Its getting worse by the day: Indias Covid battle rages on

The battle against Covid-19 is a marathon @HT_Ed is spot on. His daily column - covid 19 What you need to know today is a must read each day.

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In the beginning (I’ve always wanted to start a column thus), everyone thought the battle against the coronavirus disease would be a sprint. One 49-day long lockdown, or multiple weeks-long lockdowns interspersed with breaks for a few months, would flatten the curve, experts said. A post titled The Hammer and the Dance, detailing one such lockdown-and-fight approach, went viral. The HT newsroom wrote up (and talked up) several research studies and papers that spoke of this. How wrong we all were.

The pandemic is now in its seventh month in India. A 68-day long lockdown (albeit, with some relaxations after three weeks) was imposed when the country had a few hundred cases. It now has over four million. And among large countries hit hard by the viral disease, it is the only one yet to see its peak (or even its first peak).

In the beginning, everyone was careful. People respected rules, wore masks, socially distanced themselves, didn’t venture out unless they had to (and when they did, the sensible ones wore gloves even if they made them look funny), asked the help not to come (the generous ones still paid them), stocked up, and stayed safe.

In the beginning — after a few missteps, most notably in the case of migrant workers left stranded in large cities without jobs, and in some cases, without homes — the central government was proactive. There were daily briefings by the health ministry, expert groups addressing various aspects of the pandemic, sincere efforts to acquire ventilators and PPE, regular interactions between the Prime Minister and chief ministers, addresses to the nation by the PM, and there was a general sense that we would overcome.

Things are opening up now, from a feeling that the infection fatality rate (see Dispatch 152 for more on this) is only around 0.1% in large cities; from the knowledge that masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing can prevent infections; but also from a sense of resignation, fatigue, desperation, and lack of any other options.

The opening can’t be driven by the confidence that the worst is behind us, simply because it isn’t. India is seeing the most cases in a day, and the most deaths, and no amount of spin about how many recoveries there are (there are bound to be, it’s simple math) or how low the fatality rate is (it is, but if we accept this cheerfully, we somehow seem to be suggesting that a thousand deaths a day is a price worth paying) can hide the fact that we are in the midst of a huge crisis.

It is a crisis that has wreaked havoc on lives and livelihoods — and transformed life, work, study, and play. Indeed, it has become so bad that many of us no longer even talk about the crisis — unfortunately, this includes those who should only be talking about it.

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