Breaking the Covid chain

The Government of Meghalaya has taken a prudent decision in announcing a 10-day lockdown in certain vulnerable districts, beginning May 1. Covid numbers in the State are rapidly rising and Government can no longer take a chance and allow a ‘business as usual’ atmosphere to continue. The fact is that even today people move around without masks and for some reasons are not convinced that social distancing is imperative to defeat the Covid virus. In this situation only a compulsory lockdown and staggered attendance at government and other important establishments can break the cycle of infection.

Medical experts opine that in case of COVID-19, each person with the virus can go on to infect around 2.5 people. If each of those people go about their day as normal, and infect another 2.5 people, within a month, 406 people would be infected just from that first infection. The biggest challenge as far as Covid19 is concerned is that individuals who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can still spread the disease. Hence the need for social distancing and limiting contact with others in addition to other Covid protocols such as hand-washing and not touching the face, is so critical. In recent times the World Health Organization has changed the term social distancing to ‘physical distancing’ in order to emphasise the importance of being far away enough to avoid infection from respiratory droplets that transmit the virus. It is important that every single person adheres to this, whether or not they think they are sick. But this demands public responsibility and cooperation which is difficult to come by. Call it ignorance or foolhardiness but effecting behavioural change (masking and distancing) are both a monumental challenge for governments in India. Unfortunately, social influencers like politicians themselves break this important protocol.

India’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 had reached its peak on September 16, 2020, at 97,860 cases confirmed in a single day. From this high point, India’s Covid-19 numbers came down to a low of just 8,579 cases by February 1, 2021. Hence in early 2021, India’s Covid curve had begun to flatten, making it appear like the pandemic was being beaten down. Testing too reached its high point in September but fell in February from 1.49 million tests done on a single day on September 24, 2020, to a low of just 486,122 tests on February 14, 2021. But cases have been rising since then. By March 21, 2021, the central government reported about 47,000 cases. In other words, India’s confirmed cases had risen 4.5 times since the low point of February 1, 2021 but vaccination had not picked up pace.

This slackening of guard by the government at the centre and the states has brought India back to a gasping point where oxygen is the only saving grace but which is fast depleting. In such a situation a lockdown alone can slow the infection rate and hopefully give the healthcare system a breather. It’s Hobson’s choice for the government.

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