Opening Up Activities With Eyes Wide Open
With COVID-19 positive cases falling by 75 percent across the country, several states have started relaxing the restrictions they imposed in view of the horrifying surge in the second wave. The country recorded just over a lakh cases on Sunday, the lowest in over two months. Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are among the states that have announced plans to relax the restrictions and open up the economic activities gradually. The fact that some states are going for partial relaxation shows that they are cautious in their approach and do not want to invite a fresh surge with total complacency. Shops selling non-essential items have been allowed to open but there are restrictions on them. In Delhi they are allowed to open on odd-even days. There are also restrictions on restaurants and workplaces. Metro services would be allowed to run in the national capital but with 50 percent capacity.
COVID cases peaked in the country during the month of May in the second wave, with more than 88.82 lakh infections reported. These cases amounted to 31.67 percent of over 2.88 crore of people infected by the virus in the country, making it the worst month. During May the country also recorded over 1.17 lakh fatalities which worked out to around 35.63 per cent of nearly 3.50 lakh deaths recorded so far. The country saw the highest number of daily cases on May 7 when 4.14 lakh cases were registered in 24 hours. The highest number of deaths was recorded on May 19, with 4,529 people succumbing to the virus. The month of May also saw the active cases peaking to the highest level on May 10 when the figure stood at over 37.45 lakh. The gradual decrease in infections and mortality has brought respite to the people and governments, but there is still no room for taking it easy.
While some states have announced easing of restrictions due to fall in number of COVID cases, others, like Goa, Haryana, Sikkim, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, have extended them by at least another week as the numbers of cases reported there are still a matter of concern. Though Goa has seen a big fall in COVID cases, the positivity rate as of Sunday June 6 was still over 13 percent which is a matter of serious concern. Other states brought the cases down drastically to manageable levels (with Delhi reporting just 0.5 percent positivity rate and Mumbai well below 5 percent) by strict enforcement of COVID appropriate protocol. Experts say a 5 percent positivity rate is manageable. The Goa government has to work in a harder and harsher way to enforce the COVID appropriate protocol in order to bring it down. It should learn from Delhi and Maharashtra governments. They were the worst states. But they managed it in a much better manner than Goa did. Goa’s COVID management strategy has relied entirely on the curative side. The strategy has to shift to enforcement of restrictions.
The Goa government dithered for several weeks before imposing a lockdown. The people had to pay a price for that in terms of a terrifying rise in the number of infections and deaths. Many lives could have been saved if a lockdown had been ordered a month before it was actually done. The more than a month-long lockdown has shown the result: it has broken the chain of transmission of the virus, though not yet fully. Let us hope the extension of the lockdown till June 14 brings down the positivity rate to a manageable level.
Yet when Goa starts relaxing the restrictions it must do it in phases. Care has to be taken to reduce chances of crowding anywhere. The vaccination drive has to be sped up by getting more vaccines. Goa has a small population. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has announced that people in the age group of 18-44 would be vaccinated by July. The parents of children aged up to 15 years would be given priority. However, the state government must work to get the entire population vaccinated as soon as possible. That would be the biggest safeguard against a third wave.