Second wave of the Covid-19 infection is not less than a tsunami as the situation has turned far more serious than one had anticipated. More than 400,000 new infections of coronavirus are reported per day, with daily deaths touching 4,000 across the country. However, there are apprehensions dished out by cross section of close watchers on the situation that the death toll is much higher than what is reported. Still, the reported figure of daily deaths caused by the virus is enough to instill fear among the masses to fear for their lives. The heavy load of virus invading populations across the country has subjected the country’s health infrastructure to unimaginable challenges. In a way, the virus in its current form seems to be in a genocide mode, where it even refuses to surrender to the applied medical protocol.
In comparison to the last year’s outbreak, the second wave of the covid pandemic is purely a health emergency, that too extreme in nature. It’s making us to bear unprecedented human cost with never-seen-before burden on our health infrastructure. Precisely, the uncontrolled number of daily deaths caused this time by the infection is far graver than what was witnessed in the peak time of its first phase last year. Visuals flashed by television channels showing huge number of dead bodies piling at crematoriums and graveyards queued for hours for last rites are reminiscent to a war situation in which military confrontation between two countries causes such causalities.
Here it is worth mentioning that the outbreak of the coronavirus from the Wuhan city of China and quickly taking shape of pandemic shocked the world community. Among many expert observations, the outbreak of the virus was attributed to China and a section of experts and global opinion makers called it “made in China” virus. Even as scientific theories have not yet established this allegation against China, the fact is that the opinion claiming the virus to be ‘man-made’ still holds strong ground. Whatever the origin of the virus, the way it’s making us to bear the human cost is a reminder of the nature of ‘biological warfare’. We have been told about modernization of warfare where arms and ammunition would be replaced by disease-causing agents such as bacteria, virus etc. to kill or incapacitate humans, animals, or plants. Now one can imagine the outbreak of covid pandemic, currently in its deadliest form, as a window to biological warfare as an act of war in modern times.
In succinct, the situation on health front has never been as scary in the past one year of the outbreak as it’s right now and is enough to impact the mental health of one and all. In other words, the people have been forced to get engaged in battling for their survival in absence of the established tools to keep the virus at bay.
However, this unprecedented medical emergency situation is loaded with economic miseries, which is going to make things worst in coming times.
In 2020, the government imposed a complete lockdown for more than two months as one of the measures to fight the virus and stop it from spreading. The lockdown brought the economic activities to a grinding halt and left millions jobless and millions saw drastic drop in their incomes. The Covid-19 being a health emergency was cursed by the people more for bringing financial miseries. Even the government got fully engaged to mitigate the sufferings of the people on the economic front and less attention was paid to the basic nature of the Covid-19 disease. In other words, the devastation caused by the virus to the economy in its first spell made the government to work overtime to tailor stimulus and other financial packages to take the country out of economic crisis. Besides, the drop in Covid cases encouraged the government to get engaged more in economic recovery measures than working out a solid plan to take the virus head-on as a health emergency. Let’s not get into the mayhem it caused to every sector of the economy and brought down millions of households into poor category for their considerable loss of income. However, for some time the government’s strategy worked well as economy was gradually showing signs recovery.
But the second wave of the pandemic struck the country like a tsunami and derailed all efforts of getting the economy back on track. This time, the deadly infection is consuming human lives and making the available health infrastructure meaningless. Besides, it has almost dismantled the economic recovery path which was carved out after hectic efforts in 2020. This time millions of job losses have again been reported despite the central government shying away from imposing a full lockdown. The central government is playing very cautiously with the option of national lockdown to minimize the economic damage.
The pandemic in its second spell has already impacted the country’s economic recovery and if expert opinions are to be counted, then it will be more painful in the times ahead. Even as national lockdown is not looked as an option to contain the scale of pandemic, the economic consequences of the second wave are inevitable. Notably, state governments have imposed lockdowns and the local restrictions have adversely affected economic activities, even without a national lockdown. These local lockdowns have started resulting in loss of livelihoods and enforcing a second exodus of migrant workers from cities in these states.
Another worrying factor for the people would be rising inflation. We have witnessed a consistent rise in price levels in the past three months. This time it is largely driven by a rise in core inflation. Notably, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has predicted that inflation could stay elevated for quite some time this year. Some of this is because of global commodity price trends, which have turned sharply upwards, of late. A general rise in primary commodity prices, as seen in international markets, will push up inflation in the Indian economy, thus complicating a recovery. With petroleum prices also remaining high, along with a weakening rupee, fiscal and monetary policy management could come under considerable strain.
The rising inflation is likely to impact the hunger and malnutrition situation in the country. This mean we are going to face humanitarian crisis as second wave of pandemic is once again squeezing jobs, forcing migrants to return to their native places and consequently triggering decline in economic activity.
Notably, the rise and fall in prices has a lasting effect on the cost of living of the common man. Cost of living is the price of goods and services required for maintaining an average level standard of living and varies from place to place, and is fluctuating from time to time. It has a direct bearing on the prosperity of an individual.
When the cost of living goes up, social structure of a common man too takes a hit, exposing him more to complexes. As far as essential commodities are concerned, we have two categories. One is the traditional category of essentials and the second constitutes modern living essential. The immediate impact of price rise is that it limits the access of common man only to necessities. Modern living essentials become a luxury for him. While negotiating the situation, a common household engages more and more members of a family.
Meanwhile, Covid infection continues to take toll of lives across the country. There seems no letup in the number of daily causalities. Opinions in favour of national lockdown are gaining momentum to curb the virus.
America’s top public health expert and White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, considered one of the world’s top infectious disease specialists, has recommended a nationwide lockdown as one of the measures to halt the invasion of the virus. “You don’t have to lock down for six months. You can lock down for a few weeks. Because when you walk down, it is well known, with the experience of other countries that locking down, definitely interferes with the dynamics of the viral outbreak and you could interfere with the continuity and the transmission of infection,” Dr Fauci said.
To conclude, it’s tricky situation. It needs a quick and effective strategy to control loss of lives and also to protect the economy. Otherwise, we are on the brink of yet another Covid-induced humanitarian crisis.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)