Life is set to return to 'new normal' today (Sunday). The government on Thursday through a notification ended the 66-day unscheduled holiday declared in a staggered manner following the outbreak of deadly Covid-19. A few restrictions that came along with the holiday -- many, however, tend to describe the period as 'shutdown' or 'lockdown' -- to rein in the highly contagious disease have been largely relaxed for the sake of restarting economic activities.
The economy, as happened in most other countries, has been devastated by the pandemic with people in their thousands becoming jobless and losing reliable sources of income. Hard hit were the poor and low-income people. Predictions are that there would be reversal of a three-decade-old trend with substantial number of people again falling into the poverty trap. Saving livelihood, thus, has become an issue of paramount importance. Yet the policymakers cannot be oblivious of the need for protecting lives.
The government has decided to reopen offices and restart economic activities at a time when the cases of Covid-19 infection and death have been rising unabatedly. None knows for sure when the disease will reach its 'peak' and start going downward. A number of countries that opened up their economies in limited scale following decline in Covid cases had to re-impose restrictions following resurgence of new infections. South Korea is a case in point. The country on Friday again declared its schools closed after spike in coronavirus cases.
Understandably, the government has decided to reopen the economy, albeit in a 'limited' scale for the sake of saving livelihoods. However, relaxations do carry certain conditions such as mandatory maintenance of social distancing and restricted movement of public transports. But experts are sceptical about strict enforcement of health safety standards as a sizeable number of people are seen bothering least about the need for wearing masks and maintaining safe distance while they are in public places. The relevant authorities were also found not adequately serious about enforcing restrictions.
With most restrictions gone, stricter compliance with the health safety measures has become essential more than any time before . Any deviation would only create risk of infection rate going up and also the number of deaths. The Covid-related statistics released by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) during the past few days would only substantiate that fact. The country's health system is largely incapable of handling such a massive health emergency. Further hike in infection would only make the situation worse.
It has now become highly imperative for the citizens to be adequately conscious about health safety rules and for the government monitoring properly the compliance with the same at all levels. The official notification asks the offices, business establishments, industrial units, public transports etc., to undertake certain safety measures. In most cases, those are flouted, and flouted with impunity. The government will have to ensure social distancing and wearing of masks while people are outside their homes. Authorities might consider introducing fines for not complying with health safety rules. Otherwise, it would be hard to contain the ongoing spike in coronavirus infection rates.
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