Riding on more potent mutants and variants that are finding easy prey as people let go of Covid protocols, the ruthless coronavirus is increasingly ripping deeper into the rural pockets of the country. This is worrisome, for our medical system is neither prepared nor equipped to handle the fast-approaching Covid surge in the hinterland. The limitations in the health infrastructure are a prescription for a disaster if the raging second wave of the pandemic is not tamed. However, the task is challenging. It is further hampered by the paucity of testing and surveillance systems. The rural healthcare centres are utterly inadequate and poorly staffed. The villages are reeling under the onslaught of the steep wave as the caseload and death count mount.
In the event of an emergency, the beleaguered folk have no choice but to head to the nearest town — at times many kilometres away. Two-third of the hospitals and dispensaries are located in urban areas that are inhabited by just one-third of the population. But, in the current scenario of most Covid care facilities wilting under the burden of the rising patient load, they are often having to take heartbreaking decisions about who they can admit. The Kangra health authorities in Himachal Pradesh have the onerous job of tackling the sudden rise in Covid infections in the rural belt after some folks returned from a pilgrimage. As Dhakoli village in Mohali district of Punjab became a Covid hotspot recently, the local administration declared it a containment zone so as to test everyone and vaccinate the eligible categories in a bid to check the alarming situation. This devastating trajectory of the coronavirus — that largely spanned the cities earlier — is now evident across rural India.
The state governments are marshalling their scarce resources to provide medical aid to the rural folk and motivate them to abide by the Covid rules. The onus of battling the virus lies equally on the people. Their own safety lies in taking the vaccine and following the mask-hygiene-distancing norms. They must shed the defiance and scepticism towards these preventive steps.