As time’s inexorable march continues, one thing has become abundantly clear. Novel coronavirus won’t disappear soon. Governments battling the pandemic worldwide are trying to restore normalcy in a graded manner. Is that risky? It is, yet governments must take these risks since the wheels of activity must move to get life back on track.
For India, October 15 shall be a crucial day. The Government of India has issued new guidelines for relaxing several restrictions that have been in place so far. Whether or not there is a surge after their implementation will decide if these relaxations need to be withdrawn or modified.
The Minister of Home Affairs has decided to reopen cinema halls and theatres with up to 50 per cent of their seating capacity. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a minimum social distance of 1m to prevent the spread of coronavirus, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been emphasising on the need for twice as much social distance in his speeches for a long time.
Maintaining a 2m gap between two individuals is an unrealistic thought even as a short-term strategy. It just cannot work. What remains to be seen is whether or not filling up 50 per cent of the theatres or cinema halls will boomerang – if they manage to register such a high percentage of attendance in the first place.
One sector that has been hit hard is education. Students have lost out on critical days and months with the overwhelming majority that has no access to online learning or distance education suffering a lot more.
State and UT Governments will decide on the reopening of schools and coaching institutions after October 15. They will do that in a graded manner in consultation with the school or institute management. Physical attendance of the student will be permitted only after written parental consent. Online teaching and distance learning shall be the preferred mode of teaching and actively encouraged.
Schools will have to follow the SOP issued by the Education Departments of their respective States and UTs. Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education may decide on the timing of the opening of Colleges/ Higher Education Institutions in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Here too, online teaching and distance learning shall be the preferred mode of teaching and actively encouraged.
It is difficult to foresee a scenario in which most parents will allow their children to attend schools or coaching institutions right away. Worried that they might contract the dreaded disease, they will prefer to follow a wait-and-watch policy.
If there is no surge after the reopening, the majority will decide to send their children to schools once again. But what if there is, a scary possibility since youngsters, as this columnist has said earlier, might disobey every advice once emancipated from parental supervision at home? That is a serious concern.
Responsible conduct, which translates into adherence to SOP, can ensure that B2B exhibitions are held smoothly.
Reopening of entertainment parks and similar venues must be accompanied by rigid adherence to SOP in the absence of which the possibility of a surge cannot be ruled out.
Swimming pools being allowed to reopen but limiting their use for the training of sportspersons is a cautious step, which is understandable because reopening them for the general public can easily lead to unintentional violation of SOP.
The days after October 15 shall be closely observed. The establishment will feel more confident and the masses relatively secure if the decisions made by the former do not hurt badly.