Tuesday, Oct 12, 2021 20:30 [IST]
Last Update: Tuesday, Oct 12, 2021 14:54 [IST]
Around the world, over 238 million people have been infected with Sars-CoV-2 or Covid-19 with more than 4.8 million lives lost to it so far. India’s official case count is nearing 34 million, cumulatively, with over 450,000 deaths recorded. Infections are at a low ebb right now. On Saturday last week, the country watched its 7-day rolling average of daily cases slip below the 20,000 level. The tone of celebration that accompanied reports of it seemed to stoke amnesia over the last time we slid under that mark. It was the last day of December and our Covid curve beguiled many of us with the suggestion that as we rolled in a New Year, the great scare of 2020 would be discussed mostly in hindsight. As it turned out, this fond hope did not survive long. Our rolling-average of daily cases had gone exponential by mid-March, a spike that overwhelmed our healthcare capacity, to peak at over 390,000 on 8 May. The big lesson of our Covid graph, however, is that this pandemic defies extrapolation and wishful goodbyes.
If those dark days seem lost in the haze of time now, put it down to a mix of memory repression, festive easing and data comfort. Despite predictions, a third wave has not reared its head yet, we have wide vaccination coverage to count on (with over 950 million doses given), and the virus’s recent mutation path has begun to make this summer’s deadly Delta variant look like a freak occurrence. As long as Covid remains a threat, its slide in salience should worry us. A recent survey by online platform LocalCircles found laxity on safety protocols all around. Conducted among 65,000 respondents in 366 districts, the poll found only 6% classifying social-distancing norms around them as “good". Mask compliance fared only slightly better, at 13%. As much as 46% the respondents in India are looking to travel in October-December, even as only 6% of them have made bookings, indicating that most of them may look either for last-minute deals or opt for a road journey, as per a survey. The survey also revealed that the festive season (October-December) is likely to see a 60% jump in citizens travelling as compared to the monsoon season (August-September). About 34% of respondents said they are planning to visit family and friends in October-December. Some major festivals in India fall during the October-December period of the year.
As the country started unlocking the economy after the outbreak, LocalCircles said, a study conducted by it found out that 28% of respondents had made plans to travel during August and September. LocalCircles has conducted another survey to understand the travel plans of people from October to December. The survey also tried to understand how domestic travel is picking up through a comparative analysis with a similar survey conducted in July this year, the platform said in a release. The survey adds that even if a quarter of them actually travels, it will be difficult to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Social behaviour tends to be contagious in most settings. A neglect of precautions can cue others and spread out on the false assurance of safety in numbers. Festivities that draw people together in ritualized endeavours could be even more susceptible to that. Alarms need not be sounded, but sober voices of caution need to be amped up. All India Institute of Medical Sciences director Randeep Guleria has advised Covid vigilance for the next 6-8 weeks. Note that several countries have come to regret taking a high vaccination ratio as a go-ahead for life as usual. After having achieved 80%-plus vaccine coverage, Singapore is currently suffering its worst outbreak. Earlier, Israel learnt that herd immunity could elude even a widely-jabbed population. We have suffered 18 months of Covid. Another six of self-control would not be a big ask. While its known unknowns are fewer today, thankfully, here’s a known known we mustn’t forget: It won’t be over till it’s over.