Come out of isolation mode and shore up preparedness
The country is going to undertake a massive airlift operation from tomorrow to finally bring back Indian nationals stuck abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first seven days, 64 flights will operate to bring back close to 15,000 Indians from 12 countries that include six countries in the Gulf plus the US, UK, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. The number of Indians registering to return has already hit the 2 lakh mark and could finally end up around the 4 lakh figure. Meanwhile, around a thousand Indians stranded in the Maldives are being brought back by two amphibious (relating to, living in, or suited for both land and water) warships of the navy.
The returning citizens, combined with efforts to send back domestic migrant workers to their home towns, present a new challenge in India’s Covid-19 fight. They all need to be quarantined and put under observation to ensure they don’t become new points of infection for the population. States need to set up large facilities to screen and isolate the arriving citizens, have adequate (sufficient) testing resources at hand, and strictly monitor the suspect cases.
All of this is part of the recognition that we as a nation have to live with Covid-19 till a time a cure or a vaccine is found for the disease. The lockdown period was meant to prepare our healthcare and administrative infrastructure to take on this challenge. So the real test begins now when a relative degree of normalcy has to be restored along with managing Covid cases. And to do this successfully, all the states and the Centre must work together seamlessly. Over the last few weeks, there has been a tendency to politicise Covid-19 numbers which in some cases have translated into dystopian (relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice) policy measures such as cutting off whole districts or erecting barriers between states. This must not happen anymore as living with Covid-19 means cases might rise but we are prepared to handle any infection spurts (shoot). It is time to get out of isolation mode and fill the gaps in administrative and healthcare preparedness.