Rajat Sharma

Huge crowds in markets may lead to third wave of Covid


Today I want to begin by sounding a note of caution. Huge crowds of Diwali shoppers have been noticed in most of the big markets in the major cities of India during the past one week, giving rise to fears of a third wave of Covid pandemic.

Despite repeated announcements by the Centre and state governments, all standard guidelines for prevention of Covid have been thrown to the winds. Most of the shoppers thronging the markets are moving around without masks. People are becoming nonchalant and are under the false impression that the danger of another wave of pandemic is no more.

It is true that the fear of another wave of pandemic is presently not there, and the rise in number of Covid cases has declined. It is also true that the world has praised India’s success in crossing the target of more than a billion doses of Covid vaccines. Yet, it is also true that the virus has not vanished, it is causing deaths in several parts of the globe. The danger is still there.

During the last 24 hours, 12,514 fresh Covid cases were registered across India and the daily positivity rate is now 1.42 per cent. But the visuals of thousands of Diwali shoppers thronging the big markets of major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna and Bhopal are scary. People are committing the same mistake that they did after first wave of pandemic waned. The result: the nation faced a deadly second wave of pandemic in April and May, when lakhs of people gasped for survival, due to lack of oxygen. The crematoriums were full and daily thousands of bodies of Covid victims were being cremated.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed visuals from Delhi’s major markets like Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Bhagirath Palace, Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, and Laxmi Nagar. With crowds thronging shops, there was no place even to stand, forget social distancing.

Our reporters spoke to shoppers and traders. One shopkeeper said, people have stopped fearing the pandemic after getting vaccinated. Most of the people, who were not wearing masks, told our reporters nonchalantly that the fear is now over and there was no need to wear masks. The fear that had engulfed Delhites in April and May is no more. Remember, there were no beds or oxygen in Delhi hospitals during May. People were fighting for their lives, waiting for oxygen, lying inside cars and ambulances. There was 24 to 48 hours of waiting outside crematoriums.

Similar crowds were seen in the major markets of Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the cities that bore the brunt of the second wave of pandemic in April and May. At the Teen Darwaza market in Ahmedabad, huge crowds of shoppers were jostling outside shops.

Our reporters spoke to doctors who said that if a third wave hits the cities, the load on medical infrastructure will be too high. The doctors said, people must not live under a false impression that getting both the vaccine doses is a panacea for them. Covid appropriate behaviour is a must to prevent the pandemic. There were huge crowds of Diwali shoppers at the Khaitan market in Patna and Bhootnath market in Lucknow. In both these places, there were hundreds of shoppers moving around without masks.

We should learn from what is happening in other countries. Russia is presently facing a big wave of Covid pandemic. Daily more than 40,000 Covid cases are being reported. In Russia, more than 70 per cent people have been vaccinated with a single dose, while 33 per cent of the population has already taken double doses. 1,131 Covid patients died during the last 24 hours in Russia. Russia did not face huge crowds that are being witnessed in India, and yet the virus spread fast. A lockdown has been imposed from October 30 till November 7. Those above the age of 60 years, who have not taken both the doses, have been asked to remain indoors.

Frenzied buying for Diwali and hectic partying at homes, is good news for economists. The Indian economy, which had witnessed a decline during the lockdown period, is now booming. It should be good news for all of us, but we should also take care to prevent a fresh wave of pandemic.

With the decline in number of cases, cinemas, shopping malls, schools and colleges have reopened, but caution is the need of the hour. I understand, people had been feeling a sense of fatigue after continuously wearing masks and remaining indoors for nearly two years. They want to move around in the open, but they must avoid crowds, and follow Covid guidelines diligently. One must not be under the false impression that taking both the vaccine doses will prevent the virus from entering the body.

Medical experts have pointed out that the decline in number of cases was mainly due to strict implementation of Covid guidelines. Most of the people have developed antibodies, but the virus hasn’t gone away. It is still lurking. Nobody wants a situation like Russia developing here in India. At least, people must wear masks when they step out of their homes. They should not keep the masks inside their pockets or leave them hanging on their chin. Nose and mouth must remain covered with mask.

Remember, this is the last phase of the pandemic. If we all follow guidelines, we shall win this battle. Since Diwali is the festival of lights and joy, everybody should celebrate, but they must do so, with caution. Buying new utensils or other goods during Dhanteras is a customary ritual. They are free to follow this, but they must exercise caution when they find a crowd in front of them. Do not bring the Coronavirus to your home, otherwise your near and dear ones can get infected. There is no medicine to prevent Coronavirus, and the vaccine provides you with protection. Do not live under the false impression that those who have been vaccinated will never get infected with the virus.

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