CRAWFORD MARKET: The biggest wholesale bazar in the country was lockdowned for more than a fortnight by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
By Arvind Pinto
The Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has dramatically brought down the positivity rate to 17% and the recovery rate to 83% by strictly enforcing the lockdown in Mumbai. There has been no shortage of beds or deaths due to lack of oxygen in Mumbai. The Bombay High Court has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to follow the Mumbai model to bring down the covid-19 infection in the rest of the country’s hotspot.
TRULY, like the tsunami that once ravaged our eastern coastline, the second covid-19 wave, caught the city of Mumbai unaware. As it did the rest of India, including and Goa. Its sudden rise hit the city and its suburbs badly and its effects are still visible as it ebbs painfully and slowly. Let us look at what happened, why did it happen, and how do we must continue to live in our current devastatingly uncertain times
As with the tsunamis in nature the second Covid-19 wave also started slowly. April in India is holiday time, compounded with the fact that the Election Commission thoughtlessly decided to hold elections in five states, plus we consider the religious fervour of our people which peaked at the Kumbha Mela -– the ritual bathing in the river Ganga at Haridwar. These two mass congregations of political and religious nature created the perfect situation for spreading the virus and subsequent surge of covid cases in the country, especially in the election states.
The figure rose to three lakh daily. Plus, Maharashtra was badly hit with Mumbai a city teeming with over a crore population, people have traditionally loved migrating to Mumbai in search of greener pastures through the decades and many have become crorepatis here. With no restriction on migrants from rural to urban this metropolis became an ideal place for the explosion of the dreaded corona virus including its mutating variants. Just when the nation was priding itself on having conquered the covid-19 virus, a new variant planted itself into the many who live in this city.
The original covid virus has started mutating into different strains and even our immunologists are unable to track the variant strains which keep mutating as if endlessly! The Indian variant has is being called the “triple mutant variant.” The figures in the country have created a new high of more than 3,79,000 new cases in a single day, one of the biggest globally since the pandemic began last year.
THIS was when India realized that the nation’s leaders boasting of having conquered the virus was like so many other claims — hollow, for the global audience to swallow. Experts believe that the “triple mutant” strain or the “triple mutant variant” is possibly one reason for the spike in number of cases in India.
Some scientists however say that double or triple mutant is misleading because the virus may now have gone into several thousands of variants. While scientists quibble over the variants the fact remains that some of them are very contagious and spread quickly and if untreated from day one end in certain death.
End-April, the only eerie sound we heard locked down indoors was the eerie sound of ambulance sirens as they sped by down the streets outside taking covid patients to already overcrowded hospitals where beds were unavailable, or worse still, there was only one more corpse waiting its turn at the crematoria — with the cremation of dead bodies going on day and night.
With alarmingly rising cases and increasing deaths the government of Maharashtra was forced to act, despite the Prime Minster’s advice that instead of total lockdown there should be partial and containment lockdowns while essential services continue to function normally as possible with SOPs in place. However, with the rapid spread, Mumbai was back to the strict lockdown of March- April last year.
Most establishments remain shut. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code are in place. These orders prohibit the assembly of more than five persons in public. Police patrols roam the streets, requesting people to go back home and police personnel are known to stop scooterists or motorcycle riders asking them their reason for being out on the road. Markets are open from 7am to 11am and closed thereafter, with a few traders sitting with half drawn shutters and hoping some custom will come by. All restaurants, bars and eating places are shuttered although their kitchens are open for take-aways. Take away food parcels are permitted and outside many of these places, the Zomato delivery boys with their distinctive red shirts wait to pick parcels for those who have placed their food orders on-line.
As of now the restrictions are in place till the May 15, 2021, but with cases increasing, there is a likelihood of current restrictions continuing till end-May. The trains continue to operate but are now restricted for only essential workers – such as health and government workers. Courts and tribunals have shut with urgent cases being heard on-line.
Unfortunately, the vaccination centres have run out of vaccines! Scheduled appointments given for those over 60 years of age have been cancelled, especially in the private hospitals. However, public and municipal hospitals continue to receive their quota of the vaccines. There is a rush at these hospitals since many of those who have had their first shot now are now due for their second shot and beelines can be seen at the municipal hospitals.
With those above the age of 18 years also eligible for vaccination there is also a rush of the young to these centres, making for longer lines, more waiting and consequently greater anxiety for those who have still not been vaccinated.
As I sit to write this piece, the good news is that the number of fresh covid cases have fallen and there is talk of the flattening curve. The city which at the beginning of April was recording between 10,000 to 11,000 new covid cases is witnessing a steady decline in the number of cases to around 3,000 to 4,000 cases currently. With the municipal authorities ramping up testing in certain dense areas, the number of positive cases being detected has also fallen. However, the authorities are reluctant to state that there is a decline! The government has drawn up contingency plans to tackle a third or even fourth wave should this occur. Officials are planning on a creche for children should their parents be infected; for the feeling is that the next wave may bring this infection down on children who have not had the benefit of vaccination. The municipal corporation is also looking at the possibility of expanding the number of beds available as also the government is ensuring an equitable distribution of oxygen and vital drugs for those who are affected.
IN the midst of the crises, there have been several private individuals and organizations which have come to the aid of those in need of help. There are social media groups that are reaching out to those who need oxygen, those in search of a bed or those who quarantined at home. Indeed, the number stricken by covid continues to grow. Probably there is not a single family that is not touched by the dreaded virus. Things will get better and we have passed the peak.
As I sit to write this piece friends of mine in Europe phoned to enquire about the situation. The touching scenes on foreign TV channels, despite Jaishankar’s strenuous efforts to tell the world that all is well in India, has touched the generosity chords of many. Friends of mine called to find out how they could be of help, monetary or otherwise. Truly in a calamity the world is one big village, where help and assistance comes from all corners of the planet. Let’s hope like the tsunami, this pestilence too ebbs and fades away.
But how many lives will we lose before its ends?