Corona Diaries 51: A Million & More – Our Fight Against COVID-19 Is Set For The Long Haul
There’s a hint of despair in the air. One million plus cases already and nobody’s sure where it is headed. A few lakhs more would mean the disease is not faraway anymore; it’s somewhere in your vicinity, lurking in the shadows. Escaping it would be an everyday challenge. It triggers sensation similar to the realisation that a psychotic serial killer is on the loose and is close by. It’s choosing its target and the deadly blow can land out of nowhere anytime. The urgency to guard against the smallest of indiscretions is more intense now. It means your already constricted life is set to be squeezed further. That wait for freedom would be infinitely longer.
Headlines no more exude hope. The unfolding reality has already corroded the enthusiasm of copywriters. They would like to offer readers feelgood stories — of small victories against the disease, of the resilience of the human spirit, of unsung heroes — but there are not many around. The surging number is proof that the battle is not going the right way. The worst part is the numbers may not be telling us the true story of the pandemic. The number of positive cases could be much higher, spread much wider and deaths many more. We don’t know what escapes the government’s notice.
Numbers have a particular way of weighing on our minds. One million breaches some kind of a psychological threshold. This is the point where we realise the battle has to be fought as much with scientific tools available as with hope and prayers. The World Health Organisation warns repeatedly that the pandemic will get much bigger than it is. In India, we are just getting to understand how. The disease has entered the hinterlands in a big way. And hinterland is massive uncharted territory even for states with the best health facilities. One million can become several in no time given that India leaped from five lakh to one million cases in less than three weeks. A big contribution came from states with low number of cases so far.
At the current pace, experts say, we would overtake second-placed Brazil in a month, and would not be far behind the US two months hence. The worst part is there is no solution at hand. A vaccine, if at all there’s a foolproof one, will take its own time to be available for mass distribution. The best way to deal with it is the way doctors put it: Protect yourself. That way you will be protecting others.
NOT ALL GLOOM & DOOM
The COVID-positive cases may have gone from a trudge to a sprint, but it should not be too much of a worry, say experts. According to the health ministry, the rate of recovery, at a shade above 63 per cent, has been on a healthy upswing too. No more than .35 per cent of patients require ventilator support, and less than 1.94 per cent require ICU admission. Only 2.81 per cent of patients need beds with oxygen. Most people carry mild symptoms and recover at home.
These numbers ease the fear a bit, but are far from reassuring. The age demographic in deaths shows no strong specific bias. According to a study of COVID deaths by a government agency, about 43 per cent of victims were in the 30 to 59 age group. This flies in the face of the earlier assumption that old people were specially vulnerable. Also, comorbidity, pre-existing health issues, was not present in 43 per cent of cases. All these make exposure to the disease a game of Russian roulette. You may survive, and if you are unlucky, you may not.
THR RING GETS CLOSER
In the beginning, it was happening to other people somewhere else. Then the ring became tighter, coming right upto your door. Right now, there are police barricades in one’s apartment block in Delhi. No movement out is allowed, barring in cases of emergency. Five policemen at both exit points ensure that. They don’t need to speak much; the sight of the iron barricades, painted yellow and with Delhi Police written bold and loud, makes you see sense. These gates on wheels are as much a symbol of the authority of the police as their lathis are.
Eight members of a family on the floor above have tested positive for the disease. That brings the barricades and the policemen here. There is something about both. For the first time since the lockdown kicked in and unlocking happened, you get a feeling of what prison could be. Of course, you are no worse than earlier, yet the presence of the government at your doorstep make the experience so different. Eight more days still to go. It’s such a long wait!
THE GAME IS ON
The England-West Indies cricket series has been a welcome relief from the depressing corona news. Resumption of sporting activity signals a definite return to normalcy. The series should give the BCCI ideas about the IPL. It is reported that discussion is on to hold it outside India. The venue is immaterial since the audience would be absent physically. The game must go on. However, one must say that the lack of an energetic crowd to egg on teams diminishes the thrill of matches. Without the raucous Barmy’s Army the fun of any match involving England is halved.