In the red zone
With nearly a month under the lockdown, India will witness some relaxations from today. However, those relaxations would not be displayed in the National Capital. The past one week has been alarming for Delhi. With more and more people testing positive, the virus containment zones have risen to 76 on April 19 as total cases near the 2,000 mark. Delhi chief minister's announcement of another week of strict vigilance and assessment to review whether any of the Home Ministry restrictions can be applied in the Capital serves well. There are two reasons for that. First, the last batch of tests done on April 18 showed that out of 736 test reports that the government received on Saturday, 186 were positive and all of them were asymptomatic. The cause for alarm is that these 186 people — uninformed that they are carriers — may have infected those around them if we take it that they adhered to the strict lockdown mandate. And, if they did not, the subsequent thought is ever more frightening. Second, with the case of the pizza delivery boy testing positive and eight healthcare workers also testing positive at Lady Hardinge Medical College, the chain that we desperately want to break is somehow finding ways to be intact. The total number of healthcare workers infected by COVID-19 in Delhi has risen to 60; the majority from 5 hospitals and few from clinics. While the administration is on its toes, establishing the source and the list of contacts so that the latter can be isolated in time, coronavirus seems to be heading a little ahead than us in all practical routes. Much to the efforts of the administration, the source of many of them has not been established which raises alarm. Besides our greatest weapon of national lockdown, which has allowed us to safeguard the large chunk of our populace, we have not posted much success in breaking the chain. So from both the aforementioned points, it is clear that the chain of the virus exists and is spreading to new people despite the lockdown. If under such circumstances, restrictions are relaxed, it would turn out to be a total disaster; least to say, immensely regrettable.
Our health infrastructure has not crumbled in the wake of the pandemic should be a big success in itself for India. But the question is till when? If the chain is not broken, the decision to lift the lockdown on May 3 would be a big gamble. In such a situation, the staggered exit strategy of the government would be a likeable one. And, in that, metropolitans like Delhi and Mumbai will not feature in totality. In all likelihood, the lockdown would then be required to be continued for another three weeks and the economic cost of that would have to be borne by the government. But, as matters stand, and as the global experience might apprise us, the pandemic does not offer any alternatives either. Wuhan had to be shut for more than 70 days to break the chain. There has been a mandate to test more and Delhi has abided by it, at least comparatively. With around 1103 samples tested per million as per the data collated by The Hindu, the figure is highest in the country and double the next state of Maharashtra at 550.5 while West Bengal sits at a dismal low of 46.9 samples tested per million. Clearly, the mandate for testing more cannot be ruled out as it has proved to be the most successful way to manage the crisis and steer the country towards normalcy; South Korea, Germany, Singapore, etc., are some examples. While the next ten days may see several districts of the country resume economic activity and get lives back on track, it is going to be heavy surveillance and assessment period for Delhi and those districts that are to indeed deemed as red zones.