India records highest spike in COVID-19 cases in 2021. Whose to blame?

FILE PHOTO: PTI

By: Pallavi Keswani

On Wednesday, India reported the highest-ever spike in 76 days in daily reported cases of COVID-19. At 22,854, this was the highest spike in 2021, and as per a press release by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), “Bulk of these cases are from Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu”. This spike comes contrastingly at a time when India’s inoculation drive is gaining steam. The current ongoing election campaigning, along with a casual outlook by the public, may be to blame. 

Two of the aforementioned states are in the throes of intense election campaigning, which is charecterised by massive public rallies and on-ground work. While until December of last year, such public gatherings were also being compared against COVID-19 norms in the media, the current campaigners have a completely different outlook. Bigger, flashier, more crowded public rallies, without adequate social distancing, are being attended, and boasted by parties on both sides. 

A Gujarat High Court echoed the same sentiment with respect to the local civic polls, saying, “The elections of the various civic bodies at different levels and the carefree attitude of the people has once again spoilt the show”. 

Saamana, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece also took the opportunity to run an editorial saying, “Has the coronavirus been crushed under the huge crowds seen during campaigning for the West Bengal elections?”

While election fervour may explain COVID-19 norm lapses in poll-bound states, with Maharashtra it is the lax attitude of the public that has been repeatedly cited even by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

In Wednesday’s tally of COVID-19 cases, Maharashtra contributed almost 60% of the cases. The result of this was seen on Thursday when lockdown was reinstated in Nagpur from March 15th to March 21st. The step came after repeated warnings of the same by the Chief Minister, and even a suggestion on part of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), that they may ‘gatecrash’ wedding celebrations where protocols are not being flouted. 

In another statement, the BMC also proposed stricter guidelines for housing societies, which they claim contribute towards 90% of the new cases in Mumbai. 

This data exists in stark contrast to vaccination numbers that have been on the rise. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, India recorded a jump of around four lakh vaccinations, going from 9.22 lakhs to 13 lakhs. This comes after higher registrations in the Phase 2 of the inoculation drive.

(With media, agency inputs)