The central government on Tuesday directed all states and Union Territories to ensure strict adherence to the SOPs and guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in their respective jurisdictions. This comes about a year after India went for an initial Janta Curfew on March 23, 2020 when the pandemic first hit the country. What prompted the central government to issue this directive is an alarming rise in the number of cases in some pockets of the country of late. On March 22, India recorded 46,951 new coronavirus cases and 212 fatalities which is the highest spike since November 2021. The initiatives of the central government in tandem with the state governments and the Union Territories to prevent the spread of Covid-19 last year paid rich dividends in a country which is thickly populated and where hygiene and health facilities leave a lot to be desired. To address the initial dread prevailing in the country, the government rushed into action, imposing strict curbs on the movement of people and ensuring Covid-19-relevant behaviour which went a long way in stemming the spread of the disease, especially to the rural areas of the country as a majority of the cases reported were from urban areas. However, the achievements in this regard have somewhat led to complacency and a false sense of security. This was seen a few months after the pandemic first hit India when people started flouting the laid down rules and got down to their usual routines.
In the context of the North East region, this was very palpable in Guwahati where people without masks were a common sight even as the rest of the region was still imposing strict regulations on the general public. It did not take long for the business community in Assam to resume business and major commercial hubs of Guwahati such as Paltan Bazar and Pan Bazar to shed the fear of Covid-19 infection. Coming to the present day, this gains significance in light of the upcoming Assam assembly elections and the second wave of the virus which has already made ground in the country. With Guwahati being the gateway to most of the states in the North East and with no restrictions presently in place against intrastate and interstate movement of people and goods, this leaves the entire region highly vulnerable to a wave of new Covid-19 cases.
Taking note of the proximity with Meghalaya, which shares a 855-km interstate border with Assam, and considering the number of public gatherings as part of the election campaigns currently going on in Assam, our state now is in grave danger. While the state government here is banking on the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive, the truth of the matter is that many of the eligible beneficiaries here are hesitant to take the jab in light of the side effects thereof. Questions also abound about the efficacy of the Covid vaccines against the new strain of the virus which is being detected among the new patients. The need of the hour is for Meghalaya to nip this emerging problem in the bud before it becomes a full-blown crisis.