DOUBLE MUTANT BEHIND SECOND WAVE!

SUPER SPREADERS: Though casinos, bars, river cruises, waterparks, gymnasium, massage parlors and multiplexes will remain open 24×7, night curfew has been imposed on swimming pools, social, political, sports, entertainment and academic cultural meetings. Mercifully, the 10th and 12th standard schedule to start on April 24 has been postponed. But civic elections have not been cancelled! Areas recording a high of covid cases will be declared micro-containment zones. A full lockdown has been ruled out but private establishments have been advised to promote work from home.

By Arvind Pinto

The second wave of Covid-19 which India and Goa are now witnessing is far more serious than the first wave. Both the country and Goa recorded the highest number of daily cases on Wednesday. Nationally, Wednesday recorded 3.16 lakhs cases and 2,102 deaths — the highest ever for any country. In the case of Goa the state recorded the highest daily positive daily figure 1,506 and additional death of 16 on top of the previous days 26. What is even more alarming is that the spread of the new wave is four times faster than in the US….

IT is said that the tsunami has four stages, the second and third of which are the more deadly. The second of which splits in various directions and finally the third which causes the destruction that we all hear about. The final or fourth stage is not significant since the tsunami wears itself out. Similarly, the first stage of the corona virus wave in India was bad, but the second wave that we are now experiencing appears to be worse that the first wave. We have yet to experience the third wave although the government says it is prepared for a third wave. Of the fourth stage we have no idea!
Like the tsunami, the virus has not split into various mutants, each of which appear to infect more people. Positive cases keep rising so much so that even statistics become outdated even before they are released. The only statistics that are relevant now are those of shortages. We have run out of oxygen, or drugs such as Remdesivir are either in short supply or have gone underground, there is a waiting queue for hospital beds and sad to say, there is a queue for bodies to be cremated or buried. Instead of the blaring of traffic horn, all that we hear is shrill sirens of ambulances rushing serious cases to hospital, or ferrying dead bodies to cremation sites!

Let’s look at some statistics

IT is now known that coronavirus pandemic commonly known as Covid-19 began around December 2019, and was detected first in Wuhan in China. How did it spread the world over is still a matter of debate, but the fact is that 10% of the global population or 780 million people have been affected. The first wave that began in March 2020 and carried on till September 2020 in India, brought about a total lockdown – resulting in the mass migration of workers from their urban work places back to their home states and rural surroundings. Coronavirus was something new for most common Indians, but the sudden symptoms, the lack of health facilities and the spiraling deaths — due to lack of medication and facilities, administered a shock both to the national psyche as also to the economy as a whole.
What Went Wrong – Misplaced Priorities THERE are several reasons for what went wrong. This summer was the season for religion and politics, a heady lethal mixture for a country like ours. Elections are the lifeline of politicians who want to continue to stay in power forever or for those seeking to dethrone the current rulers and step into their footwear. Elections are all about mass mobilization of crowds, gatherings, where parties pay people to come to hear the politicians waxing lyrical of how they will usher in ache din for the aam aadmi.
The Election Commission could have postponed the elections but it chose to follow political directions instead of independently weighing the pros and cons of the coronavirus pandemic and crucial health factors involved. The political rallies, mass ferrying of people to appease national politicians, unmindful of the fact that a pandemic is raging across the country – it was clearly and indeed, callousness. And the country is paying the price for pandering to political egos!
Similarly, the summer is a pious season for expression of faith by bathing in the holy Ganga river at the Kumbh Mela of Varanasi. Both regional government together with the Central authorities looked upon this event in political terms – an opportunity to gain political mileage for the next year’s elections! The gathering of faithful millions threw all social distancing norms to the wind and thus ensured that the pilgrims take back coronavirus prasad to all the corners of India from they came. An atheist, once taking stock of the state of India in the mid-50s of the last century was quoted saying, “Only God can save this country!” Let’s hope that God does save India.

The darkness today

AS I sit writing this piece the government of Maharashtra is contemplating a full lockdown, of the kind we witnessed last March in 2020. In terms of numbers, around 50,000 new cases are being reported every day and despite the best efforts of the authorities — the public at large continues to flout restrictions. In the face of rising cases, even governments are now flummoxed about what to do.
New guidelines continue to be issued daily. Shops, markets commercial establishments have all been shuttered down. Out station trains run to ferry migrants and daily wage workers back to their home states. The local suburban railways as also BEST buses continue to run but only for the essential service workers.
It has been reported that Mumbai’s high-rise apartments have the highest number of covid cases. Ninety percent of the cases are from affluent families. Interestingly, last year the dominant thought was that covid cases proliferated in the slums. This perception has now changed and maids, drivers and gardeners are now no longer ordered not to come to work. This is a good since it would allow many of these daily wage workers to continue earning their small livelihoods.
Unfortunately, Goa, which is dependent upon tourism and consequently on tourists from other parts of the country, is also witnessing a rise of covid cases. The new mutant strains do not only affect the old, but are reportedly afflicting also the young and healthy.

What does the future hold?

The country is in a state of uncertainty. While the authorities grapple with a slew of new policies and diktats, the rise in the number of cases leave most authorities confounded about what they should do. As the general gloom grows and sinks in many believe that only GOD can save this country now!

(Arvind Pinto is retired as a Chief Income-Tax Commi sioner and is now Standing Counsel for the IT Department in the Bombay) HighCourt)

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