DC Edit | India\'s Covid curbs to go, but caution still advisable

Two years and three waves later, the daily caseload of Covid-19 has gone below 2,000 from a high of four lakhs at the crest of the pandemic

It’s official now: India is moving out of the grip of the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus that infected more than four crore people, officially killed more than five lakhs (and unofficially several times that number), and impacted the lives and livelihoods of every human being in the country in varying measures in the last two years.

It was on March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown, asking people to remain indoors wherever they were. The government was forced to curtail every freedom, whether guaranteed in the Constitution or not, in an effort to prevent or at least slow down the pace of the spread of the pandemic.

Two years and three waves later, the daily caseload of Covid-19 has gone below 2,000 from a high of four lakhs at the crest of the pandemic. The low figures, the success of the vaccination project, the development of significant capacities for the management of the pandemic and the global trends have the Union government, in a communication to the states and Union territories on Wednesday, say it will no longer issue orders imposing restrictions based on the comprehensive Disaster Management Act, 2005, in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The government, however, has been realistic and careful enough not to declare that the virus and the pandemic no longer exist. Instead, it has asked one and all that the most effective preventive measures — wearing of masks and physical distancing — will continue to be in force while ensuring that life returns to normal, businesses are run as usual and economic activities are not hindered. It has also asked people to remain watchful and asked the states and Union Territories to take prompt and proactive action whenever there is a surge in the number of cases observed.

Reports suggest that the government is seriously mulling opening the administration of the booster dose to all eligible people; it’s now available only to senior citizens and frontline workers. An early positive decision is warranted as it would boost not only the immunity of the individuals but also the confidence of the people. Vaccination has played a key role in experts discounting a fourth wave in India, making administration of a booster dose all the more imperative.

While the government is right in claiming the development of a better system to manage the pandemic compared with the initial days, it must draw lessons from the fact that the sudden attack by a microorganism had caught us unawares and exposed the chinks in our social and healthcare infrastructure. We cannot afford to have a revisit of the event which included lakhs of guest labourers walking home, hundreds of bodies floating on the river and scores dying for want of oxygen. There must be a calibrated approach to build new structures and strengthen the existing ones if we are to save lives when the virus, or its relatives, hit the next time.

The ability to learn from the past stood India in good stead as the management of the third wave has demonstrated. The government and the people must continue to show the same alertness in the following days.

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