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Friday, March 1, 2024

Covid Intensity Has Lessened But The Challenges Still Remain

Centre had announced last week that all containment measures in the country will end on March 31, it was officially advised that people should wear masks and maintain social distancing. The advisory is important and seems to be wise, even though some of the states in the country have decided to withdraw all curbs including the mandatory rule of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and the provisions of penalty for their violations.

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By Dr. Gyan Pathak

General decline in Covid-19 cases in India has emboldened several states in the country to remove curbs, even as in the morning of April 1, 2022 a slight increase in new infection were reported in the last 24 hours to 1335 from 1225 a day earlier, which is a clear indication that we are not too far from the underlying danger, and hence precautions are still needed, and lessons from the past must not be forgotten so soon, rather must be taken forward as being suggested by a group of experts.

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Though the Centre had announced last week that all containment measures in the country will end on March 31, it was officially advised that people should wear masks and maintain social distancing. The advisory is important and seems to be wise, even though some of the states in the country have decided to withdraw all curbs including the mandatory rule of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and the provisions of penalty for their violations.

Reduction of 635 cases has been recorded in the active case load with only 52 deaths in the last 24 hours. No doubt it is a significant decline, with reported recovery of 1918 which is much larger than the daily new cases, but we must not forget so soon the Covid-19 death toll of 5,21,181, and the total cases 4,30,25,775. We also must not forget that the fatality rate is still at 1.21 per cent, and the cumulative doses administered has just exceeded 184.31 crore, and we are testing only about six lakh people daily and only about 78.97 crore tests have been done so far.

WHO Covid-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove’s opinion is worth remembering here who indicated that it was important to consider a drop in testing that could be the reason behind the noticeable decline in number of new infections world over. “We are concerned about these trends, so it’s possible we are missing a large number of cases because omicron is so much more transmissible than any variant we have seen so far,” she said while stressing on the fact that the pandemic is not over yet and that we still need to use the tools to save the lives.

Moreover, India accounts for the second highest caseload only after the United States. The dangers from the new variant of Omicron are also looming large and fresh surge is being witnessed in China and elsewhere in the world, and there is no guarantee that other more infectious variants would not emerge.

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However, due to significant decline in Covid-19 new cases and deaths, Maharashtra, Delhi, Telangana, and West Bengal have already announced complete relaxation of Covid-19 related curbs starting from April 1.

Wearing masks is the first line of precautionary defence against the Covid-19 infection. There was a time when mask was even made mandatory and violation of this was made punishable with fine. Now Delhi, Maharashtra, and Telangana has removed their mandatory orders and done away with the penalty provision for not wearing masks in public places. The West Bengal government has lifted all restrictions imposed but has decided to continue the mask mandate.

Almost all states across the country are yet to do away with the mandatory mask, since they are not sure about the wisdom of taking such a decision, though they have already removed many of the Covid-19 curbs.

It is clear that the states along with the experts are divided over doing away with the mandatory provisions of wearing masks. Many experts believe that doing away with the mandatory rule for wearing mask would have been implemented with great caution for several reasons.

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First there are many people who are yet to be vaccinated and are therefore vulnerable for infection. Secondly, there are Covid-19 variants of concern which are able to bypass immunity of even the vaccinated, and such infected people can infect others, including the vulnerable ones. And third, withdrawing the mandatory provision and penalty would have encouraging effect on all to not wear masks and hence will be exposed for infection leading to chaos.

Many experts believe that it is not a right time to do away with mandatory wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing, since Omicron BA.2 has already emerged as fresh concern across the world. Even the major cities in China have resorted to quarantine once again. At this point of time both the symptomatic and asymptomatic persons must wear masks for their own safety and for safety of others. Precisely for this reason, maintaining physical distance, use of sanitizers, hand washing, and avoiding exposure to crowds should be continued until we come clear out of the danger. Making these basic precautionary measures optional is not wise since these provisions may prevent not only Covid-19 infection but also others. These are, in fact, general precautions, a cover for good health and hygiene. (IPA Service)

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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