Even on polling day, cases breached the 1.07 lakh mark, making it the second time in three days when the nation crossed the one lakh mark. Health officials have admitted the second wave is far more debilitating, as the cases are increasing at a higher rate.
With states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, and the capital New Delhi implementing night curfews in varying degrees, India seems to be headed towards a state of severe restrictions on movement over the next few days. It is amidst this development that the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League is set to kick off on Friday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, Chennai. As far as BCCI and other stakeholders are involved, it’s a massive gamble as infections are being reported not just among players, but even among ground staffers, franchise crew members and officials. Policymakers have questioned the logic of choosing multiple match venues at a time when all the games are being played in the absence of audiences.
In Chennai, as many as 3,645 new cases were reported while the fatalities stood at 15. Health officials had previously warned that cases in TN could shoot up in the aftermath of the polling, which witnessed many instances of violations of distancing and hygiene norms. The healthcare machinery in several states is now buckling under the pressure of new COVID admissions. In Bengaluru, the daily caseload is set to touch the 6,500 mark in another two weeks. Experts opine that even if 10 pc of those affected need hospitalisation, the city could very well run out of capacity, vis-a-vis hospital beds.
The Union Health Ministry had asked officials in states hit hard by the second wave, to increase the rate of RT-PCR testing to 70 pc of the total samples tested. In Maharashtra, which accounts for 58 per cent of India’s caseload and 34 per cent of deaths, only 60 per cent of tests were being done via RT-PCR. The spike in cases has prompted state governments to shut down educational institutes, which has added to the heartache of students languishing with e-learning.
A public health expert from the NITI Aayog had warned states that the next four weeks are going to be critical in capping COVID cases. The surge has prompted Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to hold a meeting of health ministers from 11 states to deliberate on the next course of action. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Chief Ministers as part of a stock-taking exercise, and forming an action plan to tackle COVID.
Earlier this week, the Indian Medical Association had written to the Centre urging the cap on vaccinations for those over 45 be removed and that all adults should be made eligible for receiving the vaccinations. While that has been a strategy that seemed feasible in first world nations, the same logic could not be employed in the Indian context. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said on Tuesday that limited supply of vaccines was the reason behind prioritising the distribution to groups with a higher vulnerability to the virus.
India’s supremacy in the vaccination front might be undeniable–the nation recently surpassed the US to become the fastest vaccinating nation in the world with an average daily rate of 30 lakh doses being administered, and as many as 8 crore people being vaccinated so far. But the travesty here is that the government’s failure to inspire discipline among people on account of following COVID-protocols will exact a toll that might be far too heavy for a nation like India to pay. If another lockdown is in the offing, we have only ourselves to blame.