Given the pattern that the Covid-19 pandemic has been seen to follow around the world since the disease first became a matter of global public health emergency one year ago, it was to be expected that sooner or later we would face a similar scenario in our country.
After the shock caused by the rapid spread of the virus leading to the increasing numbers of people getting infected and of deaths being reported on a daily basis, came the punishment of the lockdowns that unsettled the global economy with major local impacts on the economy and social life of individual countries, in addition to the physical health burden that was soon compounded by mental health problems. Despite the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation, it was practically chacun pour soi as far as each country’s response was concerned. Within-country restrictions, closing of frontiers, banning of international travel that left many citizens stranded outside their own countries, imposition of sanitary measures – each country implemented these to a different degree.
With developments in treatments and more or less widespread compliance with the WHO guidelines and sanitary measures, except in the US, numbers started to show a plateau then a decline in a number of countries. This led to a relaxation of the restrictions and lifting of lockdowns, but at the same time people also began to become restive and compliance with sanitary measures showed a decline all over.
Meanwhile the virus was settling down in countries and developing tricks to survive: the variants that are now known to be responsible for the second waves that have been observed elsewhere. Since the world is global village, and the virus needs no passport or human’s means of transport, it has continued to go round. It is no surprise therefore that we should have got what appears to be now a local case, that has gone on to create a cluster of about 10 infected cases to which at the latest two children have been added. Although the response of the authorities has been according to the protocol of contact tracing, testing, isolation, the work is not yet over – in fact, we are in for a long haul, and we have to be even more vigilant as we are on course to follow the global pattern – of a possible surge – if we are not careful.
This is where the responsibility of citizens is paramount, because the authorities on their own cannot control the spread of the virus. We must salute therefore the exemplary patriotic calls made by Cardinal Piat and the Hindu Associations for their faithfuls to abide by the advice of authorities to cancel all the activities in connection with Mahashivratri involving crowds that had already begun. These were the 40-hours prayers associated with the Catholic fasting period that leads to Easter, the pilgrimage to Ganga Talao, and the preparations for Cavadee and walk-on-fire ceremony.
The response of those concerned has been positive, as shown by the emptiness at Ganga Talao and the churches, save for devotees who were already on the way. The rest, those who hadn’t yet started from home and who have been advised not to undertake the journey to church or to Ganga Talao have listened and complied.
We have not been informed whether we have a variant in the country, and although there has been a severe restriction on air travels, still they are happening. That is why we are not, and cannot entirely be safe from the entry of the virus. Following the global pattern, the virus has struck back.
What we must do is to stop it from being transmitted in the population, with the risk of a second surge taking place. We have no doubt been luckier than most and Covid-safe for a good while. But we no longer are – that is what this rather sudden development of a new cluster is indicating. More than ever, therefore, we need to be very rigorous as regards the sanitary measures if we do not want this cluster to expand into a surge.
Like the devotees and faithfuls, let us therefore assume our patriotism by strict observance of rules and guidelines to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens.
* Published in print edition on 9 March 2021