Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Covid-19 pandemic
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
• Hit by an alarming rise in COVID infections over the past three weeks, Delhi once again faces the difficult challenge of balancing lives and livelihoods.
• The Delhi government has, so far, rightly refused to reimpose a total lockdown.
• It has, instead, talked of increasing the number of tests, improving contact tracing and scaling up its health infrastructure — the Centre has also pitched in to support the national capital’s endeavour.
• But with experts blaming the current surge on crowding in markets during festivals, questions continue to be raised about Delhi’s containment methods.
• Much of the criticism is valid — the Delhi government did not read the early signs of a surge in infection, its information drive during the festive season left much to be desired and the task of ramping up medical amenities was left too late.
• But as it responds to the current emergency, the Arvind Kejriwal government should stay the course on its stated position on lockdowns.
• While it considers imposing selective restrictions — it has reportedly sought the Centre’s permission to shut down markets in hotspots.
• The government would do well to send out the message that the proposed measures do not portend a return to the days when businesses lost contact with customers and people were locked out of the job market.
• Lockdowns are blunt instruments that should not be the first line of response in a public health emergency.
• They were necessary to check the dangerous transmission of the coronavirus during the early days of the pandemic when very little was known about the pathogen.
• The measures have unleashed a collateral tragedy that continues to take a high toll more than four months after the easing of the lockdown.
• Reports in this newspaper have shown how the economic disruption dealt a cruel blow to the lives and fortunes of people ranging from workers at the lowest rung of the economic ladder to middle-class families.
• Many who had left small towns to seek a better life in the country’s metros and big cities, including Delhi, found their aspirations thwarted and set back.
• A report in this newspaper on Thursday shone a light on the devastating toll on the capital’s working women, many of whom are first-time earners and sole breadwinners in their families.
Uncertainty of the pathogen:
• The latest surge in Delhi is another indicator of the unpredictable ways of the coronavirus.
• But we are much better equipped to deal with the contagion, both in terms of scientific knowledge and medical capabilities, compared to four months ago.
• For instance, the super-spreader theory — a few events or localities are responsible for creating webs of transmission — is now an important part of the anti-COVID discourse.
• New learnings have opened pathways to calibrated and targeted responses to the pathogen, that can contain its spread without destroying livelihoods.
• It is this knowledge that the Delhi government must turn to, and draw from, as it grapples with the virus.
• In its battle against latest wave of COVID, Delhi must go by the science, calibrate its response, resist stringent lockdown.