Even as coronavirus figures continue to soar in India and Europe faces the prospect of a second wave, we get the bad news that SARS-CoV-2 reinfections are real. The official caseload in India has now surpassed the 5.5 million mark, and a vaccine is several months away and, by all estimates, will take longer to reach citizens.
But the economy must be reopened at all costs. It will take a minimum of two months to restore it to its pre-Covid state, the C. Rangarajan committee advising the Tamil Nadu government has suggested. The Centre is implementing what it has cheesily dubbed Unlock 4.0: as part of this, older students are returning to school in some parts of the country; international flights are beginning to operate in air bubble arrangements; and the Taj Mahal is receiving visitors. The ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, however, had to be curtailed by several days, jeopardising important legislative decisions.
Autumn’s lower temperatures plus the reopening will undoubtedly bring on a second wave of the coronavirus in India. The crisis unfolding is worse than we imagined with the virus reaching rural India. Experts suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic will peak at different times in different parts of the country. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh currently have the highest number infections; of these the last three states have experienced late surges.
A renewed urgency for health infrastructure, doctors, drugs, ventilators and a prompter and more localised administrative response coordinated by state governments and effectively bolstered by central funds and support is the absolute need of the hour. Of these, drug manufacture is our area of strength and we have done some good work on expanding laboratory and testing infrastructure.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the Delhi government’s September 13 order making it mandatory for 33 private hospitals to reserve 80 per cent of their intensive care unit (ICU) beds as prima facie violative of fundamental rights. It is a welcome ruling. Most coronavirus patients improve with administration of palliatives and home isolation is sufficient to contain the disease. That is indeed a silver lining. India has topped the world both in the daily infection rate as well as number of recoveries. Health workers have put their shoulder to the wheel and are working heroically against odds.
If only these odds were fewer in number. The governments — state and central — have no choice but to perform or face electoral ire.