Second wave of Covid-19: A wave of our own making

By: |
May 27, 2021 5:30 AM

Chartered-flight wedding to sidestep corona-norms further evidence of why citizens are also to blame for the Covid spread

Expert opinion holds that mask-usage could be critical to controlling airborne infection.Expert opinion holds that mask-usage could be critical to controlling airborne infection.

The government has been rightly criticised over its role in allowing the deadly second wave of Covid-19 to precipitate; recall the misreading of the situation in the country earlier this year, with the health minister proclaiming the “endgame” of the pandemic in the country, election campaigns in states that had scant regard for not just the spread-risks but also the signals that this sent to the masses, etc. That said, the people, too, must accept a fair share of blame. Many of us have behaved most irresponsibly, the latest evidence of this being the 150-plus wedding revellers in Madurai, who flouted Covid-prevention-related caps on guest-numbers, by chartering a Spice Jet aircraft. Visuals of invitees and hosts huddling in one section of the aircraft—a flight-safety-rule violation in itself—without masks, let alone distancing, show how little regard many of us, especially among the educated and well-off, have for Covid-safe behaviour. This, while millions have taken serious, even irreversible, hits to their livelihoods because of localised mobility restrictions. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which has strict rules for airlines on Covid-safe behaviour has de-rostered the pliots and the cabin crew while asking the airline to file complaints against the passengers. However, the airline management, too, has a lot to answer for, considering how it facilitated this mockery of all manner of rules. To be sure, chartering is a legitimate business, and these are difficult times for the airline business, but the company still owed a duty to public safety amid a pandemic.

Be it the lakhs thronging the Kumbh—sure, the government allowed this, but it was the devotees that prioritised faith over scientific caution in their decision to attend—or the large crowds offering Ramzan prayers in dereliction of distancing and mask-use requirements, we have behaved as if transmission risks didn’t matter, and are now paying for it collectively. To be sure, our understanding of the pathogen and the pandemic is still evolving, and uncertainties abound—for instance, well over a year into the pandemic, acceptance of airborne transmission of the virus, vis-a-vis solely droplet (contact) infection, is gaining ground only now. Indeed, the Union health ministry had just revised its clinical management protocol to reflect this. However, even when droplet-only transmission was the dominant understanding of spread, a government release dated May 20 says, half of Indians didn’t use masks, while a mere 7% wore it correctly—32%, for instance, covered the mouth but not the nose. Expert opinion holds that mask-usage could be critical to controlling airborne infection. Without the citizens doing their bit to check transmission—against the backdrop of poor healthcare infrastructure in the country and vaccine shortages—Covid-19 will continue to be hanging sword for the nation.

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