With 56,211 new Covid-19 cases being recorded in India yesterday, the nation has passed the 1.20 crore infections mark and the death toll too has crossed a staggering 1.62 lakhs. Bulk of the new cases are from eight States, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Delhi. The unprecedented surge in the number of cases have caused concern amongst the health authorities in the country since it might hint at the possible commencement of a second wave, and the adverse societal and economic consequences it might result in. While States like Maharashtra are mulling over measures which they can take to nip the spread in the bud, the Centre has issued advisories to States and Union Territories to impose restrictions under Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, which entail that they examine their vulnerability and specify measures to be taken for their prevention or mitigation. There are a number of causes for the concern being expressed by the authorities, the most pertinent being the mutation of the virus resulting in variants being created, which spread faster than the original virus and cause greater havoc then even the first wave. Moreover, these mutants might reveal a greater resistance to the vaccines that have been created to combat the novel coronavirus. This would mean that, despite the mass inoculation programme proceeding in full swing in India, the desired herd immunity might be difficult to attain.
In a blatant contrast to the above scenario, the authorities in Assam seem to believe that the pandemic is over and the public is free to behave as it pleases! At the moment the State is in the throes of a campaign for the Assembly elections and the behaviour of the candidates and their followers, who troop the streets unbothered by the need to observe Covid-19 protocol, is nothing short of disgraceful. Adding fuel to the fire are actions such as those shown by Holi revellers in a metro like Guwahati, who gathered in massive crowds at various places and celebrated the festival as if the threat of the pandemic had vanished long ago. It is equally reprehensible that senior political functionaries of the State as well as candidates had joined the revellers, no doubt in a bid to attract votes. It may be noted that such behaviour comes despite a warning from the Director of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Rajni Kant, that Assam may face a spike in Covid-19 cases after the elections to the State Assembly as huge political gatherings were seen. This is because the people are being complacent and attendees at gatherings were not maintaining the Covid-19 protocols like wearing masks, physical distancing, etc. Dr Kant pointed out that if the rest of the country was confronted with the prospect of another wave, it was because of such complacency.