On 20th March 2020, first two cases of Covid-19 were reported in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh. As on 27th November 2020 a total of 38,327 cases have been reported with a death tally crossing 600. Himachal Pradesh had initially succeeded in containing virus, but today state has the highest ratio of active cases in terms of population in the country and also the highest positivity ratio.” With a population of approx. 68 L it is assumed that despite of manageable demography most of the cases were not averted albeit administrative acumen could had been brought to better use.
The state government initiated several steps to keep its native safe, some were appreciated, others decision were under attack for not doing enough to protect state from the deadly virus. Here is my take on what Govt. has done? What could have been done? and What state could anticipate ahead for the State?.
- A Nationwide lockdown was enforced on 23rd March 2020. Although a section of society was critical of this move however the recent spike post Unlock Sessions have revealed that it was the need of the hour. Moreover it gave a cushion to govt. and administrative machinery to brace up for the upcoming catastrophe and educate people about defensive mechanisms to fight Covid-19. A thumbs up for it.
- What followed Lockdown were series of Unlock Sessions gradually relaxing the restrictions. Bombardment of Notifications from Ministry of Home Affairs, State Govt and Judicial Activism in order to maintain a delicate balance between Pandemic Control, Charging up the Economic activity and Individual Liberty. In a country with a Colourful Mosaic, the management was indeed praiseworthy. The Federal structure of country portrayed its potential. Political Criticism was given a back seat irrespective of ideological differences. Chain of directives ran from apex of pyramid (Centre) to the lowest (Panchayat) Level. Call it beauty of Indian Constitution or peoples will, but ultimately it created a precedent for the future generations-to work as a unit.
- On 30th of August Unlock 5.0 guidelines were published by MoHA. Now the Federal Units were given the control to steer. And things started to mess up from here. A multitude of factors can be attributed to it viz Public Sentiments, Economy at its lowest ebb, Vote bank , Unemployment , Lack in Political Will power etc. All the progress that country had made from 23 March 2020 to 30 Aug 2020 started to dwindle and crumble like the house of cards. Following data will speak for itself.
|Dated||Confirmed Cases India||Confirmed Cases Himachal Pradesh||Lockdown Phases|
|23 March 2020||497||03||1|
|14 April 2020||11,485||33||2|
|1st May 2020||37,763||41||3|
|31st May 2020||1,90,648||330||5|
- Now we Must analyze what figures tells us about Unlock.
|Dated||Confirmed Cases India||Total Confirmed Cases Himachal Pradesh||UN-Lock Phases|
|20 June 2020||4,11,750||656||–|
|20 July 2020||12,39,671||2121||–|
|20 Aug 2020||29,04,341||4411||–|
|20 sept 2020||54,85,622||12438||–|
|20 Oct 2020||76,49,102||19,357||–|
|20 Nov 2020||90,50,607||34,745||–|
- As the quote goes by: Number don’t lie. We as states had miserably failed in containing the virus. However the failure is not uni-directional or subjected to one institution or body rather it’s a collective failure. As Indians we have mortgaged our Economy, our Liberty, in some cases lives, Man Power , Health System to contain the virus but our “Chalta hai” approach had costed us more than enough what we as a collective Union of States had achieved in past two decades.
What Could have been done:
- Religious gatherings, leisure activities, Political Rallies, Ceremonies, Tourism could have been avoided as any opportunity that virus has to take hold, it will. The number of new daily Covid-19 cases in India had risen by almost 50 percent in two days in the week following Diwali.
- Effective Contact Tracing: This approach should be at the heart of outbreak response. Technology and field level manpower should be trained, equipped and deployed for contact tracing.
- Testing :- From the very start open Public testing and door to door testing could had been done. With the widespread testing a more accurate picture emerges. Hereafter Primary, Secondary and Tertiary targets of virus could be isolated to curb the wave.
- Pre-Supply :- One of the major fault lies here. More significance was given to scaling up the production of Ventilators and Isolation spaces however masks, sanitizers, face-shields, PPE kits were in short supply.
- Act Fast- Relying merely on curbing public movement by enforcing Lockdowns is not the remedy. Production, tracing, testing should run parallel with same pace if not more.
What lays ahead for the state of Himachal Pradesh.
- With Corona traversing Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Autumn and Now winters make its aptly clear that it’s a all-season virus . As most respiratory illnesses spike up in winters, Corona is sure to survive Longer in cold and dry climate.
- Himachal would be receiving narrow window of sunshine for next four months . The lack of Vitamin D would deplete the immunity making us more susceptible to virus.
- As due to chilling Winters in the state people tend to interact more often indoors in poor ventilation ,which will definitely increase the risk of transmission.
- Acc to lab experiments the SARS-COV family favours cold dry conditions particularly out of direct sunlight. Hence winters would be the favoured season for their transmission.
- Snow would further deteriorate the situation. Roads are blocked in higher reaches which will hamper supply of medical equipments, movement of critical patients, medical staff etc. Electricity supply is particularly erratic during winters which could lead to failure in oxygen concentrators.