Exactly a year after India imposed the world’s strictest lockdown in order to contain Covid-19, the second wave of the pandemic is spreading across the country. The daily caseload has reached around 47,000, the highest in the past four months or so, even as the fresh coronavirus infections have been rising at a faster rate than the recoveries for the past over 10 days. The worst-affected states have started reimposing restrictions, with Punjab enforcing night curfew in the districts where the situation is deteriorating fast. The efficacy of such steps, however, remains questionable.
The nationwide lockdown from March-end to May-end last year had impacted millions of lives as well as livelihoods. The economy, which had slipped into recession, is still struggling to regain the pre-Covid growth rate. Going by this nightmarish experience, another lockdown is ruled out. The Maharashtra Government has made it clear that people must follow Covid-19 safety protocols if the state is to avoid another lockdown. This holds true for the rest of the country as well. The basic drill — wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing — is still as relevant, if not more, as it was a year ago. The violators should be strictly dealt with as per the law so that it deters others from becoming reckless. Even though the election season is in full swing, the onus is on political leaders to encourage Covid-appropriate behaviour at rallies and exhort their supporters to arrange smaller gatherings. Political and social congregations that turn out to be super-spreaders of the virus will jeopardise India’s valiant fight against the pandemic.
It is also critical to extend the vaccination programme beyond the limit of 45 years set by the Centre on Tuesday. People in the working age group (25-60 years) need to be covered at the earliest so that they can keep contributing to economic recovery without the fear of getting infected. Though the daily caseload is rising, it is nowhere near the peak of around 98,000 that was witnessed in September last year. This should inspire confidence among all stakeholders and spur them to minimise the damage caused by the second wave.