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State action: On Centre’s role in COVID-19 fight

Instead of dictating how States deal with the pandemic, the Centre must be a facilitator

No fewer than 18 States have imposed various grades of lockdown or curfews. Some only lay stress on shutting down marketplaces whereas others are more reminiscent of the curbs of March and April last year. These restrictions are expected to be in force at least till the third week of this month. Many of the States with the highest positivity rates and growth in infections have already imposed restrictions on the main sources of continued spread. These include religious gatherings, social functions and leisure visits to public entertainment spaces. A ‘national lockdown’ at this stage has only cosmetic value. India’s economy was already in a nosedive before March 2020 and the sudden imposition wreaked havoc on the migrant workforce. The brutality of the second wave has burnished the importance of masking up and opting for a vaccine as early as possible. In the absence of newer effective treatments, these continue to be the mainstay in staying safe. A lesson that has emerged from the pandemic is that States are best equipped to take care of themselves with the Centre doing its job best while acting as a facilitator. Central Ministers, armed with the best medical experts, had declared early this year that India was in the ‘end game’ of the pandemic and that India had “shown the world” how to beat it. Instead, the Centre must focus on distributing equitably across States vaccines, oxygen tankers, testing kits and other critical medical equipment while also accounting for a potential third wave.

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