One week of India’s ongoing liberalised lockdown ended on Sunday (May 24). The country added almost 41,000 Covid-19 positive cases during this week, up from about 28,000 new cases detected in the previous week.
The trend has held steady; India has added more cases every week over the previous week – going backwards from the week just ended, 40,941; 27,988; 22,959; and 13,484.
The numbers indicate that the outbreak has gained momentum last week with the relaxation of restrictions on the previous Monday (May 18).
Although the weekly jump is attributable in large part to the four states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Delhi, the rest of India too, is coming into the picture.
Cases have risen on the back of returning migrant workers; the Railways have ferried over 35 lakh workers to their home states over the last three weeks, and a similar number could be ferried over the next 10 days.
These 10 days will test the capabilities of migrant-exporting states – UP, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Rajasthan – in tracking and isolating carriers of the virus.
The high-concentration states, specifically the urban centres of Delhi and Mumbai, whose health facilities are already stretched to near capacity, will come under further pressure. You will see more private facilities being requisitioned, and new ways being employed to create additional capacities.
But the biggest change will come from the limited reopening of air travel. At every stage from check-in to disembarkation, at the airports and inside aircraft, a whole new set of circumstances and situations will have to be negotiated.
The coming days will in effect be a test run for air travel in the post-Covid world. For the Railways, which will add 100 pairs of trains from June 1, the week will be spent on instituting post-Covid protocols at stations and for passengers.
By the time the week ends, everyone will be watching out again for what the government decides on the lockdown. While the widening of relaxations has been the trend, it will be interesting to see whether the end of Lockdown 4.0 marks the beginning of trusting citizens with ensuring community compliance of physical distancing norms.
The lessons from the limited reopening of air travel, rail travel, and inter-state movement will guide the next course of decision.
There is another, non-Covid development that is likely to linger this week – the Chinese transgressions along the LAC in Ladakh. The intrusions by China at three places on the LAC will test the nerves of India’s strategic and diplomatic community. Although most of the action will likely happen through back channels, watch out for signals of Chinese intention in these times of great disruption in the global economy and geopolitics.
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