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Vol. XXX No. No. 12, October 16-31, 2020

Where are we on Covid?

by The Editor

As per our country’s Finance Ministry, Covid is a thing of the past and all is set for economic growth. As per the Health Ministry, we are likely to have a vaccine by early 2021. A subsequent statement to the effect that we ought to follow the vaccines of masks and social distancing did not sound so hopeful though. In a fit of what was probably euphoria, our city’s Corporation suddenly declared that there were no more containment zones. And then within a week, as many as 70 streets were barricaded, one half of them being in Ambattur zone alone. In the meanwhile, the series of Unlocks is unfolding relentlessly, the latest being the opening of cinema theatres with 50 per cent occupancy. All of these are sending out conflicting signals which does not give those in charge of administration a great image.There may have been a strategy behind the lockdown although giving people just four hours to prepare for it does not look so good in retrospect. The explanation for the closure is that it gave the State Governments time to prepare for the eventual outbreak. Whether that was achieved is a moot point – what is happening all around shows a state of unpreparedness and plenty of reactive and not proactive steps. This has only put a whole lot of front-enders – health workers, civic personnel and law enforcers – at enormous risk. In the city, the current buzz is that hospital beds can be had only with difficulty and that some of the health facilities have taken over hotels to cater to the surplus numbers. True, the number of fatalities is still reassuringly low but the number of those falling ill does not seem to be in any hurry to taper off.

One major development of the right kind has been the decision of the Corporation to stop barricading houses containing those afflicted with the virus. A lot of news reports, including a lead in Madras Musings had appeared on how risky this practice is, and it is good that the civic body has taken cognizance. But there are complaints prevalent over the enumeration of those infected, with at least one lawyer filing a case in the High Court of Madras claiming irregularities in the identification of Covid cases, the documenting of the patient’s economic status and then the decision of whether to keep the person under home isolation or recommend hospitalisation.In this particular instance, as per the plaint, there seem to have been considerable errors. The Corporation will need to sensitise its workers on the importance of accuracy in reporting.

Unlike many its counterparts in many other cities, some of whose statistics are spiraling out of control, Chennai’s Corporation has not compromised on its testing. Perhaps this is the reason for the numbers remaining steady. This is one aspect that the city’s civic body will need to keep maintaining its focus on. However, that is only one side of the story. The other, which is where the citizen comes in, has come quite a cropper – and this pertains to the wearing of masks. Yes, we understand that physical distancing is not possible at all times and is in no way feasible in congested localities. But the wearing of masks, and properly at that, is. And yet, many of Chennai’s citizenry appear to think that they are immune to the pandemic and wander about sans mask. This is unforgiveable for it displays a lack of concern about personal safety and also that of others. For some strange reason, our Government is going soft on this aspect. Is it a classic instance of the tough enforcement of unpalatable but necessary measures being unpopular with Chennai’s public, especially in an election year?

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