Know which stage of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic we are in now.
No, I am not going to get into a discussion on whether we are seeing community transmission in India, a subject on which the health ministry is strangely touchy.
Nor am I going to resort to numbers other than to say what this column has said at least five or six times (this is the 76th instalment of this column; there will be things I repeat; actually, I’ve said this too — that I will repeat things — before): the only number that matters is the number of daily deaths. The number of cases is largely irrelevant because we are clearly not testing enough (positivity rates, the proportion of positive cases to tests done, continue to rise); ergo, we have no idea about the true prevalence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus here. As for the daily deaths, they are, unfortunately, increasing, and touched 300 on Friday. Even if they stay at this level, India will record 10,000 Covid-19 deaths in the next 33 days.
But I digress; like I said at the beginning of this column, I know which stage of the Covid-19 pandemic we are in now.
We are in a stage where many of us know people (people like us, may I add) who have been infected with the virus. The people behind the numbers we see in the papers are no longer nameless and anonymous. We know the names of some; we know their stories (and back stories); some of them are our friends and we know their dreams and aspirations; some of them are related to us.
We know them.
The good news is that not all of them are ill enough to require hospitalisation. Many show no symptoms. Others have mild infections and should recover in a few days.
But suddenly, there seems to be a lot of people who have the coronavirus disease.
Earlier this week, I met a colleague for the first time in two months. He told me that there were five cases of coronavirus in his gated enclave (in Delhi). Two days later, we met again — the number had gone up to 12, he said.
My health editor tells me there is a case in the house opposite hers.
A former colleague from Mumbai (and, for good measure, his wife) both had mild cases and went into home quarantine.
Another former colleague from Mumbai tells me his apartment block is like an island (because it has no cases) and is surrounded on all sided by apartments where there are cases.
The same is true of Chennai to some extent — despite living in Delhi for almost a quarter of a century, Chennai is home, and it is where my old parents live.
Bengaluru would appear to be an exception, but part of my brain refuses to accept the fact that a city as connected to the outside world as Bengaluru has as few cases as it does.
In addition to knowing people who have been infected, many of us are also seeing, on social media, horror stories of people who need to be hospitalised but can’t find any beds, or those who need to be tested (in some cases, because a member of their family died of Covid-19) but aren’t being tested.
In short, the information is coming at us from all sides. It can be overwhelming.
At such times, it’s important to remember what the good book said: Don’t Panic.
Masks, gloves (when venturing out shopping), hand washing, and social distancing are all that are required — and perhaps now, more than ever.
Remember the early days of the lockdown in India when you were oh-so-careful and tentative about venturing out unless absolutely necessary? It’s time to return to that mode and hunker down even while we ensure that life and work don’t suffer.
It can, will, and should be a real janata curfew.