Hyderabad: At a time when the prospect of lockdown relaxations are decreasing in the country, Hyderabad received a blow with a two week extension though Telangana is seemingly doing better than many other states. Plus, the Bloomberg Quint has reported that states with the most Red Zones are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Throughout Red, Orange and Green zones, varying limitations have been put in place.
Despite his earlier hints of extending lockdown coupled with successive promises to ensure that the state is corona free, one pressing question remains on the home front.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for Telangana?
Chief Minster K. Chandrasekhar Rao, first stated that the state will be coronavirus-free by April 7 only to tack on an extra week of the lockdown 2.0 which was at the very least expected bring about some easing of restrictions throughout the country. Towards the end of the last month, the CM said 21 districts will be declared COVID-19 free 21 days later.
With Telangana devoid of many Red Zones unlike the states mentioned above and Telangana registering only two new cases should herald in a slew of relaxations right?
Those expecting a definite no or a yes, specifically the latter, will probably have to settle for a huge maybe.
M Somasekhar, former Bureau Chief of The Hindu Business Line — Hyderabad, is the picture of precaution when he says that such low figures emanate from fewer testing figures. He feels that the lockdowns should last till the dates set by the government, especially since the rosy picture painted is not accurately reflective of actual cases that are out there.
“The figures are not realistic as testing, already limited, is for symptomatic cases. In Andhra Pradesh asymptomatic case numbers are high,” he categorically states.
Plus, the medical infrastructure is skewed heavily in favour of private and corporate establishments. Somesekhar adds, “Government hospitals’ infrastructures are unfortunately low on staff and up to date facilities. They are about a decade behind since they have been upgraded.”
In short government has to increase testing in a more scientific manner.
Prominent city social activist S Q Masood stresses that such a strategy needs to be kept in mind. He is quick to recall that both the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Telangana Government have announced that take away facilities would be permitted from restaurants.
Yet this measure has not really materialized as yet.
Masood aptly points out, “The e-commerce option to let people put in online orders for pickup keeps social distancing in mind without letting the much-needed containment efforts to deprive the food and beverage industry workforce of its livelihood.”
As for the government’s newfound sympathy towards the plight of migrant workers by facilitating their trip back home, he says that this concern should have been among the very first concerns during the lockdown.
Another noted city activist Sheela Sarah Matthews deems that people returning from abroad should have been screened in January and February. Although she believes that the lockdown should not be eased till the end of this month, this caught between a rock and a hard place situation could have been avoided.
On one hand Ramzan — especially in Hyderabad — is definitely going to bring both Muslims and non-Muslims out to celebrate the festive season. This certainly is not conducive to social distancing.
“Even with the slightest increase in activity, the fact during this holy Islamic month will only scapegoat Muslims a la the Tablighi Jamaat fiasco if there is another spread,” Matthews expresses her concern.
Communal incidents too have been on the rise in the districts as well as the bastion of communal harmony that is supposed to be Hyderabad.
She took to social media to shed light on these unfortunate events.
The socio-economic fault lines that this lockdown has further brought out are also very problematic as pre and post Ramadan/pandemic, the seasonal and overall economies will take a huge hit.
Regardless of the gradual easing of restrictions all over the country, post May 3, the country and state might be prepared with more beds, infrastructure and know how to tackle this menace.
But two questions linger. How long can we carry on with this lockdown and are Telangana and India prepared to tackle this pandemic strategically?
That depends not only on the various factors elaborated upon above but other ones whether public hospitals can be bought up to par with private ones (perhaps through cooperation) or even intense social awareness regarding the virus.
While the government has announced something resembling a strategy for a specific industries that should open up, these incremental relaxations have to be undertaken with these considerations in mind.