By Syed Qamar Hasan
As the third wave of the deadly pandemic straddled with a more lethal Delta and delta plus variants spreading across the world, so are rumors, speculations, and guesses about how India will respond and is India geared accordingly to face the challenge.
The country paid dearly with life and commerce during the last two waves of the Covid-19 virus recording the second-highest number of cases globally and registered the third-highest number of deaths. However, according to media reports based on opinions and talks of virologists, doctors, and NGOs working on the ground, substantial progress has been made in controlling the spread. Major preventive measures included lockdowns and vaccination drives across the country were instrumental in the decline in numbers.
But it appears that some states are letting down their guard against the virus even as a third wave feared to be more lethal is making itself felt.
Is the state of Telangana one such that could be said to have let down its guard at a moment of time when the wise and pragmatic decision by the state’s Chief Minister, Mr. K. Chandershekar Rao contributed significantly to bringing about a decline in the number of coronavirus cases?
Several doctors, social workers, and NGOs this diarist happened to meet during the past few days have expressed concern and their disapproval of the government’s decision to lift the lockdown. They felt that such an effective measure of lockdown that prevented the rise in the decline of Coronavirus positive cases, should not have been discontinued but extended with more relaxed timing for another fortnight or so.
It may be recalled that the state government had imposed the night curfew from April 20, followed by a controlled lockdown of 4 hours from 6 AM to 10 AM from May 12th, extending it further adding few more hours till finally doing away with it for good on June 20th.
The lockdown and its implication mainly the severe curtailment of economic activity and the resulting losses to the business community of all levels must have been heavy on the mind of the chief minister. Besides he was bad mouthed by large many from the Muslim society for imposing the lockdown on the eve of much celebrated Eid- Fitr, festival that follows the 30 day fasting. It is an occasion when the faithful spend thousands and thousands of rupees on new clothes , footwear and food boosting trade and commerce.
Doctors say some more time was required for improving herd immunity. More and more vaccination drives are required to counter the third wave in which the state is still behind, they added.
On the social and civic side, it seems the public by far and large is showing less concern for the third wave or are not aware of its lethal nature. Virologists citing studies from the Weill Cornell Medical College, New York say the reopening of normal daily life by lifting the lockdown is a paradoxical mix of good news and bad news. The good news is business and commercial life is got into full swing with houseful situations in hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars. People are back to their happy times, weddings, parties, dinners, and other recreations throwing caution to the wind, no social distancing, no masks.
The bad news is despite the massive vaccination derive reported in the press, there is noticable sluggishness in people getting vaccinated and there are still large pockets of the society that is not keen to go for the jab for easons best known to themselves. Expets say the Delta variant is grave threat to the unvaccinated.
Dr Dhruv Khullar, a practicing physician and an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, reports that Delta is the first post-vaccination variant. That pockets of the human race around, five hundred million people out of the 7.6 billion are protected against it, despite its transmissibility for them the pandemics newest chapter is something of an epilogue since the main story has in effect already concluded. But for the unvaccinated by choice or chance, he warns the Delta represents the latest installment in an ongoing series of horrors.
The government can still introduce measure that can prevent large gathering like weddings and wedding receptions, by re-introducing the lockdown during the night starting from 9 PM to may be 4 AM, or the other option to prevent the variant reported to be more contigious than the other strains from wrecking havoc on human lives is to strictly restrict the number of guests at receptions and parties to not beyond 50, and strict adherence to other protective conditions as wearing face masks and maintaining social distsancing.