A rapid surge in coronavirus cases prompted WHO to declare COVID-19—the disease caused by the virus—a pandemic, which means that nearly every human on Earth (close to 8 billion) is now susceptible to it. The disease has killed, till now, over 4,000 people and infected over 118,000 across 114 countries.
In India, drastic measures have been taken—suspension of all visas, except diplomatic and job-related, till April 15 as the number of coronavirus cases has crossed 60 in the country. Indians were “strongly advised” to cancel all non-essential travel abroad. Health advisories are broadcast through cell phones; primary schools are closed in some states; people are avoiding large gatherings and face masks are an ubiquitous accessory. And, of course, namaste, or namuste, as Trump would call it, is fashionable again.
Life, however, goes on. A Sikh gurdwara in Delhi offers food and a mask. Women cook Pongala—an offering of rice, jaggery and coconut gruel—over an open flame in the Attukal Pongala festival in Kerala. Residents of Worli, Mumbai, burn an effigy of “Corona-sur” at Holi; Union minister Ramdas Athawale chants “Go corona, go corona” with Buddhist monks. The measures are exhaustive—from quarantine to havans—and you can’t wash your hands off them.