Is India being Complacent about COVID-19?
One of the earliest battles of the First World War was the Battle of the Frontiers between the Germans and French. The French were losing around 30,000 troops a single day. The English, who were fighting alongside the French, were a major sea power, their troops were not used to fighting a long land battle for days. So when the news of 8000 Englishmen dying in the battle reached an English General he literally fainted, another one committed suicide. Such vast numbers came as a shock to people around the world. These were supposed to be advanced European countries and there they were engaging in the devastating forms of trench warfare.
The amount of pain and suffering of the troops was unthinkable. The French had been retreating from their base position for four days. Their troops were walking 40 Km a day, with heavy bags and limited food stocks and their morale was extremely low. Their clothes were in rags, their shoes were torn and many of them were wounded. On the 5th day they received orders to attack the advancing German troops. The French were not in a position to attack, yet they did, and naturally they were slaughtered by the Germans.
Within 6 months of the War, everything was normalized. The numbers coming in were in the hundreds of thousands but a war fatigue had taken over the people. Stalin’s 1947 quote is often vindicated at such times “A single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic”.
Let us jump to the present to talk about the ‘Corona fatigue’ that many of us are experiencing. The coronavirus became global by February end. It has been just little over 4 months of us experiencing the indirect effects of the virus through the lockdown and economic restrictions.In India the virus has not reached a peak, with around 30,000 cases being reported daily. The US saw a brief fall but is now seeing higher cases (although daily death rate is low).
Yet there is a sense of ease.
We were all panicking in early March when India had less than 500 cases. People were refusing to go out at that time and the government too decided that it was time for a short notice and strict lockdown. By late June, most of us were tired of this lockdown. Some of us might have gone out because we are so tired of staying inside. I am still baffled by the fact that 500 cases were a good enough number to lockdown the entire country for 2 months but we decided to open up when we had reported 200,000 cases. It’s July, we haven’t reached a peak yet but still most of us are willing to go about our businesses.
I stepped out the other day to buy some medicines. What stood before me was indeed shocking: no social distancing was followed, people were not wearing masks, those who were wearing them had left their nose uncovered and the affluent people who were wearing N-95 masks were constantly touching their nose (of course they sanitized their hands every 10 mins). This was in Mumbai, the so-called COVID capital of India.
Blaming the people is probably not the right thing, all of us are victims of our own ‘lockdown fatigue’. We all want to get out and feel what a ‘Before Corona’ (BC) felt like. We all want to go out for a holiday, at least for a weekend somewhere far from home.
But the real question remains, are we becoming complacent in our approach to the virus? For most of us the answer is yes and that is a separate tragedy itself.
It has become abundantly clear that the lockdown was imposed at a wrong time and was lifted at a wrong time. Now the government wants to reduce the stress on the economy caused by the lockdown. Maharashtra and Punjab government have given notices to open hotels at a limited capacity.
So we have a situation where the government wants to keep the economy running, we want our lives to get back to normal and most of us are starting to get complacent about our personal hygiene. The Result: 30,000 cases a day followed by a don’t care attitude.
The most common way for the virus to spread is through droplet transmissions (surface contamination results in limited spread). It is no wonder that India has not reached a peak yet. According to The Economist It is believed that for every case detected, 12 go undetected. For every three COVID deaths one is attributed to some other cause. As time goes by, the threat of the virus appears closer home, from your city to your society to your building to your neighbor.
Even the WHO has announced that the virus is here to stay, there is no going back to the Before Corona era for the next 1–3 year. This should be the new normal and cleanliness, hygiene, social distancing, 14 day quarantine, namaste, masks, sanitizers etc. are all part of this new normal and we must strive to incorporate them in our lives.
It is said that the virus does not affect the younger generations as much and that is one of the reasons why young people are being so complacent towards the virus. We wear a mask mostly to protect others, as 80% of the detected cases are asymptomatic. Young people can have COVID and show zero symptoms but they can spread the disease to other places.
We are all in this together and all of us have a duty to protect ourselves and others.
You might be done with the virus but it is not done with us.