Third-wave: India must Cautiously Open

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Global studies show that the number of infections has to come down sharply before the economy can be further opened. Moreover, the recent criticisms by the Supreme Court to Kerala after the state eased lockdown restrictions for three days starting July 18 on the occasion of Bakrid has again brought the correlation between mobility or the movement of people and goods incidence of Covid-19. As a result, India registered 35,342 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, the Friday morning bulletin by the health ministry said. As a result, in terms of Covid fatalities, 483 Indians lost their lives in the last 24 hours.

When states are easing or tightening restrictions depending on the infection rates in their respective regions, Google mobility indicators become an excellent barometer to establish how the pandemic and people movement are related. It also confirms that mobility is relatively higher in areas where the cases seem to be under control–which points to the need to keep human activity in check to prevent any further spurt in cases.

Most countries, including India, have had their grocery and pharmacy opened, so there is better mobility indicated in that segment. As far as access to parks goes, countries such as Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Italy and France did well, compared to India, which was in the negative territory (-9). The UK, too, has more people using parks, even as its mobility in retail and recreation is negative. People are more cautious about going shopping than parks. There are more open spaces and better scope for social distancing, not necessarily because of government-imposed restrictions. Interestingly, where the Olympic games are being held, Japan has severe mobility restrictions in most places, including retail shops and railway stations.

The overall takeaway from an analysis of the Google mobility indicators is that, despite Covid cases coming down, the absolute numbers for India remain high, and India should exercise caution in a complete opening up. This would also mean that the pace of economic recovery would be gradual, but countries like India have few options.

After black fungus, now Delhi has reported cases of live complications. Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has reported cases of large liver abscesses. An Indian Express report says that one person has died due to uncontrolled bleeding.

First up are the surge states. While the overall Covid situation in India is relatively better, conditions such as Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Rajasthan and Kerala continue to report high positivity rates. The Centre has said that if cases don’t come down, these states will fuel the third wave trend in India. Apart from these, Maharashtra also continues to be high up in the national tally. Another scary development is health issues in those who have been cured of Covid. The post-Covid complications will create more trouble for the already exhausted system.

Despite developing a vaccine at a break-neck speed, the world is still not on a path of total recovery from Covid. Part of the problem is the slow vaccination rate, abject inequity of the current stock. Meanwhile, here in India, the ‘no one died due to lack of oxygen’ statement by the Narendra Modi government during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament has taken a technical turn. Now health experts say that how the deaths are recorded is purely a technical point of view. However, everyone agrees that almost 20 per cent of the Covid patients who succumbed during the second wave could have been saved had they got the Oxygen supply on time. During the Monsoon session, the Centre has said that around 45,000 black fungus infections have been reported from the states in the last two months.

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