Editorial: No glory in being a COVID frontrunner

This week, India achieved the dubious distinction of becoming World No 2 in the number of COVID cases, beating Brazil. Almost every other day, the nation is breaking inglorious records, a matter of considerable concern as we tread on our Unlock 4 journey.
Editorial: No glory in being a COVID frontrunner

Chennai

The Union Health Ministry has said over 3 mn have recuperated so far, with 71,000 fatalities. This places the nation’s case fatality rate at 1.72 per cent, and there are still 8.6 lakh active cases in India. On the global tally, India ranks second with 4.2 mn cases just behind the US, where over 6 mn infections have been reported.
It is in the backdrop of such harrowing numbers that Tamil Nadu, where over 5,000 people had tested positive on Sunday (bringing the state’s grand total infected cases to 4.6 lakh), has proceeded with unlocking public transportation. Metro trains and state buses began to ply from Monday. However, not even the fear of succumbing to the virus could prompt sections of the society to follow strict norms of social distancing that have been imposed. The first restriction-free Sunday witnessed violations dime a dozen as everywhere from Kasimedu fishing harbour to local playgrounds to neighbourhood meat shops saw crowds gather by the hundreds, with no heed being paid to six feet apart rules.
The states and Centre were compelled into opening up the country, owing to economic concerns. It is by no means a measure undertaken with a belief that the impact of the virus is tapering. But that idea seems to be lost on many who believe fundamental liberties such as the right to free movement are now available to citizens because the pandemic is behind us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since the pandemic broke out earlier this year, epidemiologists predicted that the threat of COVID and its related health complications will remain a part of our lives, for many years to come. Apart from the concern of re-infection, which has now been reported in a few parts of India, there are complications faced by patients, who have shed the virus. Thrombosis or the formation of blood clots within a blood vessel as well as cardiac conditions such as arrhythmias and myocardial damage are being reported among asymptomatic patients in the city.
As per experts, India has still not hit its COVID peak. Last month, economists released a report that had said India would reach its peak once its recovery rate crosses the 75 per cent mark. This is the average benchmark set across countries. The report goes on to suggest that while states such as Delhi and Tamil Nadu, have already hit their peaks and breached them, as many as 22 states (of the 27 that were part of the study) are yet to hit their peaks. Since a few states are not testing adequately, there is no telling when India as a collective can hit its peak. Apart from ramping up testing in an aggressive manner across cities, and the hinterlands, the country will need to put a leash on public events for now.
But there are other concerns that need to be weighed in. The confidence previously exhibited by the polity that a COVID-19 vaccine would see the light of the day in India to coincide with Independence Day has disappeared. Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization said last week that the effective distribution of a vaccine could be expected somewhere around mid-2021. That target, which is still nine months away, needs to be placed in the context of India’s rapidly escalating COVID crisis. The nation took six months to hit the 1 mn mark, but just about three weeks to double that and a little over two weeks to cross the 3 million cases. In the light of these numbers, statistics indicate that India could touch the dreaded 1 crore mark in months. And it’s high time that people wake up to the fact that if each person doesn’t take responsibility for their own health and safety, they too will end up as a statistic on the COVID counter.

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