Experts warn of serious implication if complacency sets in 

Younten Tshedup

Daily new Covid-19 cases are breaking records in India as the country grapples with a highly contagious and lethal second wave of the pandemic.

On Monday, India set a new record of 168,912 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours overtaking Brazil as the second-most affected country in the world.

With record new cases, India’s overall Covid-19 cases reached 13.53 million (M), surpassing Brazil’s 13.45M cases, according to data compiled by Reuters. However, more than the numbers, experts in India say that the rate at which the positive cases are being detected, are more worrying. India’s positivity rate has quadrupled in the last one month.

India has recorded more than 873,000 cases in the one week — an increase of 70 percent compared to the previous week, according to data compiled by AFP news agency.

In comparison, Brazil recorded 497,000 cases with an increasing trend of 10 percent from the previous week. The US reported just under 490,000 cases with a rising trend of nine percent.

Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal are the hotspots in India. West Bengal alone detected more than 2,500 cases in the last 24 hours according to data maintained by India’s health ministry.

The high number of cases recorded in these states are because of the high rate of tests according to Indian media. In August last year, a survey conducted by a leading private laboratory in India, showed that one in four people in India may have been infected by the novel coronavirus.

What does this mean for Bhutan? 

While India, the country’s immediate neighbour is grappling with a surge in new cases, Bhutan is already experiencing its implication inside the country.

The health ministry’s Covid-19 dashboard is recording new cases on a daily basis. Besides the returnees from Bangladesh, all other positive cases detected from the quarantine centres are those coming from India.

Majority of these people are expatriates coming to work in Bhutan. This comes as a result of resumption of construction works with the improving Covid-19 situation within the country. 

Health experts in the country warn that in the long run, this would burden the country. Shortage of quarantine facilities, risk of importation of new variants of the virus, and a possible source of another outbreak in the country are some of the implications foreseen if the practise continues.

“While we understand that Covid-19 have stalled major projects and business activities for many, not being careful at this stage could cost us even more,” said a health official. “We cannot become complacent, not until the situation in India improves.”

She said that reports of the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are found to be more virulent (spreads more easily) and cause serious illness among the young population, if infected. “India should come as an example. When you don’t follow preventive measures, the virus will harm you even with the vaccination.”

In the light of the increasing cases in the neighbouring states in India, health officials said that there is a need to review the existing strategy in the country.

The surge in India comes at a time when the country has administered over 109M doses of the vaccine to its population. There are however reports of some states running out of vaccines.

Complacency has been attributed as the main reason for the ongoing surge of new Covid-19 cases in India. The World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday blamed “confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application” for the rising number of deaths and new cases in many countries including India. 

Bhutan too is seeing complacency setting in especially following the vaccination programme. Health experts say letting the guards now would trigger serious implications including multiple lockdowns, disruptions in livelihood and even deaths.