Now that someone as accomplished as Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO, has trashed imposing night-time curfew to slow down the Covid pandemic, policymakers ought to revisit their strategies. “Things like night curfew, there is no science behind it. One has to take evidence-based measures,” she recently said. Such curbs can possibly be justified in cities with a throbbing nightlife like Mumbai. They also served to empty beaches and places where people normally gather at the midnight hour to usher in the New Year, as the highly contagious droplets of the Omicron variant find easy hosts in congregations.
But elsewhere it made little sense other than creating the impression of a partial lockdown while not affecting the economy or normal life. The psy-ops conjured up the smokescreen of the executive erecting its first barriers against the invisible parasite while doing nothing in real terms. It also gave the police a free pass to harass late diners and throttle the already hobbled leisure sector. The problem with such partial lockdowns is they are mindlessly imposed across the globe with little scientific reasoning. There are some theories that suggest the Covid droplets may not survive night-time temperatures in winter but they have not been conclusively established.
The bigger problem, of course, is that such myopic directives give netas the licence to nonchalantly hold big election rallies before sundown. All Covid protocols of masking, public distancing and frequent sanitising of hands are completely ignored, what with the leaders on the dais, too, failing to lead by example of putting on masks. It happened during the first wave in Bihar and the second wave in Bengal and elsewhere. The template is being repeated now, when the third wave has just about begun.
The EC’s ability to play neutral umpire would be shortly tested when it imposes the model code of conduct in five states that are due to go to polls around February. Its barks during the second wave without any follow-up bite left it with a bloody nose. The EC cannot afford to slip up this time around. As for night curfew, let’s not fool ourselves. It’s time to end the charade.