Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Covid-19 has caused chaos among humanity in just 10 months, spreading across the world, infecting four crore persons, with 11 lakh fatalities. In India, Covid has infected 74 lakh people, with 1.2 lakh fatalities. The same figures for the Northeast are 2.8 lakh infections with 1,400 fatalities, and for Arunachal it is 13,000 infections with 30 fatalities.
With the economy in recession, leaving millions of people jobless, the lockdown is being lifted in phases. Gradually, business, industries, government offices, transport/train services and domestic flights have restarted. Entrance/board exams have been held and schools/colleges have started functioning with online classes. It is likely that most schools will open up soon.
While the daily Covid cases are finally dropping in India, it appears that Covid may be peaking in Arunachal and the Northeast. With infected persons averaging 200-300 daily, Covid cases are surging in Arunachal. In the Northeast, Arunachal has the fourth highest number after Assam, Tripura and Manipur. Due to the surge in Covid cases, Covid hospitals and Covid care centres (CCC) are almost full and home isolation is being allowed for asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases. Soon we may reach a situation of unavailability of beds in Covid hospitals. It is more critical in Arunachal since the state lacks advanced medical facilities and specialist doctors to tackle critical patients with procedures like plasma therapy, etc.
The initial lockdowns helped us to prepare the health infrastructure to manage Covid-19. ICU/ventilator units were set up urgently, dedicated Covid hospitals/CCCs were set up, and testing facilities have increased in the state.
The initial lockdowns saw many villages/towns enforcing lockdowns with community/village gates, youth volunteers, etc. However, it appears that the citizens have resigned themselves to live with Covid. People have done away with community gates and forced lockdowns. The phases of unlocking have ensured that most markets, institutions and industries are open and functioning.
In fact, traffic has almost resumed to the pre-lockdown status and one can spot many persons not maintaining physical distance or wearing masks.
Another dangerous trend is that many persons are either not reporting or not getting tested due to the apprehension of staying isolated in CCCs or Covid hospitals, leading to more surge in infection.
The good news includes low positivity rate in Arunachal of about 4.7 percent, with over 2,80,000 persons tested and case fatality rate at 0.23 percent only. More than 90 percent of the infected people are asymptomatic.
The next few months are critical for Arunachal and the Northeast. Despite the unlock phases, the only way of stopping the spread of Covid is by strictly enforcing precautions like physical distance of two metres, wearing masks, frequent handwashing and avoiding large gatherings, especially indoors and in less ventilated areas. One robust example of keeping Covid under control is Mizoram, which has only 2,229 cases and zero fatality till date. Mizoram is keeping Covid-19 controlled by pure discipline and strict implementation of precautions. Can Arunachal also control Covid like Mizoram? A viable vaccine may be just few months away.(The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)