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Friday, April 16, 2021

India now 4th worst hit by Covid-19: Govt’s 7 mistakes the nation’s paying for

India became the fourth worst-hit country in the world on Friday with almost 3 lakh Covid-19 cases. In past 24 hours, the nation recorded over 10,000 new cases. Things may get even worse, predict experts.

Though the Centre is harping on their claim that India is “definitely not in the community transmission stage”, fear among people about their lives, well-being and livelihood remains unabated. The only glimmer of hope is India’s recovery rate which stood at 49.47 per cent on Friday morning.

At the threshold of 3 lakh cases, many states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Punjab are considering re-imposing strict lockdown, just the way it all began in March. Have you ever thought, how things turned so bad for us?

Here are 7 mistakes on the Centre’s part to handle Covid-19

1. Unplanned travel restrictions – India issued travel advisory for those flying to China on January 17. It banned entry of anyone coming from China to India on February 5. However, by January 31, over 25 countries officially declared the presence of multiple Covid-19 cases in their respective territories. But India allowed international travel till March 22. By then the virus was raging in 150 countries with 3 lakh cases worldwide.

2. Scarcity of PPE – We have seen those reports where doctors and health workers had to wear raincoats to treat Covid-19 patients amid massive dearth of PPE, masks and other safety gears. But why? Because the India government didn’t feel the urge to order sufficient PPEs until March end. Though we banned export of PPE on January 31, there was no export ban on PPE raw materials. The Centre didn’t even take any initiative to start indigenous production of PPE either.

“India lost around five weeks in the production capacity of PPEs. If we would have been provided with specifications and basic number of stockpiling required, we would have set targets.” – Sanjiiv, Chairman of the Preventive Wear Manufacturer Association of India told The Quint.

3. Shortage of ventilators – According to an estimate, India needs over 1 million ventilators, while it has ordered 49,000 so far. The Centre hasn’t initiated any alternative measures either. India is a big exporter of ventilators too. Only on March 19, India banned export of ventilators. But by then, the country had reported over 180 cases.

4. Insufficient testing – Since the beginning, India was not testing enough. In fact, India’s testing percentage per 1000 people was one of the lowest in the world during April and May first half. Some government officials even admitted that it happened owing to lack of testing kits. Only 123 state-run labs were testing 36% of cases. Though India ordered for 1 million testing kits from Germany on March 16, it was too late a reaction. Since all countries were scurrying to stockpile the kits then, India fell back in the run. The German kits didn’t even arrive by mid April. Therefore, testing got delayed badly, turning the overall situation worse.

5. Centre’s denial of community transmission – The Centre, along with ICMR, has been claiming that India didn’t enter the stage of community transmission. But it was evident that India wasn’t testing enough samples until very recently. India tested just 10.5 per million people. Whereas South Korea, UAE and Iceland tested 600, 1200 and 2600 respectively per million people. You can see gap for yourself! Lack of testing kits, the Centre’s late response and ICMR’s delayed approval for widespread testing are responsible for this scenario. Whereas experts always opined that aggressive testing was the only way to contain the pandemic.

Now, at the threshold of 3 lakh cases, India’s still is in a fix about testing. The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the Delhi government for deciding to test only those with symptoms and let go of the rest. You can imagine, how dangerous that can be.

6. Leaky lockdown – India went for nationwide lockdown on March 25 when it had just 500 cases. Since then it was extended four times. However, our cases of new infections didn’t go down for even once! Various congregations happened during the lockdown which the administration failed to prevent. The Centre and state chiefs failed to make people aware about the lockdown’s necessity. Many argue that the first two phases of lockdown could be handled by the army to ensure simply no leakage. It would have brought much better results. If implemented strictly, maybe, we wouldn’t have to see over 1 lakh cases.

7. Migrants’ movement – The Centre treated the migrants’ issue like a ping-pong ball. Though it imposed a nationwide lockdown, it allowed millions of migrant workers to return to their homes. You can say it is a human nature to go home during a crisis. But what about the threat of virus spread? As the migrants began their journey to their native land, they died in trains, on the road and faced inexplicable miseries. Also, as they moved from congested urban areas to villages, the virus spread to larger parts of the country.

The Centre could have handled the situation better by asking them to stay where they are and ensure food and direct monetary relief. Then, as we resumed the economy slowly, they could have returned to work. The industries too didn’t have to bother about manpower crunch.

Besides the above lapses, the age-old malady of India, infighting of political parties, continued amid Covid-19 crisis. This created much conflicts between the states and the Centre. Many decisions and policies suffered delay because of this. Red-tapism too hampered certain initiatives.

At this juncture, all we can do is to brace for the future and pray for a vaccine to arrive as soon as it’s possible.


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