Time to remove Covid restrictions?

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Covid-19 has spread to all corners of the world, infecting more than 19.5 crore persons, with 42 lakh plus fatalities. India has more than 3.2 crore persons infected, with over 4.3 lakh fatalities. Arunachal has 47,856 infections, with 226 deaths.

India has vaccinated more than 46 crore people, with 10 crores fully vaccinated. Arunachal has completed nine lakh vaccinations, with 1.75 lakh fully vaccinated.

India’s case fatality rate (CFR) of 1.34 percent is one of the lowest compared to China (5 percent), Italy (3 percent), the UK (2.3 percent) and the USA (1.8 percent). Arunachal has a CFR of 0.47 percent, which is one of the lowest in the country. Over the last week, Arunachal has recorded a positivity rate of 6 percent and reducing. Compare this with the global daily deaths of 48,500 due heart disease, 26,000 due to cancer, 3,300 due to TB, 2,700 due to HIV/AIDS, 1,900 due to malaria, and 3,400 due road accidents.

In Arunachal, which has a population of 15 lakhs, only 11 lakhs are eligible for Covid vaccine (4 lakhs below 18 years). Arunachal has vaccinated about 6.75 lakh people with the first dose, which amounts to about 62 percent of the eligible candidates. About 1.76 lakh persons (16 percent) are fully vaccinated. By next week, about 70 percent of the eligible persons would be vaccinated.

The state government has established adequate Covid hospitals. Testing facilities, ICU beds, ventilators and adequate oxygen supply are also available. Health/frontline workers are fully vaccinated and the state is fully geared up to handle the pandemic.

Lockdowns over the last 1.5 year have badly impacted the economy of the country and the state. Industries are closed down, shops/markets are closed/restricted, travel is affected, hotels/restaurants are shut, agriculture/horticulture is affected, and developmental activities have been slowed down. Lower-income groups like the daily wage earners are suffering. This has caused economic distress, leading to reduced earnings of the citizens, leading to lesser buying power with thousands of persons losing their jobs. Social events/functions, marriages and sports are not occurring. All these are leading to crumbling GDPs, loss of livelihoods and loss of thousands of crores.

Covid lockdowns are harming the students with no physical classes for two years, resorting to online classes. Exams are also not being held, with students passing out based on internal assessments only. There are certain students who may pass out of college/school without having attended classes physically. These students would miss some of the best times in a person’s life. Physical classes in schools/colleges could be restarted with minor restrictions like classes in shifts.

With a very less CFR, reduction in positivity rates, adequate persons vaccinated and health facilities boosted, isn’t it time to remove lockdowns? Isn’t it time to reopen offices, markets, industries/commercial activities, tourism, etc? Isn’t it time to treat Covid-19 like a disease akin to seasonal flu, dengue, TB, etc? While still insisting on Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, etc, maybe it is safe to reopen the economy, restart physical classes in schools/colleges and start reliving our lives? Do you agree?  (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)