It has been 10 days since the 14-day-long lockdown, the year’s first, kicked in across Odisha. But there is no sign as yet of the Corona graph abating anytime soon. During these ten days, the daily count of fresh positive cases has gone below the 10,000 mark – and that too only marginally – just once - on May 11 - when it fell to 9793, before breaching the 10K mark again the very next day. At 12,390, the number of fresh cases set a new record on Friday, underlining the point that we are nowhere close to the peak, after which the Covid graph could be expected to fall.
Even before the imposition of the statewide lockdown, a 48-hour weekend shutdown had been in force in the whole state since April 24 and night curfew even earlier. But nothing seems to be working as the daily caseload has consistently stayed above 10,000 for nearly two weeks now, taking the total number of active cases in the state beyond the 1 lakh mark for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. More worryingly, the test positivity rate (TPR) has remained above 20% in 20 out of the 30 districts in the state during the week ending May 12. With the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) making a strong case for imposition of a 6 to 8-week long lockdown in districts where the TPR is above 10%, an extension of the 14-day lockdown ending May 19 now looks inevitable – at least in the high-incidence districts, if not the whole state. For the record, only Malkangiri is below the 10% threshold fixed by the ICMR.
With a severe shortage of vaccines badly hitting the vaccination drive, a long lockdown – and of course the observance of Covid protocols – now remain our only bet for arresting the rising Coronavirus graph, experts have been repeatedly telling us. When asked why, in that case, the Covid graph has stubbornly refused to come down even after more than a week of the statewide lockdown, they say the caseload would have risen at an even faster rate than it has and may well have breached the 20,000 mark by now, had it not been for the lockdown in place. In the absence of any scientific basis to dispute the claim, we have little choice but to accept what the experts say.
Going by the experts' logic, there is little doubt that the daily positive count would have been much lower than it is if the restrictions imposed during the lockdown had been observed in letter and spirit.
As anyone can see, the restrictions are being flouted with impunity by the people across the state. From Malkangiri to Mayurbhanj, TV channels bring to us on a daily basis footage of streets and marketplaces, which make it hard to believe that there is a lockdown in force in the state. After enduring a long lockdown last year, the people are clearly in no mood to stay indoors and put up with the stifling curbs. For the poorer classes, in particular, the compulsions of earning a livelihood have made it difficult to stay put at home because the luxury of 'work from home' is not available to them.
The cops are doing the best they can. But they are proving hopelessly inadequate to the enormous task at hand: ensuring strict adherence to the norms. It is not just the skewed People:Police numbers. This time, there is a visible reluctance on the part of the law enforcers to crack down hard on those violating the rules. It is possible that this reluctance has to do with a series of incidents at various places in the last few days where officers and policemen have been assaulted by angry crowds while trying to ensure adherence to the restrictions. It is equally possible that the enforcers, like the people, have developed a 'lockdown fatigue'. Whatever it is, there is little doubt that this complacency is going to cost us dear at a time when stricter vigilance is the need of the hour.
As we brace for a prolonged spell of curbs on normal life and lifestyle, here is hoping that the people realise the enormity of the challenge and endure the hardships imposed to make sure life under lockdown doesn't stretch for long.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)
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