The Telangana government believes there is no need for a total lockdown as the Covid-19 scourge is fully under its control. Interestingly, it is the only state in India where there is neither a total nor partial lockdown except for a night curfew. But the Telangana High Court is not so gung-ho about its newfound optimism that it can tame the demon. It suggested at least a weekend lockdown but the state is not in favour of that either. The government maintains there is no empirical evidence that a lockdown would curb virus spread. Instead, it argues a shutdown would cripple the state’s economy besides killing livelihoods.
But the figures paint a different picture. Telangana stands at the 23rd position in terms of the percentage of the population vaccinated with at least one dose. Of the 3.76 crore people, only 11% have received at least one dose and only 2% both the doses. The positivity rate for the last one week was 8.5%, which is 3.5% more than the WHO threshold. The positivity rate should be less than 5% for two weeks in a row to arrive at the conclusion that the infection is plateauing. There is no disputing that 8.5% on May 9 is less given the high rates of positivity in states like Goa (47.9%), Uttarakhand (37.3%) and so on. But it is still a cause for concern.
There is also an argument that the relatively small positivity rate is due to low testing. The number of those tested came down to as few as 55,358 on May 9 even when the High Court has been insisting on one lakh tests per day. The contention may be that the positivity rate will remain constant regardless of how many tests are done. But as we are dealing with an exponentially increasing Covid-19 infection, the argument might not hold water.
On the flip side, the state has made some right moves. It has been stocking up enough oxygen in hospitals and is also providing the poor five kg of rice per head free of cost for two months. The chief minister’s decision to appoint on ad hoc basis a large number of doctors from among 50,000 students who have completed their MBBS courses is another positive. The fight against the pandemic will be long drawn and the government will have to stay the course.