developments along the LAC with China.
The monsoon has arrived, and kharif sowing operations have begun in several parts of the country. The economy is set to take a big hit, but let us hope the agriculture sector shows the path of resilience needed for both the economy and politics in the time of the pandemic.
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