This week, after more than two months of grim record-breaking surges, the nation recorded 86,161 fresh cases, which is the lowest daily rise since April 1 this year. When the second wave of the pandemic had peaked in May, the daily surge had hit a staggering 4.14 lakh fresh cases. The daily death toll on Monday also stood at 1,867 cases, which is the first time in 49 days that the daily death toll has stayed below the 2,000 mark.
The numbers do come with a rider though, as there were a substantial dip in the quantum of tests conducted on Sunday last week - 15.9 lakh tests as compared to the number of tests a day before - 35.7 lakh. This was corroborated by Thursday’s figures when the nation reported 94,052 new COVID cases, and 6,148 deaths, a toll that is said to be the highest anywhere in the world.
This surge in fatalities was reported after Bihar revised its toll.In Tamil Nadu, some respite came by the fact that, for the first time since May 1, the state reported less than 20K daily cases on Monday, 19,448 cases. Even in Chennai, the number of active cases in some of the COVID hotspots which had lingered around 5,000 cases a few days ago, has now halved to less than 2,500.
And as TN gradually stepped into a state of relaxed restrictions, citizens under lockdown for the better part of the month, rushed to get themselves an e-pass. The server of the e-registration portal buckled under the pressure of 60 lakh hits, when its normal traffic ranged between 5 to 6 lakh hits. Monday also witnessed a phased unlocking set into motion when districts in TN with comparatively lower infection rates, allowed essential goods and services to be served between 6 am and 5 pm. Similarly, states like Maharashtra, worked out a five-phased unlocking that covered 18 of the state’s 36 districts. In Haryana, the hospitality sector is also looking to bounce back as restaurants and bars, including those in hotels and malls will be permitted to operate with 50 per cent capacity. Social gatherings have also been permitted to an extent of 50 people.
For a nation the size of India, the idea of unlocking seems vastly varied across states, and it seems next to impossible to have a uniform code of unlocking for the nation. As we have learned from the impact of circuit-breaking lockdowns of the past year, every time restrictions are eased, callous citizens drop their guard and embark upon pre-pandemic routines that endanger the lives of those around them.
Last week, a BJP leader had written to the Uttarakhand CM to resume the famous Char Dham Yatra, and allow the religious tourism industry to get back on its feet by ensuring that all stakeholders are vaccinated. A major source of income for the state, in 2019, as many as 38 lakh pilgrims visited the Char Dham, compared to 4.2 lakh pilgrims in 2020. The numbers had dwindled owing to the pandemic.
The state had previously come under fire for having allowed the Kumbh Mela to take place, the event being a super-spreader of sorts. Along with election rallies, the Kumbh Mela is said to have contributed significantly to the second wave of COVID in India. Several states are now beefing up their healthcare infrastructures, aware that the unlocking will entail subsequent waves that experts believe will be of lower intensities as compared to the second wave.
For now, the Centre and States must prioritise an equitable distribution of the vaccine, via both the CoWin app as well as through walk-ins. It is essential that in an attempt to unlock, knee-jerk measures are avoided, as it flounders all the gains accrued so far.