India has succeeded in bending the COVID-19 curve. With the number of people getting infected by the lethal virus and fatality rate coming down significantly in recent months, it occasionally seems that the old normal will make a comeback once again.

The nation has been hit hard, but it has learned several lessons along the way. It has, for instance, learned that the impact of a pandemic isn’t confined to affecting people’s health. It hurts the economy, too, in ways we cannot imagine.

With the healthcare machinery far better prepared to deal with new patients today, vaccinations for the masses underway and the sting of the virus less potent than earlier – or, so it seems – can we state that the worst phase of the pandemic is behind us?

A specific answer to this question is elusive. Signs of relaxation suggest that the establishment is becoming increasingly confident. An instance is the Government of Assam’s decision to discontinue mandatory testing at railway stations, land routes and airports from March 1, 2021.

The decision has been taken after considering the facts of declining COVID19 cases and vaccinations being carried out across the state.

At the same time, there is enough to suggest that the virus won’t be conquered anytime soon. One news item from Bengaluru rang the alarm bell loudly after 103 people from an apartment complex in Bommanahalli tested positive after a party in the complex premises.

Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad confirmed that 103 people out of 1,052 residents had tested positive. “We have tested 1,052 residents of the apartment; one person is admitted in the hospital and others are in quarantine.”

Just one horror story of this kind can spread fear and unease in society. Social distancing must have gone for a toss at the party. Guests would have removed their marks to have a bite, enhancing the possibility of transmission.

The happening, in short, is a grim reminder that the virus is striking the hapless when it can.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that two other SARS=CoV-2 variants have entered India.

This has been acknowledged by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), whose Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava reportedly said that four cases of the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2 and one of the Brazilian variant have been detected. Passengers from abroad were reportedly infected

That 187 cases of the UK variant have been detected already is another disturbing fact, and the best we can do is hope that it will not cause considerable damage. Not much is known about the Brazilian and South African variants, which make them potentially even more dangerous than their counterpart from the UK about which a lot is known and understood.

India has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic at its worst. Dedicated medical professionals working overtime in hospitals and healthcare centres have proved to be the unsung heroes, and those in research labs have battled hard to produce vaccines capable of stopping the spread of the disease.

Much has been achieved on all fronts, a partial revival of the tottering economy included. A lot remains unanswered while new variants have entered India How long will it take before their threat is over and we breathe freely once again? It might happen soon if we are lucky but take months if we are not.

Biswadeep Ghosh

Biswadeep Ghosh is an author and freelance journalist. He has been a part of the India media for three decades. Among his books is MSD: The Man The Leader, the bestselling biography of cricketer MS Dhoni....