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Omicron: Can We Leave It All In The Hand Of Gods?

18/01/2022 at 11:27 AM

By Sutanu Guru

Executive Director, C-Voter Research Foundation

A personal family anecdote will perhaps best explain the peculiar behaviour of Indians as they struggle now with the Omicron variant of Corona which is far more infectious though less fatal (as of yet) than the previous variants. I am an unknown entity in the state. But my niece, the champion shooter Shriyanka Sadangi is perhaps known to many people in Odisha. She has been going out virtually everyday to practice and even competed in tournaments ever since the total lockdown was lifted in the summer of 2020. Mercifully, she has not been infected. Her younger brother has taken every possible precaution since March, 2020. Yet he was infected during the first wave. And again recently by the Omicron variant. One relative reflected philosophically: It is all in the hand of Gods.

That made me think. Yes, luck does play a role in life as well as Corona. But is it wise to leave it all in the hand of the Gods and abandon our own responsibilities when it comes to being careful and taking precautions as Omicron cases surge across the country. According to the government of India website, (https://www.mygov.in/covid-19/) India reported more than  2,71,000 cases in the 24 hours leading up to late night January 15, 2022. This despite a reduction in the number of tests in some key states where the number of cases have been growing alarmingly. At the national level, the number of daily cases peaked during the second wave at more than 4 lakhs. We are poised to cross that by the end of this month. In states like Delhi and West Bengal, the number of daily cases has already crossed levels reached during the second wave.

And yet, a majority of Indians seem to display inexplicable and unpardonable carelessness despite the record speed at which the Omicron variant is spreading. It is easy to blame politicians and parties for taking out rallies and assembling crowds for super spreader events even in these dangerous times. Indeed, politicians are to blame. But what about us: the ordinary Indians ? C-Voter conducted and released results of a snap poll on January 5, 2022 just as the third wave seemed imminent. They were distressing, and disturbing. So far, we have heard of anecdotal evidence of careless people not taking even basic precautions.

Here is evidence straight from the horse’s mouth. When asked if ordinary Indians were seen to be wearing masks and taking other precautions while stepping out of the house, 31.8% of the respondents said they did not see people wearing masks on the roads. More than 41% of the respondents said they saw people wearing masks and taking other precautions “sometimes”. Only 21.8% of the respondents said they observed people taking all precautions. This is literally leaving “it all in the hand of Gods”; forgetting that other dictum: God helps only those who help themselves.

Almost every respondent was aware of the horror and devastation inflicted by the second wave during the summer of 2021 when tens of thousands died simply because they could not access oxygen, medicines or hospital beds. The official death tally during the second wave is estimated at about 2.5 lakh though ordinary people as well as scientists think the actual figure could be far higher. Given the scale of devastation and the extent of misery and tragedy, common sense would have dictated that Indians would try and not repeat the mistakes made by them during the second wave. Not to be, sadly.

Not repeating the same mistakes meant avoiding going to markets and shopping malls unless it was necessary; avoid going on holidays and avoid attending weddings and other functions unless necessary. The corollary was: if you must go, please wear masks and take other basic precautions. Most Indians didn’t, leading to the second wave. Most Indians continue to repeat the same mistakes which has resulted in the third wave being upon us. More than 52% of the respondents in the survey admitted that ordinary Indians were making the same mistakes made during the second wave. Another 24.3% admitted that at least some mistakes were being repeated. A sociologist might well be tempted to ask: Is this a collective death wish?

The only feeble response that people who continue to remain careless, apart from leaving it all in the hand of the Gods, is to point out how the Omicron variant is less deadly and how a majority of patients are recovering in less than a week without needing to be hospitalised. For the moment, they might be partly right. At 304 deaths recorded by official government data on January 15, 2022, the figure does appear insignificant for a country with a population of almost 1.4 billion or 140 crore. Yet, no scientist in the world can predict if the Omicron variant can mutate into something far more dangerous and deadly. What if it does? It is for this reason that scientists and doctors have grown tired of repeating the same advice over and over again: please wear masks and take all other basic precautions. It could save your and your family members’s lives. Alas.

The interesting thing is that Indians are not as anti-science or as superstitious as some racist journalists from the west want us to believe. The fact is, more than 87% of Indians are either committed to or seriously consider giving vaccine doses to their children when it becomes available for them. That’s remarkable. Even more remarkable is the fact that that the survey found out that 98% adult and eligible Indians were ready and willing to take the vaccine in December, 2021. That’s possibly the lowest  vaccine hesitancy rate in the world. At least better than the antics thrown by people like tennis super star Novak Djokovic who is adamant about not taking the vaccine and also risk infecting others by playing the Australian Open tournament. Besides, close to 90% of Mumbai will be fully vaccinated by the end of January while New York authorities in the United States do not expect the figure to cross 80%. Compare the wealth, medical infrastructure and completely free availability of vaccines in the two countries and marvel at India’s achievement. By end of the month, India with an adult population of 900 million would have completed about 1.65 billion doses. But India’s numbers are so huge that even a small percentage left out means tens of millions remain vulnerable.

Touch wood and thanks to Lord Jagannath, my niece Shriyanka Sadangi has not been infected despite the dangers inherent in practice sessions and tournaments. But please, lets wear masks and not leave everything in the hand of Gods.

About the Author:

After his masters degree in economics, Sutanu Guru has been a journalist for more than 30 years in media outlets like Times of India, Economic Times, Business Today, Business World, Business India & others. Currently, he focuses more on research and writing.

DISCLAIMER

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com

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