Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his video conference with seven most Covid-19 affected states’ chief ministers on Wednesday, stressed on the need to micromanage the areas where the situation is still alarming. The higher rate of recoveries—around 82%—in these states is leading to complacency among the public who are ignoring safety measures, it was observed at the meet. The compulsions to come out for their livelihoods, the revival of traffic on the busy streets to near pre-Covid levels and relatively easy process of recovery are prompting the public to neglect the strict safety measures which they had followed till a month ago. Interestingly, the cost of hospitalization, too, in both the public and private clinics, has come down, thanks to governmental initiatives.
PM Modi held an hour-long interaction with these CMs as their states account for two-thirds of the total positive cases in the country. Besides three southern states—Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu—Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, too, were covered by the PM. He told the CMs to involve a large number of grassroots public representatives in the Covid-19 containment strategies.
The pandemic situation in the country seems nearing plateau, though its incidence is severe in some districts. As per the PM, the condition in 60 out of the total around 700 districts in the country is causing concern. While complimenting the CMs for the increased number of tests, the PM asked them to focus on “micro-containment zones” in the days to come.
Several CMs, including Andhra Pradesh’s Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, had agreed with the PM on this and felt that the higher recovery rate–around 82%–had led to complacency among people as well as in the public health staff. Safety measures like social distancing, mask wearing and sanitisation at every house and office seem to have been neglected in many areas.
Andhra Pradesh, which drastically stepped up testing since June, is able to bring down the daily average case from above 10,000 two months ago to around 7,300 now. Similarly, the number of deaths per day too came down from around 100 five weeks ago to below 50 now. The PM complimented the CM for the improvements, but told him to intensify efforts to further bring down these numbers.
The PM expressed satisfaction over the measures taken by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, too, as they are showing some downward trends in both the positive cases and deaths. Hitherto Covid hotspots–Chennai and Bangalore–are better now, as most of the cases are being reported from the rural areas of these two states. Interestingly, the PM suggested the CMs to involve village elders in the Covid containment efforts as their influence or persuasive skills will be useful at the local level. At the same time, it was also discussed to improve facilities at the primary health centers in rural areas. PM Modi agreed to increase states’ powers to spend on Covid from their disaster relief funds from 35% to 50% now. The PM’s videoconference seems to have a purpose—of bringing down both the positive cases and deaths from these high intensity states, so that the country would be free of the pandemic very soon. Once India reaches that level, then the Centre can focus its attention on other related matters of distribution of vaccines in the near future. After the PM’s interaction on Wednesday, there is a general sense of relief among the state officials on the overall situation. The assurance of additional funds and concentrated focus on containing the virus spread are expected to yield results in the coming weeks. India, after reporting its first Covid case 34 weeks ago, recorded a total of 56.46 lakh positive cases, while 45.87 lakh of them recovered (81.25%). One important point of the PM’s suggestions to the CMs is that the Centre is keen on continuing to open up the economy and bringing public life to pre-Covid levels at the earliest, without compromising on safety measures. The Unlock-5.0 guidelines, which might be announced by next week, are expected to add some more areas to the list of allowed activities. If the situation in these seven states improves, the number of deaths as well as positive cases would drastically fall. One improvement is that the Covid death rate which stood at 1.87% of the positive cases a month ago, has come down to 1.59% now. This is much lower than that of the global average and that of the US too.