Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Second wave of Covid-19 pandemic to hit the Nation is unleashing its fury, with a strong spike in infections, and even deaths at a time when there are apprehensions of a shortfall in vaccine availability. In many States, several cities have begun imposing night curfews, as this has been seen as an effective measure to curb infections.
Yes, health experts do express the fear that ongoing elections and the religious congregations could pose a greater risk to the spread of the virus in the areas thus engaged. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s request to the States to concentrate on testing, tracking, and treatment without attempts to do window dressing to look good comes at a time when few States were being bashed for their reported performance in tackling Covid.
In fact, politics over Covid management and vaccine distribution exploded at a time when the Nation can ill afford the controversies that can derail health services delivery on the ground. Already, in few States, notices are being put up of vaccine shortage. The Centre declared that all States were given an adequate number of vaccine doses and in fact blamed a few States, without taking names, of wasting the vaccines.
Now this sparked off a war of words between States held by the Opposition and the Central Government, and in the process exposed the shortcomings in our preparedness. In this, the authorities and the people, in general, must share equal blame. The recent behavior of the common people, across India, showed how reckless and dangerous the people were, in total denial of the pandemic that is raging across the world.
Many markets in almost the entire country were overcrowded, with hardly any scope for social distancing. Wearing a mask was given a complete go by as if Corona ceased to exist. And the warning signs were always there that the virus was very much around, alive and ‘killing’. India has been lucky that the mortality rate was low, compared to many other countries, and recoveries high.
But the second wave, in which the spread is faster and wider, has already reached alarming proportions. It was because of this that Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a crucial meeting with all the Chief Ministers of different States. It was reassuring that the Government at the highest level is actively engaged in tackling the crisis, but yes, the Prime Minister was candid enough to note that carelessness and reckless behavior were rampant.
Because of which, the virus that was slowly receding, re-emerged with greater vigor. At the last count, India saw 1.25 lakh infections in a day and over 800 deaths–in an indication that the intensity was only increasing over the past few days.
Fortunately so far, West Bengal has not experienced the spikes seen in other States like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu, but health experts fear what the remaining phases of elections in the State can bring about.
Another event that could have been a Corona super spreader given the extreme popularity the sport of cricket enjoys in the country–the IPL tournament–fortunately, has been curtailed in the sense that it will be a spectator less sport only to be televised. This way, for sure, the organizers BCCI, have played safe. Or else the prevention of crowding at IPL matches would have become impossible.
But the pandemic has already cast its shadow over the IPL tournament with several players suspected to be Covid positive.
Beginning Friday, the IPL has its opener with Mumbai Indians taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chennai. In fact, even Chennai is becoming a Covid hotspot. But the players as well as people connected with the IPL, including the bus drivers and the stadium staff will be living under the bubble all through the championship.
This does not mean that the players and IPL people are safe from the virus. As of now, 14 people connected with IPL have tested positive. But most of them are part of the broadcast team that brings the cricket tournament to the people via television.
So far, four players who have played IPL have become Corona positive, including three Indians and one foreign player. The venue of the second match to be played in Mumbai on April 10 is causing concern, as the second wave has become very severe in the capital city of Maharashtra.
It was reported that some members associated with the stadium had also come to be Corona positive in Mumbai. But, so far no other reports have come and the match will be held as scheduled. But there are significant departures from the past.
Firstly there will be no spectators and the matches will be held in empty stadiums. Other than the players and people connected with the organization of the tournament, no one will be allowed entry into the playing arena or the hotels where the teams are staying. In fact, this time around, even the media has been barred from entering the premises and has been promised online access to post-match conferences and prize distribution events.
Anyone wanting to cover the sport and matches has to make do with watching live coverage and report, according to BCCI decisions. Unless, of course, there are any last-minute changes. But Covid responsible behavior is the topmost priority for the organizers.
The players are also confined to bio bubble and under no circumstances be allowed to breach the bubble at any cost. The IPL tournament concludes on May 30.
By allowing the conduct of the IPL tournament, which generates revenues for the Government, the cricketing fraternity, advertisers, and the media, the Government has only highlighted the need to stay prudent in pressing on with economic activity, but with precautions.
One good thing that the recent steps of the different Governments, partial lockdowns, and night curfews are being done in a transparent manner so that not many people are getting caught unaware. But given the danger that the virus and its second-wave pose, there were strong apprehensions of lockdowns in the severely affected areas, most notably in Mumbai.
This is why, in Mumbai and in few other cities, migrants left for their homes. They were clearly not wanting to suffer as they had to during the Nationwide lockdown of last year.
Till the time the situation gets under control, it would be a good idea to stay safe, follow all the Covid-19 protocols and advisories issued by the Governments from time to time. And of course, listen to the health experts on managing self in case of any symptoms and getting immediate medical help.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected]
and Twitter handle @kvlakshman