The pandemic of the century has overthrown the popular notion that the fight against Covid is half won with the arrival of vaccines. This global emergency has pushed nations, developed and under developed, alike, to the brink. However, the situation in India is many times more severe than the global situation. Variants have taken hold countrywide. One-fifth of the cases reported worldwide are from India. In the last 24 hours, 2,00,739 new cases have been reported. The reports from different parts of the country, including the capital, note that though the aged and ailing were more affected in the first wave, the second wave has impacted the young. Vaccinations are running out. Hospitals are overflowing, unable to even admit elder patients with more serious conditions. Oxygen cylinders are going into short supply and there is a shortage of burial space for those who died of the disease. The young man who was forced to go to neighbouring Telangana for treatment because Maharashtra ran out of beds, and had to ask 'please treat my father or kill him,' symbolises the situation the nation is facing right now. The government which had declared a lockdown without any warning at the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 and made the life of the citizens more miserable than the pandemic, is now clueless. The rulers who made people light lamps and bang utensils to fight COVID, are now less concerned about the people who are falling dead than focusing on winning West Bengal elections by all means necessary. While India is renowned as the country that manufactures the most vaccine and exports to several countries worldwide, it is also the country that faces a tremendous shortage now.
The state has been unable to provide both vaccine doses to even Covid warriors despite blown-up statistics and public relations pamphlets. A huge population that has been at the frontline of defending against the pandemic, including sanitisation workers, are stranded without vaccines. However, giving approval to all vaccines authorised worldwide in the name of shortage cannot be termed sound. The arrival of vaccines whose effectiveness is suspect in foreign countries into the Indian markets, is as worrisome as the pandemic itself. It was the constant and continuous awareness campaigns by the media, experts and health workers that made possible the caution last time. This being discarded in an instant in favour of political rallies and celebrations and customs, was one of the reasons for the second wave spiralling out of control. The Health Minister of Assam even went so far as to say in a public campaign gathering that people in the state needn't really wear masks. The same media and the state which had tried to put the entire blame of the COVID spread on the Tablighi gathering (which happened before the lockdown and the initial spike) and in extension the Muslim community, have turned a blind eye to all other meetings going on right now. This is high time that the people took a decision to practise caution regardless of the government inaction. Even though the authorities reiterate that there won't be another lockdown, all pointers indicate that similar strict restrictions might happen soon. In many places, night-time curfews are already in place. The economy and the lives of the common people which have already been shattered during the previous lockdown will get even worse.
Whatever it be, lowering the guard or breaking laws by other parties, groups, or societies should not be any reason for us to slacken our caution. It is only if we remain twice as careful as we did last year that we can take forward the struggle that we had assumed was half over.