India registered 100,636 new cases on June 7, the lowest in 61 days. The devastating second wave now seems to be on the decline as the country is seeing a steady downward trajectory of new infections and active cases. The active caseload saw a net decline of 76,190 Covid-19 cases, with a positivity rate at 4.85 per cent, according to government data. The situation in the capital, Delhi has also improved enormously. Of the 76,857 people in the city who were tested over 24 hours, 381 came out positive, bringing the city’s positivity rate down to 0.5%, according to the government health bulletin issued on June 6. This is the lowest positivity rate that Delhi has witnessed since March 9, when a positivity rate of 0.48% with 320 cases had been recorded.
With the consistent decline in the Covid caseload, cities and states have begun relaxing the lockdown by gradually easing coronavirus-induced restrictions. Starting from June 7, Delhi has relaxed the lockdown and moved into the next phase of the un-lockdown process. Markets and shopping malls can now reopen on the basis of an odd-even system, while Delhi Metro services have resumed with 50% capacity. Relaxations have also been announced in Maharashtra, where a lockdown was imposed in the middle of April. Other states have also begun opening up. The process and speed differ from state to state as the progress of the second wave of Covid followed a different timetable in different parts of India.
With the situation easing up, an aggressive vaccination drive is on the cards. The prime minister announced that the Central government will now be responsible for procuring Covid-19 vaccines starting from the next two weeks. Vaccines will be available free of cost for all above 18 years. Those who want to pay can get it at private centres. In an address to the nation, the PM said that private hospitals can continue to procure 25% of vaccines. The Central government will buy 75% of the total vaccine production from manufacturers and give it free to the state governments.
More than 232 million vaccine doses have already been administered at the beginning of this week, since the start of the vaccination drive on January 16.
During the devastating second wave, the number of Covid cases with breathing difficulties suddenly went up, creating a spurt in the demand for medical oxygen in the country. This increase in demand was unprecedented and unimaginably high. In his address to the nation on June 7, the prime minister explained that never in the history of India had the need for medical oxygen been felt in such quantity. An all-out effort was made to get medical oxygen from all corners of the world and from one part of the country to the other at the time of the shortage.
With this gradual opening of the country, workplaces too are starting to look at options to begin or ramp up their operations. For over a year now, people have been working from home. Companies and employees have tried to find ways of continuing their operations with large geographies under lockdown. Very often, this has involved the creation of new infrastructure and equipment. Several small offices even surrendered their premises to save on rent for unused premises. Moreover, the second wave may have subsided, but Covid-19 is yet to be defeated. Any carelessness can trigger the dreaded third wave. Under these circumstances, a number of people do not feel confident or are disinclined to go back to workplaces. Surveys have shown that an overwhelming majority of people prefer to continue with the current arrangement of work from home. A number of people have even started enquiring about the option of working from home when looking for a new job. Where possible, companies are looking at continuing the present arrangements.
Hybrid options with the possibility of working from home in combination with working from office premises on a restricted number of days are being devised. Some companies are trying to move to smaller towns with residential premises for the employees located next to the workplace.
We’re witnessing a historical moment. The world as we know it will undergo several changes, with interesting and hopefully positive changes. The implications of these changes require attention and understanding as they will have a bearing on many of our lives.