Contributed By: Rachana Krishna
We’ve been past four phases of lockdown already and there’s almost a week left until the pre-announced containment zone lockdowns. India has seen no signs of a let up in the number of coronavirus cases. If anything, the graph has peaked in the last few days with over ten thousand new cases being reported every single day.
India’s Task force now states that the no. of cases could peak in the month of July. With no vaccine in sight, the country, and even the world for that matter, may have to continue with the new norm of social distancing. Many experts are now wondering if the lockdown has flattened the curve as much as it was expected to. As the cases continue to increase with time, India is faced with the bitter reality of having to live with the virus. Despite high corona cases and experts warning that cases might hit an unimaginable peak, India eases its lockdown restrictions and begins Unlock 1.0. Here are some major reasons corona cases continue to increase in India:
Lack of social distancing
On the individual level this might be the one of the biggest reasons for the drastic increase in the number of cases during the lockdown. Despite the guidelines of the government and the strict restrictions in place, people managed to defy those and exacerbate the spread. This increased especially when certain lockdown restrictions were slowly being lifted. People flocked to shops and other places with complete disregard to social distancing norms. This led to new clusters being formed around marketplaces and similarly crowded regions. In Chennai, for example, the contributing factor to the spike in COVID cases was the ‘Koyembedu cluster’, which is a well-known marketplace where over-crowding is a usual scene. Even on smaller scales, the blatant violation of social distancing norms in commercial and non-commercial spots, and generally in communities, were very visible and reported on.
Despite being obvious, it must be stated that India has a significant disadvantage when it comes to battling this pandemic, because of its massive population. While it must be noted that the decentralised nature of our country should’ve made the pandemic easier to manage, it sadly didn’t manifest in reduced cases (except in few states like Kerala, which managed to effectively flatten the curve). While states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to have relatively lower no. of cases despite their large populations, the phenomenon is usually attributed to the lack of testing. This might also be the reason that states like Tamilnadu that have better testing rates also have steadily increasing cases. Densely populated areas like Dharavi in Mumbai, are petri dishes for the spread of the virus but has managed to successfully contain it so far. However, despite the systems in place for such large-scale management, the population factor will continue to be a hurdle in the country’s struggle against COVID-19.
Delayed international travel restrictions
Some experts point to this being a very possible reason for the emergence of earlier cases. While it was very apparent since January of this year that COVID-19 could become a global pandemic, it should’ve been imperative of the government to curb all international travel immediately and implement testing and quarantining measures for those arriving. An early ban on international travel might’ve ensured that no new clusters could form and even isolated cases that might’ve emerged later could be easily managed, hence preventing any further spread. However, this sadly wasn’t the case, which meant that by the time international travel was eventually banned, multiple clusters had already formed forcing the nation into lockdown.
Premature removal of lockdown in many places
It is no secret that the national lockdown was maybe terminated in the most vulnerable of times. Considering that fact that most people were clearly of the notion that the end of the lockdown would naturally mean a ‘return back to normal’, a premature national unlocking might not have been the best of ideas, inspite of the various economic pressures that might’ve risen from everything coming to a standstill. A look at other countries that managed to successfully flatten the curve, countries like New Zealand and Australia, show that a very restrictive approach towards quarantining and a aggressive testing is the only possible way. The rather inconvenient fact about a virus as contagious as COVID-19 is that it’s all or nothing i.e, a moderate approach towards curbing its spread doesn’t mean that the spread itself will be moderate in nature. It will either increase exponentially or plummet, based on whichever approach a country takes. The recent removal of lockdown meant that states now had the prerogative to decide whether they wanted to extend the lockdown or not. Unsurprisingly, some states followed suit and lifted the lockdown restrictions only to impose them again after the cases started rising rapidly.
Lack of contact tracing
Contact tracing is an important part of identifying new cases. It has repeatedly proven a challenge to effectively track down secondary contacts of existing COVID-19 patients, especially ones who might’ve travelled excessively or been in crowded spaces. This has become even harder after some places have started to witness community spread and multiple clusters have started to form in and around the same region. In some states, the situation has gone out of hand making contact tracing a near impossible task for the officials involved. But again, Kerala paves the way in effective contact tracing too because of its prior experience of outbreaks like the Nipah virus, making it a very valid model for other states to follow.
Despite all of this, we as a country have to remain optimistic. Any cynicism or lack of sensitivity towards the guidelines that ought to be followed in times of crises like these might only lead to a further increase in the number of cases. We have to normalize stepping out with a face mask always and make social distancing an essential part of our social protocol. Continuing to do this is the only way we as individuals can help in this fight against COVID-19.