Despite the rise in cases as India’s brushes past Brazil to clock the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, we have opened up. The statistics are staring at us: 90,000 cases registered over the last two days, with over 4.2 million people having tested positive for the virus; and a thousand deaths a day for the last two weeks. At the same time, our recovery rate at 70,000 cases per day is reassuring. This could be one of the reasons behind the decision to open up, apart from the needs of a sagging economy. And so the traffic jams are back on the roads, with commuters being fined for not wearing masks. For some reason this also includes those travelling alone in a car without any other passenger, but one has long since learnt the perils of arguing with Delhi Police.
And like many others, I too used the Great Unlock to complete tasks pending during the Great Lockdown; one of which included a visit to the local courts to register a lease. The challenge is to get past the crowd outside the gate for only a limited number are allowed inside. The cops inside are pretty helpful for Covid is a great leveller and everyone wants to stay safe. Then comes the moment of truth with an onthe-spot Covid test which pronounces judgement on you, before you can enter the court itself. During the forty minutes I was there, every ten minutes one could hear cries of “Positive Case Hai”, and you were immediately asked to break whatever line you were in to stand on the sides and let the “positive cases” through who walked by, both bewildered and embarrassed. An important note: Please carry sanitiser along with your court documents.
The city’s parks are an obvious attraction for a population locked up for months on end. While Lodhi Gardens gets its fair share of crowd (most with masks dangling below their noses), Delhi’s Sunder Nursery seems a more favoured destination. But the neighbourhood parks are another story where all rules of social distancing are abandoned as multiple games of cricket carry on along with the elderly sitting on park benches.
Apart from courts, and of course hospitals, the other crowded places are the dentists for a toothache waits for no pandemic. And in my book gets top priority over the virus as well, for the threshold for tooth pain is universally very low. As Dr Puneet Kathuria (Dr Kathuria’s Dentistry, East of Kailash) told me, even during lockdown we were open because as much as we tried to advise people on the phone, most patients are only reassured with a clinic visit.” Ditto for Dr Vishal Gupta (Dentaris, Friends Colony East) who opened his clinic at midnight, at the height of lockdown, to deal with a patient’s pain. As he quipped midway during a root-canal, “One silver lining during lockdown was we were always available, as none of us were out partying.” So when we are counting those healthcare workers who are helping us during the pandemic, I would count dentists right there at the forefront.
Dr Randeep Guleiria, AIIMS Director, was spot on when he spoke of a “Covid Behaviour Fatigue among people”. As he said, “Reduced usage of masks, and social distancing causing problems. Indians must follow Covid appropriate behaviour, understand their responsibility and be vigilant. Need to live with Covid and have appropriate behaviour as we are unlocking. India may take up top spot in absolute cases if cases rise.”
The good behaviour fatigue is the real worry. Dr Rommel Tickoo, Associate Director, Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare, told the media in a recent interview, “There’s been a huge spike. We are focusing on saving lives. We are also doing one million tests a day. After China and the US we are doing the largest number of tests.” He also spoke of the sense of fatigue and complacency with people partying without masks. However Tickoo did point out, our mortality rate is 1.7 percent while compared to Brazil and the US which has a fatality rate of 3 percent.
So, then there is a silver lining here. Health Ministry data puts our recovery rate as high as 77.31 percent with as many as 69,564 patients recuperating from the disease in 24 hours (9 September). But this comes coupled with warnings of a second wave of Covid, so keep that mask on!