It is the 400th day since the first lockdown and official pandemic response began in India. Where are we today? In the depths of an intense second wave of Covid-19! India has reported more than 200,000 positive cases and about 1185 deaths today. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal account for over 80% of all the cases.
The hospitals across the country are short on essential medicines (Remdesivir), medical oxygen and ICU beds. Burial grounds and cremation facilities are overflowing. One can hear a constant drone of ambulances in the city all day.
Migrant workers are again exiting the city in panic. But the movement is not as fraught with hardship as the long walks to villages in the early days when public transport froze in a day. Train services are operational this time. So are the flights.
What got us here? Political rallies, festivals (Kumbh Mela) and social gatherings (weddings and parties). We were fine until late February. Things looked on track and the country seemed to be in control. And then, we squandered it away.
It has been nearly 100 days since the vaccination began. The country’s health system has managed to vaccinate 120 million Indians in this period. This week, India is short on vaccines and is cutting down on its exports.
Four hundred days of our lives stand completely changed by this pandemic with more to come. Each one of these days have been about the same word – Covid. A word enters the lexicon, defines our lives like never before and now serves as a keyword for a whole range of effects and reasons.
This is easily the most datafied pandemic in history. Every aspect of this pandemic is being measured, tracked and explained through numbers – from the obvious headcounts of infections and deaths to economic losses. And yet, public behaviour has assumed a subjective character of the pandemic – ‘It is all a scam’ to ‘There is nothing like this happening’. It is only when the losses come closer home that it begins making a different sense.
While the governments continue to grapple with difficult decisions of lockdowns, economic stagnation and impoverishment of its people, one thing seems certain – the public behaviour in this country will continue to remain atomised with a sense of responsibility that stops where their nose ends.
The pandemic presents difficult choices to make. At another level, it has been testing human character in ways that have laid bare the fragile social fabric of our times. This has happened at both national and international levels.
With no end in sight and vaccination of entire populations a couple of years away, I only hope that it leaves us a little less broken and with some aspects of the basic human ideas of fraternity and collective responsibility intact.