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Break the chain

Forewarned is forearmed. Alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in Ten states including Maharashtra is a lesson for all other states on the fallout of ignoring this proverbial saying.

Break the chain

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 April 2021 1:47 AM GMT

Forewarned is forearmed. Alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in Ten states including Maharashtra is a lesson for all other states on the fallout of ignoring this proverbial saying. Exponential rise in COVID-19 in Maharashtra has led to imposition of complete lockdown in weekends and night curfew in the state till April 30. Termed as "Break the Chain restrictions" the curbs on movement and gathering of people have thrown life, that limped back to normalcy, out of gear in the entire state including the country's commercial capital Mumbai. It is having its cascading effect on the country's economy as migrant workers in Maharashtra have started travelling out and returning to their home states. Maharashtra government has imposed weekend lockdown from 8 pm on Fridays till 7 am on Mondays and closing down of malls, restaurant, bars, gyms, and places of worship, reducing attendance in government offices to 50 per cent capacity. The Central government has advised the states that implementing the five-fold strategy of Testing, Tracing, Treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and Vaccination with utmost seriousness and commitment would be effective in curbing the spread of the virus. The strategy can be more effective in states like Assam with low infection rates. The Central government has called for a special campaign for Covid appropriate behaviour with emphasis on 100% mask usage, personal hygiene and sanitation at public places /workplaces and health facilities from today to 14 April. As the Election Commission has ensured strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour for conducting polling in the final and third phase in Assam, starting the campaign thread immediately after the polling will be easier for the state government as well as non-governmental organisations working in health sector. According to the Ministry of Health, the reasons for the sharper rise in cases could be mainly attributed to the severe decline in compliance of Covid-appropriate behaviour primarily in terms of use of masks and maintaining physical distance, pandemic fatigue, and lack of effective implementation of containment measures at the field level. Majority of the people dropping the mask and not maintaining the physical distance of six feet in public places in Assam, when a low percentage of the population has been immunized, keeps alive the apprehension of a Maharashtra-like situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a review meeting on the prevailing pandemic situation and vaccination programme urged the states to avoid mortality under all circumstances by ramping up healthcare infrastructure, availability of oxygen, ventilators besides required logistics, and ensuring that clinical management protocols are followed across all hospitals as well as for those in-home care. If the State health system is overwhelmed by spike in COVID-19 cases it may also adversely affect the vaccination drive. The vaccination drive is the most critical intervention in building resilience against COVID-19 virus. The State Health department has issued fresh directive on contact tracing which will lead identification on at least 20-25 contacts exposed to an infected individual. However, identification of maximum number of infected persons will be possible only by ramping up testing. All passengers arriving in trains originating in Maharashtra and Karnataka for symptoms at train stations in Assam and symptomatic passengers will undergo COVID-19 tests. Mass screening as suggested by many health experts still remains a better option to prevent second wave in states like Assam with low figures of new cases as several studies have pointed towards circulation of asymptomatic patients contributing to almost half of the positive cases. The State government has also made it mandatory for the airlines to allow boarding of only those passengers with negative RT-PCR test reports at Mumbai and Bengaluru who are disembarking at airports in the state. Travel restrictions will have impact on in-bound tourists and business professionals, but the precaution is necessary to prevent a second wave and avoid stricter restrictions. Lockdown period left the state economy devastated but the state succeeding in flattening the curve brought quick dividends to the tourism sector. There has been a rush of tourists to Kaziranga and other prime destinations which helped the hospitality sector to overcome the residual challenges of downturn in the economy due to lockdown. The state preventing a surge in positive cases is essential to sustain the momentum. Even though Maharashtra government has allowed industrial operations and construction activities, fresh exodus of migrant workers is going to cripple both the sectors. The apprehension of fresh infection and bitter experience of losing jobs and shelter after sudden declaration of nationwide lockdown will continue to grip the migrant workers across the country. Such apprehension is not going to go away till age bar in vaccination drive is lifted and universal vaccination against COVID-19 is undertaken. Pressing the panic button is certainly not the answer but remaining complacent over low detection of positive cases and dropping the guard may prove costly in Assam.

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