One year after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, hopes for the disease getting eradicated has been getting delayed. On one hand, many countries are still struggling to control the spread, and on the other shortcomings in the distribution and use of vaccinations exist despite their acclaimed efficacy. Everyone wishes to see at least parts of the pre-Covid educational, social and commercial activities could be restored even if a completely Covid-free life is not possible. However, India's daily toll of Covid positive patients is rising. After three months, the number of Covid positive patients in a day crossed 25,000, as informed by the Union Health Ministry yesterday. This marks an increase in the daily count ever since it began to drop after December 20, when it had crossed 26,000. Sunday also marked the highest number of deaths in the last 44 days: 161. Total infections in the country had crossed the one crore-mark by December; now the same is closer to 1.14 crores. This means answers to questions like when we will return to normalcy, or if this is the new normal, would take longer to answer. Authorities opine that caution has gone down amongst the public. This is true to an extent; the laxity in Covid protocols is often superseding the fear of the pandemic. Though severe restrictions and partial lockdowns have been imposed in certain states, these measures haven't yet produced the desired results. Additionally, mutant strains of the virus pose another risk.
One year into the pandemic, 11.5 crore people have contracted COVID-19 across the world, and 25 lakh died. Studies indicate that this cannot be explained away by putting blame on the people's lack of care and caution alone. Decisions of the leadership, their implementation, and a lack of communication played an equal role. There are also criticisms that the WHO had given false instructions in the confusion of the initial phases. Political leaders also failed to show clarity in communication or the basic compassion that the situation demanded. South Korea and Ghana are two countries that experts say showed exemplary efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
Equipped with the experience of fighting the SARS epidemic, the Korean officials communicated to the people as early as January last year about the spread of COVID-19 and stressed the importance of wearing masks. With a mobile application to track the spread, they managed to control the spread without extensive lockdown restrictions. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the Commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, was praised for her commitment and leadership. It was similar transparency and trust of the Ghanan president Nana Akufo-Addo that made his leadership stand out. Having decided early on to institute a lockdown, he gave the citizens two weeks to prepare for it. The consideration shown to the marginalised sections of society further increased people's trust and their compliance with the restrictions. Studies show that it was in countries where this consideration was not shown, the communication was not transparent and faith in the leadership diminished that a rise in the spread of infections resulted. Brazil, India and the UK are examples of poor performance in this regard. While Brazil's Bolsoanro and UK's Boris Johnson played down the seriousness of the disease, India's unprepared lockdown and the forced exodus of the nation's millions of migrant workers that created the opposite effect.
The new threat to Covid defence is the 'vaccine nationalism' of rich countries, despite repeated lessons that immunising everyone else is the only way to protect oneself. Only 13 countries in Africa have started the immunisation process. At the same time, one in ten US citizens has received both doses of the vaccine. Big pharmaceutical companies eyeing the market makes things worse. Their exploitation under the guise of intellectual property laws impacts poorer nations the most. It is good to remember that in pandemics, the ultra-rich alone cannot be protected and saved until everyone, including the poorest and most marginalised, are also vaccinated against the threat of the disease.