The spread of Covid has entered its second phase in many parts of India, as stated by director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Randeep Guleria the other day. Unless more effective preventive measures ae evolved and enforced, he warns, the country will have to continue in lockdown next year too. Already, India has become the country to record the biggest daily case load. Yesterday, over 90,000 persons were confirmed Covid positive. And next to America, India is the country with the largest number of Covid patients as of now, which as per statistics of 7 September, is over 42 lakh. It should also be recalled that this figure has been reached from the figure of 20 lakh a month ago. In addition, during last week, the daily death toll has also crossed 1,000, with about 6,000 deaths recorded in a week by the central health ministry. If at the beginning of spread of Covid, the centres of disease spread were first China, then European countries and America and still later Brazil, now India has taken that place.
What is to be examined is how a country which had taken preventive steps, including enforcement of lockdown, within a few days of reported spread of Covid, could come such a precarious state now. This sad state contrasts with most of the countries who had incurred major losses from Covid spread in the beginning, but are reportedly beginning to tide over the crisis. Countries including China that had reported the first case of Coronavirus in the world, have more or less tamed the disease and are almost back to normal life. In Italy, which at one point had reported 'mass deaths', the number of newly reported Covid cases last week is below 8,000, and deaths just 60 in the same period. And it is a country where in April alone 15,000 patients had died that has now reined in the virus to this extent. In the US, although after initial faltering, now matters are under control. Newly confirmed cases there during the week was 2.5 lakh, with 4,500 deaths. In May and June the average confirmed cases had reached 7 lakh. And within three months, death rate has also been brought down by a half.
It is when in all these countries the situation is being brought under control that India's graph is marking a steep climb. A single day's case load in India is three times the reported cases of the whole of Europe put together. If this uncontrollable situation continues, within two or three weeks, India may surpass America in the number of Covid cases. In a way, countries which had been rather clueless before the valleys of death built by Covid, have made a return from Covid – albeit not fully - with precise and scientific preventive methods. What the current numbers tell us is that such a prevention has failed to happen in India. When the first lockdown was announced by prime minister Modi, he had also declared that the country would ward off the disease in three weeks. Concerns were expressed at those very moments that such a preventive step, with least planning and preparation, would do more harm than good.
Starting the very next day, tragic outcomes started to emerge. That finally came to a very low of GDP contraction by 23.9 per cent. Not only that, reports have come out that due to lack of money, job and food, people have reduced their daily intake of meals by one. All these facts corroborate the observation that enforcement of lockdown without adequate preparation would lead the country to starvation. But the government callously dismissed the warnings that hunger is as much a scourge as the virus. And now both corona and hunger alike are sowing deaths in the country. It is not only in lockdown, but even in the planning about treatment of disease that those in authority erred critically. When other countries adopted more scientific medical methods, the penchant here was to embrace fake alternative medicines - that are becoming a hallmark of sangh parivar politics. For, none other than those with responsible roles in the government became exponents of cow urine juice and cow dung cake. They also promoted in a big way the products of Patanjali, the firm of godman Baba Ramdev.
Precious time that should have been used to equip our health sector for scientific Covid prevention was thus frittered away in such exercises. And the country is paying the price for this approach. There is also the brighter spectacle of those states who responded differently from the centre's policies, and achieved success in the Covid prevention drive. Kerala is a good example. But even in Kerala, in the second phase of Covid transmission, the number of patients is on the increase. Hence this is also a time for the state government to make an introspection whether the initial vigilance and caution is still there with the same seriousness. The people should also look back and ponder whether the self-vigilance displayed during the pandemic has started eluding them. And that will be the best course to take in order not to let lockdown be extended further.