Happy goodbye: If you don’t see a Covid story here, smile

Happy goodbye: If you don’t see a Covid story here, smile

Updated: 2 months, 2 days, 23 hours, 28 minutes, 21 seconds ago

If Indian politics is a theatre, Tamil Nadu is a multiplex. Where cigarette flicks and dark glasses are the perennial symbols of style and substance, sycophancy does a tandava over psephology. And with the players ensconced in the ministerial thrones in Delhi, it is no longer just a southern delight. Arun Ram, Resident Editor, The Times of India, Tamil Nadu, who alternates between the balcony and the front row, says it incites as much as it excites. During the intervals, he chews on a bit of science and such saner things. LESS ... MORE

Let’s begin at the end. We, the print editions of The Times of India in Tamil Nadu, are stopping the daily coverage of Covid numbers. We will, however, continue to track the disease, record the spikes and dips, and analyse emerging trends. India is not yet among the countries that have declared Covid-19 an endemic, but the numbers – if they are true – indicate that we are almost there. An endemic means a disease that is here to stay, in a contained way, not exploding in numbers and filling our ICUs. In other words, we’ve just added another infectious disease – such as dengue, malaria and chickenpox – to our list of occasional infections, and we have to deal with it. So, no point in telling you every day if the number of people who tested positive for Covid-19 the previous day is 25 or 26.

We have had a roller coaster ride – literally, with three peaks and falls, besides intermittent bumps – with variants and sub-variants of the virus. So far, the virus has infected more than 640 million people and killed more than 6.6 million across the world. In India, more than 44 million were infected and some 5,30,000 people have died. Tamil Nadu, with a total infected population of close to 36 lakh, has kept the fatality rate (1.06%) below the national average (1.19%), though slightly above the global average (1.04%). No fresh case has been reported from 27 of the 38 districts in the state; four districts have been reporting just a case or two.

Nobody rules out another surge of the diabolical pathogen, but research and resilience have readied us to mitigate better. The coronavirus has left enough stories of loss and escape for everyone to tell. I had a near brush with the virus a little before it was named. I was in China in the second week of January 2020 (Only later did we come to know the SARS-CoV-2 virus had been in circulation in China by the end of December 2019). India reported the first case, in Kerala, on January 27, and three days later WHO announced the pandemic as a public health emergency of international concern.

Now I was worried: Soon after I returned, I had fallen ill with high-grade fever, sore throat and body aches – all tell-tale symptoms of Covid-19 as we know it now. I was back to normal, but was I infected? I did an anti-body test and the result was good and bad: Good that I hadn’t caught the infection; bad that I had no antibodies, which meant I could get infected. I escaped the first two waves, during which virtually everyone in my family was infected, but the third one got me.

Like many of you, I have tried desperately to arrange oxygen for a dear one, watched helplessly as another died. In this column dated March 30, 2020, I wrote: “We may not eradicate it soon, but we will make sure it doesn’t cohabit with us.” I was wrong – it may cohabit with us for long. But I stand by the last paragraph I wrote two years and eight months ago: Our moment of deliverance will be when the last Covid-19 patient is cured – when we bask in the sun, feel the sand between our toes, listen to the sparrows that would have returned to our balconies, smell the roses that have grown on our unattended kerbs and un-manicured gardens, shake a friend’s hand over the hedge, and yet not wash our hands.

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Views expressed above are the author's own.