COVID-19: Warnings of a surge during festival season

Even as the national count of fresh COVID-19 infections is trending down, there are localised increases in some parts of the country. The PM, in his interaction with the chief ministers of the eight worst affected states did well to warn against any relaxation in the ongoing pandemic vigil. Complacence in following and enforcing the precautions of mask-wearing, social distancing and washing of hands could lead to the equivalent of a boat getting away from the most treacherous part of the turbulent sea, only to capsize in the shallows, he said in a telling description.
The PM’s virtual meeting with CMs comes a day after the Supreme Court while noting that the pandemic has worsened, sought status reports from the Centre and all states on the steps taken to deal with the situation. The surge in several urban centres has resulted in governments enforcing strict measures. Uttar Pradesh is already testing Delhi residents at its border and has capped the number of wedding guests at 100, while night curfew has been imposed in four districts of Himachal Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh government has also imposed night curfew in some cities. Maharashtra has made it mandatory to undergo RT-PCR test for those who wish to come to the state from Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa.
It is time to correlate needs with priorities. In the present times, wearing a mask is essentially a precautionary measure and unlike in the US, should not be allowed to become the subject of a debate between the liberals and the conservatives. The challenge before the government will lie in convincing the people to abide by the social distancing norms, not an easy task with livelihoods at stake.
The wearing of masks was all along advocated and indeed there was trouble ensuring their adequate supply when the pandemic began with the advice finally coming that even cloth masks would suffice for protection, despite different views on their efficacy. Warnings of a surge during the festival season had come because of large gatherings, increasing the risk of infection, with social distancing norms being flouted.
The prospects of a relatively cheap, easy-to-store COVID-19 vaccine have heightened with AstraZeneca, along with Oxford University, announcing promising results of late-stage trials. It, along with Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V, has raised hopes of a potential scientific breakthrough to get a grip on the devastating pandemic.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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