IN a clearest sign so far that the Covid-19 pandemic is on its way out, the Centre on Wednesday announced that face masks are no longer compulsory during air travel. The latest decision has been taken in line with the government’s policy of a graded approach to COVID-19 management response. The airlines have been told that the in-flight announcements henceforth may only mention that passengers should preferably use mask in view of the threat posed by COVID-19. They have also been told that any specific reference to fine or penal action for not wearing the mask should be eschewed. Up until now, the use of masks or face covers while travelling on flights was mandatory.
The centre’s fresh directive follows the receding threat from the pandemic. This is apparent from the new Covid numbers. India only logged 635 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, while the active cases declined to 7,175, according to the latest data from the Union Health Ministry. Similarly fatalities have been reduced to just eleven. The active cases comprise now 0.02 per cent of the total infections and the national COVID-19 recovery rate has increased to 98.79 per cent. We seem to have come a long way when we realize that on January 25 this year India crossed the milestone of four crore infections.
Though India has recently witnessed the emergence of a new Omicron sub-variant XBB, which has led to some minor outbreaks here and there, the overall trend remains one of a steep decline in the cases. Though there is some cause for optimism here, things could still turn messy if the existing pandemic-related precautions are thrown to the winds. The Omicron wave early this year was gigantic in nature but its fallout was cushioned by the relatively moderate nature of the virus.
But the continuously mutating sub-variants of the Omicron virus could in time trigger yet another wave. So people have to continue to take care. It is too soon to abandon the masks or give up the use of sanitizers. The Standard Operating Procedure remain as relevant as it did when the pandemic broke out in early 2020. Meanwhile, we can celebrate our triumph on the Covid pandemic with the least number of Covid cases and fatalities to date. In Kashmir too, the drastic reduction in Covid cases is a cause for celebration. It is also a boon for tourism which has witnessed a bumper year so far with over one crore people visiting the union territory. We can’t afford to let this momentum slow down.
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