The new normal is here | HT Editorial – Editorials
The fourth phase of the blockade, announced by the government on Sunday, represents a departure from the last three phases. While the relaxations were gradually introduced in each phase, India is now opening up substantially. Interstate travel is allowed; markets, excluding shopping malls, will resume business; there will be more vehicular movement, even from taxi aggregators; now more people will return to the offices; and the daily rhythm of life, interrupted since March 25, will be restored to some extent. States have the authority to demarcate red, orange, and green zones, and will have more freedom to determine the extent of activity allowed in them. To be sure, there will be strict control in the containment zones, but the overall picture in Block 4.0 is of an India that is recovering.
Here is the paradox. India is opening on the same day that it approached 100,000 positive cases. Delhi has crossed 10,000 cases, the fourth state to have reached the number after Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. In the past fortnight, coronavirus disease also hit an additional 180 districts, bringing the total affected districts to more than 550. Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh witnessed the largest increase in the number of districts, which is mainly attributed to the return of migrant workers to their homes, which are now testing positive. This is the case at a time when most migrant workers have not yet returned home or have not been examined. So with more relaxation and travel, expect a further increase in numbers.
Remember that India imposed the blockade when there were only just under 500 cases. It is opening when there is a clear surge. The blockade, as this newspaper has argued, was producing diminishing returns on the health front and was causing economic devastation on an unprecedented scale. Relaxations are, therefore, legitimate. This period has also been used to increase health infrastructure to a limited degree, with more dedicated hospitals, test kits, personal protective equipment, the evolution of a health protocol around testing-tracking-treatment-isolation, and messaging. consistent on social distancing. India will now have to learn to live with this contradiction, between the increasing number of cases and the relaxations and the resumption of economic activity. Adapting to this “new normal” will not be easy. Government systems will be under stress. There will be more panic as more and more people test positive. But there is no choice. Citizens can do their part by complying with the rules of social distancing, wearing masks and taking precautions, while the State must guarantee that gains on the health front are not wasted, and that the balance between lives and livelihoods is managed as best as possible.