New Covid cases are reducing, but the pandemic is still at large

| Updated on October 21, 2020

As mobility restrictions lift and people try to get back to their previous lifestyles, there is a high risk of cases increasing again

The daily reported numbers of Covid-19 cases in India are indicating that the peak in the pandemic could be behind us and there is a sliver of light visible at the end of the tunnel. But that should not be taken as a signal to stop maintaining social distancing and other personal precautions as the virus is still around and multiplying. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning in this regard on Monday night was timely as the festive fervour is beginning to pervade through the country, threatening to deal a setback to this battle. As shoppers throng shops and malls and businesses choose to overlook the guidelines regarding the number of customers to be allowed in a shop at a given time, there is a serious risk of the number of cases spiking in the coming days. There is also a perceptible reduction in awareness campaigns and proactive checks in recent days. This is the time to increase checks and precautions, not slacken them.

The number of daily reported case appears to have peaked on September 16 at 97,860, with new cases declining consistently since then. The recovery rate in the country is also quite high at 89 per cent and India’s mortality rate at 1.5 per cent is among the lowest in the world. While these numbers are comforting, it needs to be remembered that we are still adding around 55,000 new cases every day and the daily mortality is still around 700. These numbers are not small. And, then, there is also doubt over the accuracy of the numbers being reported. The cumulative number of cases per million in India is less than one-fourth of the numbers reported in the US and Brazil, leading to the assumption that the actual number of cases here could be much higher. Illiteracy, lack of awareness and poverty could be among the reasons people are not getting themselves tested and treated. This means that the authorities should not ease their efforts in spreading awareness, monitoring the practice of social distancing in public places and pro-active testing and isolation. The number of daily tests done in many States is either stagnating or reducing, indicating growing complacency.

The experience in the UK, France and Germany where daily cases have started to rise once again since September in a second wave, should act as a lesson to India. As mobility restrictions lift and people try to get back to their previous lifestyles, there is a high risk of cases increasing again. The other concern is that medical experts are divided about the right cure for the virus. The ICMR recently stating that it plans to drop plasma therapy from the national guideline for treatment of the virus shows that most medical practitioners are operating in the dark. While a lot of hope is being pinned on the vaccine for Covid, which may be ready early next year, it may take some time for sufficient quantity of the vaccines to be produced to reach the masses. Given these uncertainties, it is best to be disciplined and restrict movement to the most essential. It is up to each one of us to do the needful.

Published on October 21, 2020

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