By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-06-03 20:55:15
Unlocking, with precautions and health advisories, is easier said than done. This is true not only of India. Images from across the world show people ignoring social distancing norms and venturing out on the streets without a mask. In India, the matter is more serious because of the size and density of the population. The first three days of Unlock 1.0 have shown that the risk of Covid-19 infection has magnified hugely.
From the crowd at a dance show in Motihari in Bihar, or images of devotees at religious places all over the country to the commuter waiting at bus stops in cities, no one seems concerned about his or her health and the one-metre distancing rule is not being followed strictly. Many people are also not wearing masks in public places. One has also seen relaxed vigilance outside containment zones and people are sneaking in and out of the barricades. The mood is one of nonchalance, even defiance. This is not a good sign, especially as some scientists have warned that community transmission has already started in some places.
With more services, especially hotels, restaurants and malls, slated to commence business from June 8, the problem is only going to get worse. Administrations all over India need to keep a strict watch and not let the situation get out of hand. There will be all kinds of pressure. Like in Kolkata, the government has allowed auto-rickshaws to start carrying four passengers like before. This has been done to ease the pressure on commuters who were finding it difficult to reach offices. Also, the fares had been raised exorbitantly. But three passengers on the back seat means social distancing norms have been thrown to the winds and the risk has been exacerbated. Buses have seen overcrowding as people unable to reach home have forced their way in. There will be many such decisions by administrations all over the country that will probably provide immediate relief to the people but will be put their heath at risk.
There is no doubt that that work has to resume but norms have to be followed diligently to defeat the Covid-19 virus. But what is being witnessed for the last three days is scary. Everyone was talking about the new normal. It may be visible in institutions. But on the streets, the old normal has returned. It was easy to enforce the rules when there were just 10 percent people out on the streets for essential services during the lockdown. But now, as more and more people reporting for work, India faces a herculean task of keeping things in control. It is even scarier to think that this is happening when Metro and suburban train services have not resumed and schools, colleges and coaching institutes have not reopened. This is not a doomsday essay. It is just a warning that if people are not careful, vigilant and do not follow the rules, the situation can go out of hand.
picture courtesy: hindustantimes.com