Corona Virus was new for our civilization. The scientists and researchers around the world were unaware of its genesis, nature, DNA structure and extent of damage it cased to the living beings. Amid this confusion, the 4th phase of nationwide lockdown is still on in our country and will remain in force till end of this month. Lockdown 4.0 is only a fading shadow of Lockdown 1.0 imposed on March 24 midnight; without any reflection on the streets.
No policing on the roads with masks on face and lathis in hand to restrict the movement of the street speed bikers. Business runs as usual. Empty roads are now well and truly a thing of the past. Though they are not yet jam-packed with vehicles as in the pre-lockdown days, their numbers are increasing with each passing day. With restrictions on intra-state movement of vehicles now all but lifted, the traffic on the road is all set to increase in the days ahead. Traffic lights, which remained suspended for a good six weeks or so, have started functioning again. Barricades on the roads, put up to restrict the movement of vehicles, have started disappearing one by one.
Closed for weeks on end, most shops have started opening again – though full-fledged multi-brand shopping malls and multiplexes still remain shut. Business is slowly but surely limping back to normal, though the 7 pm to 7 am ‘curfew’ has ensured that it would be sometime before full normalcy is restored. Instead of a handful of people as seen during the first three phases of lockdown, the streets, shops and markets are now bustling with people once again. Just about the only visible difference is the ubiquitous mask on the faces of most people out on the streets. It is another matter that the vast majority of people wear the mask on their neck; in a way that defeats the very purpose of wearing.
Life cannot come to a standstill for months on end just because there is a tiny virus on the rampage looking for vulnerable human bodies to settle and to live in. With most experts resigned to the fact that COVID-19 has come to stay and no vaccine in sight in the foreseeable future, life had to begin returning to track at some stage – with adequate precautions and some unavoidable restrictions. Large religious or social gatherings, for example, have to remain banned for some more time. And so do malls, cinema halls, auditoriums, multiplexes and other places where a large number of people congregate. But as the decision to start limited air and rail services even before Lockdown 4.0 is over shows, the Central government is now reconciled to the fact India – and the world at large – has to learn to live with Corona.
Sweden, which has stubbornly refused to enforce a nationwide lockdown, has not done too badly when compared to some European nations which have enforced nationwide lockdown. And an indefinite state of lockdown is particularly untenable in a county like India where the vast majorities of people work in the unorganised sector and earn their living on a daily basis. In any case, if two months of lockdown has failed to drive the point home, it is highly unlikely that another fortnight or even a month will achieve the purpose.
The Odisha government too appears to have recognised this ground reality when it lifted restrictions on most economic activities and mandated full attendance in its offices after the announcement of Lockdown 4.0. But, at the same time, requested the Union government to extend lockdown till May 31, in tune with few other states. We note with curiosity that while the state government in one hand is claiming to have full preparedness to face any eventuality caused due to homecoming of migrated Odia labourers, permit the world famous Rath Yatra on June 22; requests the Union government to extend lockdown till May 31 on the other!
As the numbers of positive cases are on increase with the enhancement of number of swab tests undertaken on daily basis and the incoming migrant labourers coming from West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamilnadu, the need for creating additional quarantine homes/ Temporary Medical Centers is also growing. Despite adequate arrangements, all the TMCs failed to contain the migrating local youth, exposing the inherent weakness of state governance. All the elected public representatives are not allowed to participate and lead the process. The officers and the government machinery have so far handled the situation.
The latest thinking of the medical fraternity suggests that large scale infection is not such a terrible thing after all! As Dr Jayant Panda, technical spokesperson for the state Health department says, large scale infection is actually necessary to develop herd/community immunity, which would be the only guarantee against the deadly virus in the long run. Hence, he advised people not to panic at the burgeoning number of cases in the state. He also says that number is likely to touch 10, 000 by June this year. We fail to trust the technical opinion of the Doctors, who have so far taught us on Lockdown, shutdown, containment, Social Distancing, using masks, washing hands with soaps and sanitisers to avoid community spread of deadly virus! Now that Dr. Panda advocating in favour of large scale infection to develop herd / immunity, we have little choice but to trust the wisdom of the experts.
COVID-19 is the novel corona virus infection which is a modified form of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS was there and is also staying around us; together with its modified form MERS in Middle East. Now this novel virus has plans to continue with us till it gets more fatal in its further modified/muted form in coming years/months. Developing a vaccine and drugs against any virus has remained one of the greatest challenges and it is perhaps reminding and cautioning the mankind to lead a decent life. In future days, if any government in any country imposes lockdown, we fear, no citizen will obey and abide by the stringent rules; taking the finding of the experts – who have misguided all of us!
We have to learn to live with Corona virus, just as we have learnt to live with HIV and Flu. Those who are sick, aged and suffering from diseases like diabetics, heart related ailments and cancer may adopt voluntary lockdown staying at home with limited and calculated movements. COVID-19 has taught us a lesion: Ignorance and little knowledge is more dangerous than the enemy itself.