A spike in cases across the country threatens to restrict the policies of the government. Citizens must display responsible behaviour and take precautions even as a nationwide vaccine rollout is taking place.
Months of planning and pro-activity on the part of the government could stand to be derailed if efforts are not taken to ensure that a second wave of Covid-19 infections threatening to engulf states like Maharashtra and Kerala are not contained.
In short, there is now simply no room for complacency, while a nationwide vaccine drive is being undertaken, to allow a second wave of injections. Cases in India are possibly at their lowest in at least eight months can much progress obtained can be undone as medical authorities pull out all stops to fight against this pandemic.
Precautions must be taken and violations of coronavirus proprieties need to be addressed while India turns the corner economically in its fight against the pandemic.
The mistakes committed are basic – lack of social distancing and failure to mask up. According to Reuters, India's infections, which are the second highest in the world at 11.03 million, swelled by a further 13,742 in the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed. Deaths rose by a two-week high of 104 to 156,567. The authorities have confirmed the presence of two mutant variants in the virus - - N440K and E484Q - in addition to those first detected in Brazil, Britain and South Africa.
In singling out nine states and a federal territory a ministry statement observed that, "Any laxity in implementing stringent measures to curb the spread, especially in view of new strains of virus..., could compound the situation."
Cases are rising once again - in the states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, as well as the federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The number of RT-PCR tests which are recording a better accuracy rate have been going down simply because the states were leaning towards opting for antigen tests, which are cheaper and quicker but less accurate. The domino effect of this would be that over-reliance on this option would ensure that real infection rates go unchecked. As a consequence, infections have also been going up in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
According to Reuters, In the past week, a third of India's 36 states and union territories have reported an average of more than 100 new cases each day, with Kerala and Maharashtra both registering more than 4,000, in a trend that experts link to the reopening of schools and suburban train services.
The government is now rightfully instructing states to expedite the vaccine rollout specially for frontline and healthcare workers. In the nationwide vaccine campaign which commenced on January 16 a total of 11 million people have received one or two doses in what is a massive campaign. A new approach will be initiated from March 1, when people above 60 and those older than 45 with health conditions will begin to receive their vaccines. This initiative will see 10,000 government hospitals providing this facility free of charge while 20,000 private healthcare bodies will apply a fee.
India cannot afford another economic fallout due to rising infection rates specially at a time when the entire country is stepping up a gear towards achieving self-reliance and turning the economy around to a path of consolidation and growth. India’s prowess at containing the virus has been hailed globally as has its efforts towards assisting countries with vaccines.
The annual budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman was geared towards promoting and aiding growth. Prior to that there were four previous fiscal packages in March, may, October and November last year to prop up the economy and aid smaller businesses while inviting foreign investments across a multitude of sectors. Sitharaman played a strong hand while essaying out a budget which was shaped to address the country’s Atma Nirbharta (self-reliance), infrastructure, agriculture and growth rates, revive consumption, create jobs and most importantly, erase the pandemic-induced fear that was looming over a lethargic economic recovery. The blueprint was shared across the country and the underlining value of this was that there was no burden imposed upon the people. To achieve this goal books would need to be balanced in the current fiscal but it earned praise from domestic and foreign economists who lauded the government’s strategy.
At the heart of making the plans work was India’s free vaccination rollout across the country. The idea was simple - the economy would turn when the pandemic was contained. To this end, the Modi government was planning to pick up the tab for vaccinating 70% of the country’s 1.3 billion population. Ensuring normalcy of life was closely linked to economic uptake. An increase spend on health – to 6.4 per cent of her budgetary outlay for 2021-22, up 137 per cent over the figure for the current year – would guarantee that make sure that services, which constitutes 60% of the economy, would rebound if people stepped out and the fear of infection recedes. But not without taking the necessary precautions.
The government has done its bit, the onus to show accountability and responsibility now rests with the people.