We are back, it seems,  to what we wanted for so long – to the normal routines before the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools and institutions are open, businesses big and small are up and running, there are no restrictions and Covid protocols like physical distancing are in the air with the virus. 

Life has returned to normal!

All this when the Omicron virus is on the surge, breaking records almost every day. Even the new daily records are not of much concern. There is no mass testing. Yet the cases reported are more than what is being reported in neighbouring India. Yesterday, India recorded 1,007 cases. We reported 1,367 cases. This is a huge number given our population. It is one in every 526 people. On Wednesday, it was 2,131– one in 337. If there is a mass testing carried out, the number could triple or even quadruple.

Omicron is not as severe as previous variants. By now many would have had at least a family member or a colleague testing positive for the virus. They have shared the experience and but for a few cases, it is like many said the common cold. 

Mild or severe, we will see a surge in cases in the next few weeks. There is no scientific study or medical evidence to support the statement, but going by the ground situation and circumstances, we can surmise that we are on the way to the peak. The recent surge is attributed to the opening of offices and schools. The virus is highly transmissible and the relaxation led to the surge.  Many are not testing knowing that they would have it or even recovered without any symptoms.

As Omicron is not severe, those testing positive are not concerned. The scene of a positive case rushed to isolation centre in an ambulance is forgotten. At the testing centres, results are dished out like tokens, positive or negative. The only advice is to stay home. Home, in today’s context,  is not the safest place if not the source of infections. Everybody says everyone will get it. All they hope is that the vulnerable group are spared or taken care. 

With thousands of students returning to school from Monday, and all the guard let down, there will be more cases. Health advisory like maintaining physical distance is impossible in government schools where about 40 to 45 students are cramped in one room. Both teachers and students are spreading the virus.  

We are living with the virus only praying that the new variant of the Omicron is not yet in the country and not as severe as the previous variants that took hundreds of thousands of lives. 

As we adjust to live with the Coronavirus, what is worth reflecting is if we learnt any lessons from a pandemic. The health crisis has exposed a lot of flaws and the society and government have realised it. The zoning systems for better urban governance, the importance of urban agriculture and the risk of depending on import of essentials, and the need to build a home grown labour force are all valuable lessons. Can we build on it? Or will it be forgotten as we return to “normal”.

The pressure on sustenance, the financial discipline the pandemic forced on us and the realisation of dependence on imports should stay even if the pandemic goes away. It has not going by available statistics. For instance, between March last year and March 31 this year, we have added 6,696 new vehicles on our roads. People are still borrowing and spending, perhaps because the Royal kidu and the fiscal and monetary measures have shielded them from the impact.

If a pandemic or a crisis cannot teach us to change, nothing will. A month ago, the streets were cleaner, quieter and people had time for family and physical activities. We have returned to normal and are back to square one.