The Covid 19 Pandemic has wrought havoc around the world. Devastating economies and overwhelming healthcare systems, Covid has extracted an unbelievably high toll on societies worldwide with estimated deaths, numbering in the Tens of Millions. India, in particular, has been hard hit by the successive waves of the virus, despite imposing one of the world’s harshest lockdowns early on. This is mainly on account of lack of coordination and haphazard planning, with thoughtless decisions and mindless execution, imposing a high price (literally and metaphorically) on the lay person. Indeed, as the excruciating travails of the travels of the migrant workers showed, there was little concern to the plight of the vulnerable and the less privileged when restrictions on movement were imposed overnight.
Worse, such drastic measures did not prevent a brutal Second Wave in the Summer of this year, with premature celebrations of having achieved “herd immunity” in the second half of 2020, giving way to chaos and confusion in the months following March 2021. While 2020 was all about “getting used” to the pandemic, 2021 has been about “living with the virus”. So, what will 2022 bring? Is it the “inevitability” of “doom and gloom” due to the expected Third Wave due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, jeopardizing whatever little was gained economically once the Second Wave subsided? Moreover, will 2022 be all about caring two hoots come what may, or an uneasy New Normal, where constant disruption is the norm.
As I point out, A Third Wave is On The Way, and it can very well plunge India into chaos once again. What more, with the Omicron variant resistant to vaccinations and though milder in nature, the fact that it spreads through the air, means that lockdowns and other quarantining are no protections against it. Indeed, there are so many “unknowns” about the Omicron variant, which means that any “modelling” (though such models have been largely ineffective in the past) is pointless, since we do not know yet, what works and what doesn’t as far as this iteration goes, from what has been described as a “variant of concern” by the WHO or the World Health Organization.
We haven’t learnt the lessons from the Second Wave as I this article questioning the “relaxation” of Covid appropriate norms details, and letting our guard down too soon. Of course, there are ways to limit the damage and contain the fallout, provided we follow some basic rules and apply the learning’s from the Second Wave. Indeed, it is not too late and with some proper planning and a more “humane” approach, lives and livelihoods can be saved as well as chaos avoided. Hopefully, the Third Wave does not devastate the social and the economic fabric of the nation, whose existing fault lines can easily be exposed, as I detail by explaining how The Pandemic has laid bare India’s Fault Lines. Better late than never to take corrective action along these lines.
Having said that, this never ending nightmare persists despite the efforts of all and sundry preaching positivity and insisting that this is the New Normal we have to get used to. On the other hand, what is the New Normal, and if goalposts keep shifting with each passing day, the pertinent doubt is Whether We Will Ever Return to Normal? Moreover, if each variant is more “lethal” than the previous, with Omicron being more dangerous than Delta and so on. This constant “disruption” does immense damage to even well ordered societies, and given that India has always been a Functioning Anarchy, we risk a catastrophic Third Wave impacting each and everyone of us, no matter whether we are vaccinated or are cautious and follow all norms.
Coming to the economy, it is by now certain that The Shoe Will Drop, unless the government comes out with a stimulus package and announces something along the lines of a Basic Income to support the poor and the destitute. Already the Indian Economy has gone from Bad to Worse, since the pandemic started, and so, it requires a “healing touch” to help those adversely impacted. Whether there is political will, or at least some thought to the suffering of the masses, instead of indifference and arrogance, we will soon find out, once the Third Wave begins. For the moment, we can only hope that “this too would pass”, reinforcing the belief in the timelessness of the Indian existence, which is something that has been passed down generations of Indians.
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