Covid-19 is the most inscrutable and eccentric novel coronavirus experienced by humanity so far. Even as China marks the anniversary of the world’s first coronavirus lockdown, scientists are yet to fully unravel the mystery of this lethal virus and establish the pattern in which it behaves. For instance, it had a greater adverse impact on developed countries as far as fatalities proportionate to population are concerned. The US, which has around 33 crore population, had till date 26.3 million afflictions and a whopping 4.4 lakh deaths. The UK, with just 6.6 crore population, has crossed the 1 lakh death milestone. In contrast, China with a population of 139.77 crore has had just 89,370 cases and 4,636 deaths, while India with 136.64 crore people had a staggering 10.7 million cases but, mercifully, only around 1,54,000 deaths. Why this was so remains an enigma to scientists, as also the fact that new and more infectious variants of Covid-19 are being reported from different places of the globe. Moreover, sudden and unexpected recurrence of virus clusters underlines the reality that no place can consider itself having totally eradicated Covid-19. China, for instance, continues to report small new clusters of the virus while Japan, which had thought it had Covid-19 under sufficient control to even plan for the coming Olympic Games, is currently in a state of emergency following rising cases of the coronavirus.
Thus not only must each nation not imagine it has put a rein on Covid-19, but also must not let its guard down no matter how positive the indications might be. What has happened in Europe is stark testimony to this truism. A few months earlier the Continent was celebrating ‘the end’ of the pandemic; educational institutions were opened, tourism was encouraged, commuters attended office or other workplaces and social life, disrupted during the pandemic, resumed. But by autumn the virus returned with a vengeance, taking its toll of deaths and forcing nations like Germany and the Netherlands to go into renewed lockdown. Europe’s mistake had been to put economic recovery above the need to keep Covid-19 under tight control, and she is now paying the price. It is in this context that one must take the assertion of India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan that the nation has flattened her Covid-19 graph since, of the over 700 districts in the country, around 20% have not reported any cases in the last week, with caution. One, of course, comprehends Vardhan’s desire to take credit for the improved situation and assert that the ‘Whole-of-Government’ and ‘Whole-of-society’ approach envisaged by Narendra Modi had enabled India to successfully contain the pandemic. But it would be a pity if such desire to score political points debilitates India’s vaccination drive which is the sole pathway to a Covid-19-free nation.