With the second wave of the Covid pandemic intensifying across the country, putting the already fragile healthcare set-up under greater strain, state governments are resorting to week-long or weekend lockdowns in a bid to break the chain of transmission. While Punjab has imposed stricter curbs on movement till May 15, a lockdown is in force in Haryana throughout this week. Going a step ahead, Odisha has declared a 14-day lockdown from May 5. Considering the chaotic experience of the two-month-long nationwide lockdown that played havoc with millions of lives and livelihoods last year, the Centre does not seem to be keen on a similar move this time, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently dubbing it as the last resort. However, the clamour for drastic steps is growing, with the Indian industry itself urging the government to curtail economic activity in order to save lives.
Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the Biden administration, has suggested that there should be a shutdown for a few weeks in India to curb transmission of the virus. But he has hastened to add that this period should be utilised to ramp up supplies of oxygen, drugs and PPE kits, besides energising the vaccination programme. Almost every day, patients are dying due to oxygen shortage in some part of the country. Though it’s a race against time, work on sanctioned oxygen plants should be expedited to reduce the shortfall and save as many lives as possible.
Another cause for concern is that India has managed to fully inoculate barely 2 per cent of its population since the vaccine rollout in mid-January. Many states are running out of stocks at a time when the vaccination drive has been extended to cover all adults. Though India accounts for one in every two global cases each day, its daily testing rate is just 1.24 tests per 1,000 people, less than half of America’s rate. All these issues need prompt resolution. A lockdown will be of little use if things go back to square one, or worse, once it ends. The whole exercise should be aimed at dealing with, and not merely delaying, the inevitable.