Express News Service
The country in general and the national capital in particular was badly ravaged by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. As per government figures, during this bout of Covid-19 surge, Delhi had over 14 lakh confirmed cases as of June 14, 2021, with over 24,000 fatalities.
Now we are faced with screaming headlines every morning of the likely arrival of the third wave, and accompanying claims by the government of how it was getting ready to face the possible menace. Here it would be worthwhile to recall what celebrated English poet TS Eliot once wrote in his vowed poem Hollow Men, “Between the idea, And the reality, Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow”.
The capital during the second wave saw acute shortage of oxygen, ICU beds and rampant profiteering by pharmacists and several hospitals. In a nutshell the health infrastructure of the city crumbled. The government failed to rise to the challenge, though the official stand would claim otherwise.
During the lockdown, we were served with news of Covid facilities having come up at Games Village (Akshar Dham) and Yamuna Sports facility. That they were almost bogus claims is evident from a post on a Covid survivor’s Facebook Wall, which said, “The set-up looked impressive at first sight. The hall was air-conditioned, lined with foldable cots as beds with brand new oxygen concentrators by their side. Young helpful volunteers moved around with tea, eatables and food packets.
However, in an hour of my stay, I realised there were no doctors to be seen. ‘They would come if there is an emergency,’ a fellow patient assured me. And then my oxygen concentrator blipped. Having experienced a blackout not long ago, I panicked. None of the uniformed volunteers knew how to fix the machine. Thankfully, a patient detached a tube, filled it with mineral water and re-started it. I knew the set-up was what it had been labelled: temporary.”
Now the Delhi government says that it would train 5,000 youths to assist doctors and nurses as part of preparations for a possible third wave of Covid-19. In an online briefing last week Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “I believe this move will strengthen our preparation for the third wave of Covid. Our aim is to learn from experiences across the globe such as the UK where the third wave has emerged, and to be fully prepared.”
But aren’t lessons better learnt when events closer home is compared with those across the globe. United Kingdom has been able to control the pandemic so far because of the National Health Service, the publicly funded national healthcare amenity in England. It was the strength of NHS to stand-up to the scourge of virus which saved the country from the kind of savagery we faced in the national capital.
Delhi’s debilitated healthcare system would not get any sinews by enrolling untrained health-volunteers but by adding capacity to the hospitals, whose bed-strength has been stagnant for the past seven years. As mentioned earlier in the survivor’s note, these volunteers are best at serving food and beverages but can’t even fix an oxygen concentrator if it conks off.
How Eliot would have described these every day announcements by the government? He had said in Hollow Men, “Shape without form, Shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion”. The blight of corona is so lethal because we have been failed by abject governance, which refuses to learn from its past mistakes. Pray that the third wave doesn’t come, if it still does, it would be another phase of pyres, burials and obituary insertions.
Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice