Coronavirus: What you need to know today
Bollywood singer, Kanika Kapoor, provided, on Friday, a demonstration of how the network effect works in possibly spreading infections. Kapoor, who returned from the United Kingdom last week, traveled from Mumbai to Lucknow, where she participated in public events attended by local and national political leaders.
One of these leaders, Dushyant Singh, subsequently attended Parliament, and even visited Rashtrapati Bhavan, along with other parliamentarians from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (including some senior Cabinet ministers), for a breakfast with India’s first citizen.
Several leaders, including the former chief minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, and Uttar Pradesh minister Jai Pratap Singh self-quarantined themselves. As did many MPs who met Singh in Parliament.
Some of the guests said they had no idea Kapoor had visited London; Kapoor herself said no one had told her about the need for a self-quarantine. And, as evident from the number of people she met, the concept of social distancing was clearly alien to her.
As of Friday, there were 236 infections in India, with the number increasing by 50 over the previous 24 hours, the most in one day thus far. Globally, deaths have crossed 10,000 and infections 250,000. Although the government continues to maintain that there have been no cases of community transmission in India yet.
Friday was also the first real day of a near-lockdown in many states. Maharashtra announced measures to the effect; Delhi announced more, and other states followed suit. It is clear that while everyone is preparing for the “Janta Curfew” on Sunday, called by Prime Minister Modi, they are also preparing for an extended and perhaps extensive lockdown. After all, Modi did ask Indians to give him a few of their weeks. Given Friday’s spike in cases, the next few weeks could be critical for India.
On Friday, Modi followed up his Thursday address to the nation with a video conference with chief ministers of states, discussing measures taken and yet to be taken to contain the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, on the scientific front, the race is on to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. It’s a challenge that involves several mini-challenges – from shortening the time involved in development to understanding the so-called “immunity period”. Even the best-case scenario is that a vaccine will not be available till we are well into 2021. That explains why there’s so much hype around alternatives – not alternatives as in the snake oil that some in India have been trying to pitch, but drugs that could cure Covid-19.