INDIA has been in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic for the past about nine months. The two-month-long nationwide lockdown, foisted on the masses at a few hours’ notice, proved to be disruptive rather than preventive as millions lost their livelihoods and had to trudge back jobless and penniless to their native states. The unlocking that followed the world’s most stringent curbs opened the floodgates for the virus and exposed the inadequacy of the healthcare set-up. Though the nation’s daily caseload has come down of late, states such as Delhi are grappling with a fresh surge amid the festive season and the onset of winter. In its guidelines for ‘Surveillance, Containment and Caution’ for December, the Centre has allowed states and union territories to impose local restrictions such as night curfew and weekend lockdown, but has restrained them from resorting to these measures outside the containment zones without its approval. Nevertheless, Punjab has decided to reimpose night curfew across the entire state, while Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have already done it in the worst-affected districts.
It’s inexplicable that the authorities are again opting to restrict public movement even though these steps have largely failed to contain the virus and have even been counter-productive at times. What purpose would be served by the night curfew when residents are thronging markets and other places in the daytime? The Covid protocol — wearing a mask, practising social distancing, no spitting — is being blatantly violated. That’s where lies the nub of the problem.
At a time when the economy is making steady recovery, the laxity of the law enforcement agencies and the irresponsible behaviour of the people are threatening to undo the gains. In Delhi, which recently quadrupled the fine for not wearing a mask in public, the police are issuing 1,000-1,500 challans daily — a paltry number considering that the Capital is reporting over 5,000 cases and 100-odd fatalities every day. Most of the other states are not even doing this much to deter violators. The vaccine will arrive sooner or later. But there’s not a minute to lose for abiding by the protocol — in letter and spirit.