HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar Garhwal, Uttarakhand
We are collectively facing a pandemic threat that is sweeping across the humanity beyond oceans and borders. COVID-19, the virus from the Corona virus family hit the world really hard. Considering the seriousness, it’s time we step up against this deadly disease. For the sake of lives lost and the rest of humanity, let us all pledge to beat Corona-virus.
Meanwhile when the people are suffering from the Corona outbreak and fighting against it, some others are breaking the maintenance. The news came into highlight few weeks back that some communities and societies think Social Distancing won’t work and would lead them to nowhere.
Doctors are called the second God. In this period when Social Distancing is being the only key to prevent and cure this virus, doctors are treating and serving patients determinably and fearlessly, risking their own lives. They are trying hard and their best to save the lives of patients battling Corona-virus. In past month Doctors too got infected and some of them lost their lives. Still some people are criticizing them, abusing them verbally and denying medical treatment. People were spitting on others and running out of hospitals making the conditions worse.
What is Corona?
The world is suffering from the pandemic since December 2019. The virus originated in the city Wuhan, China. This extremely contagious virus that speeded like wild fire throughout the world has turned into a global pandemic and took more than 3 million people under its disastrous grab claiming the lives of more than 200 thousand people worldwide. A disease with no cure no vaccine, has affected more countries than both the great wars.
Corona is a contagious virus; it is air-borne hence spread through air droplets. The common symptoms of the disease are fever, dry cough, common cold, shortening of breath, fatigue. Some people may also feel nausea, diarrhea, headache, muscular pain etc.
Why is it dangerous to human health?
Answer is that there is no cure to this virus till now, as no vaccine or drug is invented to stop the virus or treat people properly. The disease is spreading through touch (of any kind). It can spread through used utensils, shared cigarettes, shaking hands, sharing foods and clothes and the most important- ‘SOCIALIZING’. Government took the initiatives and suggested everyone to practice SOCIAL DISTANCING from now, wear mask outdoors, don’t shake hands to greet but say ‘Namaste’ (the Indian ritual of greeting someone by joining own hands together and bow down).
WHY LOCKDOWN AND WHAT CHAIN NEEDS TO BREAK?
As the circumstances become more dangerous, the virus becomes stronger; it started spreading rapidly in an uncontrolled manner. Our respected PM Shri Narendra Modi decided to lock the country for a period. So that people can stay safe at home and we would be able to break the chain of COVID-19. People having weak immunity and old age are more prone to the virus. Virus triggers less immune body faster than strong immune.
Biologically virus is neither living nor dead. It activates as soon as it comes in contact with living tissue. It needs host like a parasite. No vaccine has been found yet so for now the only cure to the disease is prevention. Distancing from every one even from family and friends is best strategy. The virus spreads with a statistical method as per research. Every person who has COVID-19 will pass it to 2 or 2.5 others. One study says that number is even higher with one sick person infecting between 4.7 and 6.6 others. A few pets have tested positive for the new virus. The animals may have caught the virus from close contact with humans who were infected. So all we need to do is protect ourselves from outside. Work from home; avoid outings, wearing masks if outing is necessary, keeping pets away from people and animals outside home. Nearly half a billion Indians earn daily wages and have no meaningful savings. The lockdown has most likely saved millions of lives, but the bold public health actions of the government should be matched by similar efforts to ensure that the pandemic does not generate a secondary hunger and poverty crisis.
SPREADING- HOW ARE COUNTRIES DEALING WITH IT AND WHICH PLACES HAVE PLAYED IMPORTANT ROLE TO SPREAD IT?
Since first being recorded late last year in China, it was spread around the world. The number of deaths is a more dependable indicator. The disease has hit certain countries including Italy, Spain and the US with particular cruelty. In Europe most countries have closed school, and many are in lockdown.
Started in China, but Europe became hub for virus spread. Mongolia took actions by travel bans from Japan and South Korea, the other epicenters. Yet the first infected case a Frenchman who had come to country from France via Moscow was found.
Same happened with different countries. All other country criticized Europe as European countries have been hit harder than other regions. Travels from Europe preceded the first cases there in at least 93 countries across all continents. The reason was late closure of air lines. Media paid attention to role of Europe due to virus acceleration as everyone was targeting China that time more bluntly. While the virus was spreading in China, they started massive testing, rigorous contact tracing, and strict lockdown measure but European countries were shooting up. Despite witnessing devastated China circumstances, European countries were flatfooted as the virus spread rapidly from Paris, London to other countries. European public health officials were initially modeling their response to corona virus after the SARS epidemic saying “We saw the reactions of Asian countries, but at the time we didn’t think they would be a model because we didn’t believe we would have the same epidemic”.
In February, if Italians had asked to locate the town Codogno on a map, many of them won’t have succeeded. Codogno is a small town with a population of 16,000, situated at the edge of Italy’s Lombardy region. Certainly nobody would have expected that Codogno would gain international notoriety by becoming the center of the country’s sudden outbreak of COVID-19 which turned it into red zone. Before this zone establishment, a number of people travelled to and from Codogno, unknowingly carrying the disease with them across the peninsula. And since then some individuals have violated the quarantine, leaving the areas recklessly or out of frustration.
The Islamic republic of Iran has suffered a devastating number of fatalities from the new Corona virus, exceeding only by those in Italy, Spain and China.
While china took draconian measures to contain the outbreak, and Italy and Spain have been transparent about the death toll in order to warn others about the dangers of complacency, Iran has done neither. Yet Iranian universities and health officials warn that the country could ultimately see millions of fatalities absent urgent, dramatic action. When cases of corona virus began to mushroom in Iran in mid-February, Iranian officials admittedly suppressed the news in order to maintain voter turnout in the country’s rigged parliamentary elections.
China has closed down its last Corona hospital. Now there are no new cases to support them. India has been successfully treating corona with mixture of some drugs i.e. Lopinavor, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine globally. Good news from South Korea as no new cases coming out over there. Italy is hit hard, as they have oldest population in Europe.
SOCIAL DISTANCING, SELF-ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE– There has been a wealth of information shared across all platforms about COVID-19 symptoms. Self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine have been used quite interchangeably nowadays. These phrases can be used in a light-hearted way, because it’s important for people to understand the real meaning of the terms. They should understand the terminology they use and the affect it can have on those around them.
SOCIAL DISTANCING aims to reduce transmission in people who aren’t displaying symptoms. SELF-ISOLATION includes those who may or not have been exposed to virus and QUARANTINE refers to people without symptoms who are exposed to virus. If these terms are not correctly used, may lead to negative emotions. For example: If quarantine is used for a normal person leaving his house to buy veggies, could lead others feel anxious about leaving home and feeling that others are not being cautions and taking preventative measures seriously. This then leads to a feeling of fear and forced isolation where it may not be required.
While government is encouraging some of the measures above including encourage institutions and companies to work remotely where possible, a number of us are finding ourselves working from home or being at home more often than usual. There is not an end date on when we can expect to physically return to work or be told we can stop social distancing. Could this be weeks of staying at home, or even months? Answers remain unanswered and here comes a whole plethora of thoughts and anxieties.
Everyone’s experience of working or staying at home will be different and thus the impact that this could have on every person might be different for another. Some people will have support system, some will have only loneliness. Latter can feel very surreal, feelings of loneliness and isolation will be heightened. For ones who suffer from mental health issues, this can be scary as they are likely to struggle alone and feel more isolated thus, people may experience worse illness or experiences but also it could spark the onset of mental heal issues for individuals who haven’t encountered them before.
Those who are far away from their family and friend living and waking in another country, concerned more for them owing to the uncertainty as to when they will be able to see them again. This all can add to lower morale and lead to physical and emotional sense of withdrawal from the world and people around us. In these situation mental health should not be disregarded or underestimated some steps should be taken, – sticking to a routine, establishing boundaries separate workspace from sleep and eating space; taking frequent breaks, setting small goals – set realistic expectations, supporting your team members.
ROLE OF OUR NATION
As India prepared to enter the third week of its 21 day lockdown, global response was that India could still have done better in dealing COVID-19 outbreak. The government’s decision to impose the lockdown was necessary to mitigate the inevitable spread of the disease. Comparing others India sooner went lockdown in order to stop corona spread. Decision received applause as well as criticism. Different countries reacted differently. Some resort to a lockdown only as a last, some enforce a localized rather than full-blown, and some may not enforce any at all. Soon after the first case of the corona virus arrived in India in late January, India responded with restrictions on flights and screenings at its airports. Yet the country had more than 80,000 arrivals every day, mostly from Europe and the Gulf States, where the virus spread. And across the country, millions of people live in proximity, in densely populated slums where access to health care in poor. Studies from China suggest that people with uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 and die from it. About a third of India’s population is hypertensive, and over one in 10 adults are diabetic. Children were less likely to be infected in China, but India has millions of undernourished children, who are more prone to infections. India’s high rates of tuberculosis, pneumonia, smoking and poor air quality won’t help when it comes to a respiratory disease. Some were counting on the summer heat and humidity to bail India out, but there was no evidence that the rising temperature would stop the disease. Our initial estimates showed that 300 million to 500 million Indians were likely to be infected with the corona virus by the end of July. Most of the cases would be without symptoms or with mild infections, but about a tenth- 30 million to 50 million- would most likely be severe. One model predicts that at the outbreak’s peak, even with conservative assumptions, there would be 10 million patients with severe COVID-19 disease in India, many of whom would need to be hospitalized.
Lessons missed from past outbreaks.
The SARS, Ebola, MERS in past taught numerous lessons to world nations in combating such situations. In past days, India may have missed in the effective response systems. Be it the issues with CAA protests, the work from home conundrums, migrant laborers, lack of public awareness, non-informative campaigns. A sound Disease Outbreak Response System could have helped avoid all that.
Here, history is instructive. Although vaccinations enabled most wealthy countries to eliminate smallpox unilaterally by the late 1940s, the disease kept returning from outside their borders. It took a global effort launched by the WHO to eradicate smallpox globally in 1978.
There is also a need of an early warning system to detect the emergence of new or mutated viruses. As South Korea has shown, an early COVID-19 warning enables a government to react rapidly by ramping up testing and engaging the whole population in contact tracing and containment, thereby potentially reducing the economic and social costs of an outbreak. But early warning requires government to tell the world about novel infections as soon as they discover them, which can be a sensitive matter. Countries thus need assurances that reporting disease outbreaks will not expose them to instant punishment in the form of unnecessary travel and trade restrictions and that any such measures would be introduced cooperatively.
India does not have the strong health system and economic resources of COVID-19 affected high income countries or china’s ability to control population flows in the country. A lockdown was the only option to control the disease.
By the time our PM announced the lockdown, India had officially counted about 500 cases of corona virus infection and estimated 10 deaths because of the contagion. The numbers were so low because testing for the virus has been very limited. Estimates from our group of scientists and others suggest the actual number of infection cases in India is likely to be about 60,000 approx.
ICMR indicates that a notational lockdown, if adhered to well, could reduce the number of infections at the peak of the pandemic- expected by early May- by 70% to 80%, depending on the degree of compliance with physical distancing. Estimates suggest that about a million people would still need hospital beds and critical care. Had India not imposed the lockdown, it would have been five million to six million people.
India has four to six weeks before the corona virus outbreak hits its peak. It is absolutely necessary to use this window of opportunity to create an enormous, affordable and easily available testing infrastructure, intensify efforts to identify the sick, trace their contacts and isolate them and prepare for the avalanche. Hygiene quarantine facilities and intensive- care beds must be set up in all state capitals.
India has fewer than 100,000 intensive care unit beds and 20,000 ventilators, most of which are only in the large cities. The scenes where Italian doctors had to choose between multiple patients to determine who would get a ventilator would increase multifold in India’s weak health system.
A man who was stamped on hands with ink by Indian Health Workers was supposed to ensure he stayed home under quarantine. But he rubbed if off possibly as much as he could and get back to work. He claimed it as part of an effort by the Hindu Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to target Muslims like him, using health workers to gather data on community under the guise of containing COVID-19 pandemic.
He says, “Modi wants to make Muslims second class citizens. There is no one who is sick, Corona is a lie”. His suspicions were echoed by half others whom Reuters talked to in there, even leaders say they have been trying to convince people that health workers are in the district protect them from COVID-19. Ahead, government responded by imposing a lockdown.
A deep-rooted district of Modi by Muslim follow months of protests against a new citizenship law of cities say discriminate against Muslim and a crackdown by India in Muslim majors territory of Kashmir.
Well there is no official breakdown of corona virus cases by religion. But many Muslims feel unfairly blamed for spreading the disease after a cluster emerged at a gathering of Muslim missionaries in Delhi last months. Sensational news coverage about the events fanned some Hindu Nationalist politicians, helped spur the trending topics.
Various misinformation and viral videos has been spate on social media. Government ordered Social media and the video apps to remove users found to be spreading misinformation about the corona virus.
Currently country has more than 35,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths. The economic impact of the 2019-2020 corona virus pandemic in India has been hugely disruption World Bank and credit rating agencies have downgraded India’s growth for fiscal year 2021 with the lowest figures. India has seen in three decades since India’s economic liberalization in the 1990s.
Several healthcare workers in India have been attacked as they battle to stop the spread of the corona virus. Reports say doctors have been spat at and chased away from homes and that in one case patients directed abusive and vulgar language towards female nurses. Some physicians and their families have also been ostracized by their neighbors because of their exposure to patients infected with COVID-19.
The world should have learned this lesson during the SARS and Ebola epidemics of the last two decades. Travel and trade restrictions imposed by 40 countries impeded the reporting of Ebola outbreaks, hindering the global response. Similarly, China’s experience with SARS may have left its leaders less inclined to notify the outside world about the COVID-19 outbreak. Once, they did, countries closed their borders in ways that contradicted WHO guidance. After this crisis is over, governments will need to bolster the early-warning system, on the understanding that this requires a cooperative quid pro quo.
OUR NATION STRATEGY
India with a 1.3 billion population is a developing nation- the time and challenge of pandemic are extraordinary. We shall be affected as the globe is affected. Two main things required to fight the challenge- “Sankalp” and “Sanyam” (commitment and restraint).
Every citizen must follow his/her civic duty- avoid getting infected and save others from infection. Citizens are not allowed to go to the crowded places; out of home- social distancing is most essential and useful. Work from home. All senior citizens should remain isolated at home. Overconfidence and hubris that nothing will happen to us is misplaced- it is injustice to others.
PM requested people not to load the hospitals- no routine checks and postpone elective surgeries- to de-tress medical systems. He informed nation of constitution of a COVID-19 economic task force, which will be in touch with all stakeholders, and will decide in near future on steps to mitigate economic stress and ensure all steps are seriously implemented. Rich people are appealed to take care of the economic interests of all these service providers, to give them full salary once they must take care of their families.
He assured Indians that there shall not be shortage of milk, food, medicines. All steps are being taken to ensure supply does not stop. He said not to hoard essential commodities. This will surely lead to breaking the chain of transmission.
In countries, where community transmission has reared its head, health systems have crumbled, markets have crashed, and unemployment has peaked to unprecedented level. Global economic recession is inevitable due to disruption of supply chains, manufacturing and employment.
New Delhi has to move swiftly, marshal its financial and human resources, and build temporary COVID-19 treatment facilities; procure necessary equipment, including test kits; and buy personal protective equipment, hospital beds, oxygen flow masks and ventilators. At the same time, it has to train health workers in infection control and safe testing.
If India fails to fill these serious gaps in its capacity, the pandemic will exact a heavy toll.
The disease is likely to return in the year. Many Indians still lack immunity to the corona virus, although the extent will be known only when surveys are conducted that is able to test the population for antibodies that indicate their exposure to the disease.
CALLING CORONA PERIOD WAR TIME
Donald Trump has called himself a “wartime president” and said corona virus is an “invisible enemy”.
People understand what a war means, what are its consequences; they understand the sacrifices that have to occur during wartime and they understand the massive mobilization of resources needed in a war.
The now-common metaphors comparing the efforts to stop corona virus to a military war fit smoothly in many ways. Pandemic has life and death decisions, an “enemy” who can strike at any time, “battles” on the “frontline” and calls for the “home front” to support the effort. It is a global war. War metaphors can help inform and motivate the public, but they can also mislead policymakers and the public. War metaphors shows the need for everyone to mobilize and do their part on the home front which means taking social distancing orders and hand washing recommendations seriously. For businesses, that means shifting resources toward stopping the outbreak, whether in terms of supplies or manpower. If this is a war then let’s act that way now. And let’s show a commonality and mutuality and a unity that this world has not seen in decades, because everyone knows we need it today more than ever before.”
CORONA ANS CALLOUS CASTEIST BIASES IN INDIA
Corona virus has saturated our news feed, social media and daily conversations. Even the ‘Good Morning’ messages that unnecessarily flood our WhatsApp tagline, “Wash your hands, be safe”. News media is painting a picture of collective solidarity against the corona virus. This solidarity in social exclusion however is tainted with caste biases in India. From the privilege of social exclusion and hygiene to pseudo-science assertions of corona’s origin, our caste prejudice and ignorance have come out blatantly.
With the discovery of the virus, dutiful brahmanical supremacists made it a point to blame the impurity of non-vegetarians and their foods as the source of the disease. The bias comes from the food habits associated to different castes in the caste system of India; wherein vegetarianism is automatically associated with broadly and soul’s purity. It is considered to be the ‘norm’ practiced by the high and mighty; the ideal followed by the ones closer to the divine. Within the Indian caste system, Brahmins assume the position of the pure vegetarian and the people belonging to lower caste are deemed impure, for they are paradoxically allowed to consume meat. This linkage is blatant in daily practices too. For instance, upper caste students and faculty of one of the most sought-after engineering college in India, IIT Bombay recently came under societal scrutiny for demanding separate cutlery and cooking utensils for their vegetarian food. Their body and mind were at the risk of contamination from any possible touch with meat or meat eaters. Thus, vegetarianism in India is exclusively different. It is not merely about animal care, it has roots in Brahmanical supremacy of purity. Hence, in an embarrassing display of their ignorance, a number of upper caste supremacists started “NoMeatNoCoronavirus” hash tag on Twitter as a solution to the worldwide pandemic of Corona virus. Their irrational logic being: Corona virus, an impure virus comes from the impure consumption of the Non-Brahmins.
HAS INDIA DONE ENOUGH?
We did try. But there was a lot of state-to-state difference. Some states did excellently well. They fought it zealously, passionately. Some chose to be very complacent about it. But none of that matters anymore. We are going to face the epidemic anyway. What we should have done that we have not done yet? Let’s begin with China; it should have restrained the whole infection around the place it started. We know China has good scientist and they could have done it. But it did not happen. This happens in dictatorial societies where free speech is not allowed. As far as India is concerned, we as a country did not move together very fast. People at grassroots level don’t understand the meaning of containment.
We tried controlling virus we got into a mode of “catch the fellows coming from abroad, don’t let them out.” That’s dangerous because it creates a stigma against the carrier as that is something each one of us is going to get in the future. That was a wrong start. Now, we need a very good leadership to change that attitude.
The world that emerges from the corona virus pandemic may be a warring collection of countries that are more closed off and nationalistic than before. But without rapid and effective global co-operation, the world may not overcome this crisis safely at all. The first crucial element of a COVID-19 exit strategy is massive testing for which adequate supplies of kits and protective equipment are needed with ventilators. It will help to divide the people in infected and fine; so that proper care will be given to infected people. All we need is a global co-operation for global exit of virus.
While governors of US states are bidding against one another for scarce ventilators, some European governments are barring their export. A British minister has said that country’s inability to source necessary reagents is slowing down testing. COVID-19 cripples the US and ravages many countries; politicians are battling to craft a narrative of who-to-blame for its damage. Solution is to increase the cooperation as much as we can in the production, distribution, just using the global chains more effectively as possible.
Second is effective disease surveillance a control.
As, a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford suggests that tracing apps can be effective in reducing infection by 60% of the populations adopts them. Hesitant countries should cooperate fast to adapt surveillance tools to the need to protect civil rights. This will require transparent oversight, clear principles of fairness (including equal access and treatment), robust data protection, and audits of the algorithms used.
Third, should be a global COVID-19 exit plan with an effective vaccine. Fortunately, international scientific cooperation is accelerating progress toward developing one. Researchers in China, the US, and Europe are sharing viral genome sequences, while doctors from Harvard University; the Xijing Hospital in Xi’an, China; and Northern Italy are working on treatments, and top virologists are sharing findings on World Health Organization conference calls and placing them in online archives such as medRxiv and bioRxiv.
Finally, the faster and more effectively we act to contain the spread of the virus in the world’s poorest and most populous countries, the better we can protect everyone. This requires urgent investment in prevention that also depends on cooperation- including the disease control centers, monetary fund emergency financing and World Bank’s emergency health support.
Working together will wipe the corona out of the world and we all will be able to get back to our works again happily.