All the same, it is impossible to resist posing the question on everyone’s lips: is Chennai beginning to flatten the COVID-19 curve?
From July 3 onwards, the last time the incidence crossed the 2,000 mark, the levels have fallen; significantly, they have ranged in the 1,200 region for the last five days. True, this is not a very long period. But it is extensive enough to warrant an examination of how the city is placed in its battle against COVID-19. One probable reason for the fall, and arguably an important one, is that it is lockdown-related, the result of the strict measures re-imposed between June 19 and June 30. If this is the only, or even the principal reason, for the falling numbers, then the success in reducing them will be sadly, only ephemeral.
But it is worth casting an eye beyond the cities and looking at least at the two other metros, which were the worst affected – Mumbai and Delhi. While Maharashtra, easily the worst-hit State, shows little respite, there has been a recent fall in the number of positive cases in Mumbai. Even densely populated Dharavi, the world’s largest slum, has fought back vigorously to contain the virus. In New Delhi too, there is a reason for hope. The number of active cases has registered a sharp decline, falling to its lowest in over a month.
In Chennai, the reduction in the COVID positive rate, the percentage of those tested who have the disease, from the region of 20 to under 12 is another encouraging signal. Coupled with the fact that many zones in the city have recorded a negative incidence growth rate, there is some basis for cautious optimism. The Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar has emphatically declared that the curve is flattening in the city, an assertion that he is going to be held to account for over the next month.
The picture for Tamil Nadu, of course, is not as rosy, with cases increasing in other places, such as Madurai. Here, the position is not dissimilar to Maharashtra, where places other than Mumbai, once the worst hit, are recording sharp increases. This has led some to conclude that what is happening in India is similar to that in other countries such as the US, where badly affected places (such as New York City, for example) are showing signs of recovery even as other States (such as Texas and Arizona) have recorded sharp spikes. So, is it inevitable in a way that things will have to become worse until they get better? As with many other questions relating to this whimsical virus, we do not know the answers yet. As Soumya Swaminathan, the Chief Scientist at the WHO said the other day, the organisation reviews between 500 and 1,000 scientific articles about the incidence and spread of coronavirus every day. Even so, she concluded rather soberly, “we still have a lot to learn about the virus.”