Covid-19: What you need to know today
On March 18, when the first edition of this column was written – it appeared the following day – India had 151 cases of the coronavirus disease.
On March 24, when a three-week lockdown starting the following day was announced , India had 536 cases.
On April 15, when the second phase of the lockdown began, the number of cases had risen to 12,330.
On May 4, when the third phase of the lockdown started, the number of cases was 46,388.
On May 18, the fourth phase of the lockdown, or the first phase of the staged exit from one, although the government scrupulously avoided describing it as such, kicked off. The number of cases: 100,311.
And today, June 1, India enters what the home ministry calls Unlock 1.0, the next phase of the exit from the lockdown with 190,533 cases.
The number of people with active infections on each of these dates were: 151 (March 18); 486 (March 24); 10,398 (April 15); 32,143 (May 4); 58,040 (May 18); and 93,362 (May 31).
And the cumulative death tolls on those dates were: 3;10; 423; 1,494; 3,081; and 5,328 (May 31).
Flights started last Monday; around 200 more trains (minus a few; not all states are ready to receive trains) will start running today, adding to 15 pairs of special trains that currently ply between Delhi and 15 major destinations (and to the Shramik specials for migrant workers); freer inter-state movement has been allowed (although states can continue to insist on special passes to cross into them); and restaurants, malls and temples will open in a week’s time (next Monday).
It isn’t just India. The rest of the world is opening up as well. The United Kingdom, one of the worst hit by the crisis – 274,762 cases and 38,489 deaths as of Sunday – is actually opening primary schools today. And the English Premier League will start on June 17. Some countries in Europe are opening up international travel – and have said they will receive tourists from countries they deem safe. And on Sunday in Italy, one of the early hotspots of the disease (233,019 cases and 33,415 deaths as of Sunday), the Pope appeared to bless the crowds at St Peter’s Square, something he hasn’t done since March, when the country announced a lockdown. Sure, nothing will be the same – the children in the UK primary schools will have to follow a bunch of new rules, and the EPL will be for television only – but it is clear that nations around the world are slowly exhaling.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise – despite the fact that infections continue to rise (the number of new cases around the world has steadily inched upward). The number of daily deaths around the world is off its peaks seen in mid-April, but still high. If countries are opening up it’s because of three reasons: one, they can no longer afford to stay locked up -- the impact on the economy is far too significant, although, as Paul Krugman recently wrote in the New York Times , “when we take the value of not dying into account, the rush to reopen looks like a really bad idea, even in terms of economics properly understood.”
Two, many countries, including India, think they understand Covid-19 well enough to manage it and that whatever lockdowns they have imposed have given them time to do this and to also prepare their health care systems.
Three, there is a growing realisation that all of us have to learn to live with the coronavirus disease – that the risk-return equation that pretty much drives everything in this world can be recalibrated towards returns by taking basic precautions. Such as masks. And hand washing. And social distancing. And accepting that there will be temporary setbacks – a school closed; a district contained; a city locked-up again.
Welcome to the great unlock. And all the best.