Rajat Sharma

Corona pandemic: Ignoring the danger won’t help

Fourteen states and union territories recorded their highest ever tally on Thursday, with Maharashtra leading by 61,695 cases, Uttar Pradesh 22,439 cases, Chhattisgarh 15,256 cases, Karnataka 14,738 cases, Madhya Pradesh 10,168 cases and Gujarat 8,152 cases. Delhi recorded 16,699 cases.

akb Daily Covid-19 cases continued to register a quantum jump on Thursday with the single-day spike crossing 2.16 lakhs, and 1,184 deaths reported. The situation has become scary as the pandemic now zeroes in on Delhi and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Active Covid cases across India have already crossed the 15-lakh mark. This is two and a half times the figure that was two weeks ago.

Fourteen states and union territories recorded their highest ever tally on Thursday, with Maharashtra leading by 61,695 cases, Uttar Pradesh 22,439 cases, Chhattisgarh 15,256 cases, Karnataka 14,738 cases, Madhya Pradesh 10,168 cases and Gujarat 8,152 cases. Delhi recorded 16,699 cases.

A two-day weekend curfew will be clamped in Delhi from Friday night, all liquor stores will remain closed. Malls, bars, restaurants, gyms, spas, entertainment parks and auditoriums will remain closed till April 30. Home deliveries and takeaways from restaurants will be allowed, while cinema halls have been permitted to operate with only 30 per cent capacity on weekdays up to 10 pm.

The overall situation is bleak across India. Maharashtra has already enforced total curfew till May 1, while similar curfews have been imposed in cities of Madhya Pradesh. Hospitals in most of the states are running short of beds with more patients reporting with breathing trouble and other critical illnesses.

The second largest Niranjani akhada exited the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, after the head of Nirwani Akhada Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das, 65, died of Covid-19 complications. 68 senior sadhus have been tested positive. More than two thousand people have so far been tested positive during the Kumbh Mela.

The mela is spread across 670 hectares and many ghats have been built for devotees to take a holy dip in the Ganga. But most of the devotees are insisting on taking a dip at the Har Ki Paudi ghat and witness the evening Ganga aarti. This is causing headache for the local administration.

More than 48 lakh devotees took a dip on two important days, Somvati Amavasya on April 12 and on Chaitra Sankranti/Baisakhi on April 14. This has caused a huge spike in the number of Covid cases. Hardly two lakh out of these roughly 50 lakh devotees underwent Covid tests. The Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat is on record having said that Coronavirus will not spread among devotees due to the blessings of Mother Ganga.

The visuals are there for all to see. No attempts were made to carry out standard operating procedure to check devotees coming to the Mela. It was an open invitation for all to join the Mela. Huge tents were erected for sadhus to stay during the Mela. At that time, objections were raised but were overruled. No RT-PCR tests were conducted at these tents. With so many sadhus and top saints tested positive, and some of the ‘shahi snans’ remaining, why can’t the Uttarakhand authorities decide to call off the mela, in the interest of all?

The situation remains bleak across most of the hospitals, its scarier in the crematoriums, but there are thousands of people who have simply become negligent. Nor have the political leaders changed their outlook, because on them rests the responsibility of persuading people to be careful.

Road shows continued during the Bengal elections on Thursday and there were no attempts to wear masks and practise social distancing. In Belgavi, Karnataka, leaders canvassing for votes in a byelection openly mixed with people without wearing masks and moved with crowds. In Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, thousands of people took part in a religious fair on the occasion of Telugu New Year Ugadi by throwing cowdung at each other. Social distancing went for a toss.

In Bengal, all the parties are blaming one another for defying Covid restrictions by organizing rallies and road shows. There are four more phases of polling left and campaigning is at its peak. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has blamed the spread of virus due to “outsiders” who have entered to campaign for BJP in Bengal. BJP leaders have blamed Mamata’s government for mismanagement and faulty planning.

Mamata Banerjee has even suggested that all the three phases be clubbed into one phase to complete polling, but the Election Commission has ruled out any such possibility. The Left has decided not to hold big rallies, while the BJP has decided to confine its campaigning to road shows in localities. Mamata Banerjee is unwilling to call off her rallies. She claims that people are not flocking to public meetings organized by Left and BJP. Till the end of April, the campaigning will continue, and by that time, the damage would already have been done. All that would remain is how to tackle the gigantic challenge of Covid pandemic in that state.

I spoke to several top doctors. They said, it has become a norm for common people not to wear masks, because of which the pandemic spread. In countries like Japan, people make it a point to wear masks most of the time, but in India, it is an exception rather than the rule. When the vaccines were being prepared, people asked when the vaccines would arrive. When the vaccines arrived, most people in India wanted to ‘wait and watch’. They wanted to see the effects of vaccine on others and then decide. Now that the pandemic has spread at a fast pace, there is rush for vaccines, resulting in shortage of vaccine stocks in some of the states.

The vaccine manufacturers in India presumed that since there was not much demand in India, they decided to export much of their stocks to other countries. Now that there is a huge demand for vaccines, stocks are being dispatched to all the states to carry on the vaccination drive.

Doctors insist that most of the people must stay indoors, they should not leave their homes unless it is essential. If people confine themselves to their homes for at least three to four weeks, the pandemic surge can be contained. Now that the double mutant virus is active across India, even RT-PCR tests are throwing up incorrect results. This new mutant strain attacks people faster, and it is a difficult task to control the spread of this new mutant virus. Only social distancing, staying at homes, wearing masks and frequent washing of hands can save people from infection.

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