Adherence to safety norms will help keep COVID under control
Though India has been reporting fewer COVID-19 cases for over a fortnight, the Centre has advised states and Union Territories to ramp up testing as part of measures to keep the increase in cases in check. Some regions are witnessing a second wave; the Centre’s directions are cautionary steps to bring the surge under control. The advice has been issued in the wake of continuous rise in cases in European countries and the United States as well as some northern states of the country, especially Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. The number of cases and positivity rate is slightly lower than last week but the same is not because the virus is striking a lesser number of people. The experts believe that a lesser number of cases is being reported across the country because the governments have scaled down testing. They feel that in view of winter and air pollution due to use of firecrackers during the festive season, COVID-19 cases should have gone up but the figures released by the authorities speak otherwise.
While the cases have shown a downward trend in most parts of the country, an abnormal increase was seen in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Manipur last week. The Centre had to send high-level health teams to these states. With the surge reported also from four other states – Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — the Centre sent teams there on Sunday. The situation is alarming in Delhi, which had claimed to have contained the virus spread. Delhi has been the worst affected state in terms of daily spike for more than three weeks and there are no signs of cases falling, though Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal keeps assuring the cases would come down soon. The increase in cases has been attributed to people becoming complacent and not adhering to directives of health authorities, particularly relating to wearing of masks and social distancing. The problems are likely to be compounded further by the onset of winter during which even otherwise the number of flu cases used
Goa, which used to conduct the highest number of tests per million among states, too has followed the national policy of conducting a lesser number of tests, as a result of which the number of people testing coronavirus positive has come down drastically over the past several weeks. With the state thrown open for all activities, including tourism, it has seen a large number of tourists arriving from different parts of the country, including Delhi. There are reports of infections among tourists. Though it is not clear whether they were infected before or were infected when they came in contact with others, the government needs to scale up vigilance, regulation, checks and testing as it lifts curbs on economic activities. There is not much vigilance over the activities of tourists, especially during nights, hence the rules relating to mandatory use of masks and social distancing are often flouted on the streets of the state and at the airport.
It is good to see the government putting up checks at the airport and railway stations. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has said that Goa will adopt the standard operating procedures followed by the Maharashtra government for monitoring the people coming from Delhi. With the threat of a second wave looming large with some regions of the country witnessing a second or third wave, it is necessary that Goa restarts screening not just travellers from Delhi but all those who enter the state, as unchecked virus-carrying visitors could pass on infection to Goans. It is necessary for Goans and visitors to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and adhere to rules issued by the authorities or we could be in a situation like Europe and America which are gripped by a second wave. Though putting restrictions on movement in view of increase in COVID cases would lead to further slowdown of economy, it would be better rather than facing a shutdown in case of a big surge in cases, which could become unmanageable as the much awaited vaccine is still months away and all the people might not get it quickly, easily and cheaply.