DEFEAT RUMOURS, ACT FIRMLY FOR SAVING PEOPLE AND ECONOMY
Almost all of India is under lockdown as a defensive measure against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID -19), but the ever increasing number of patients and the death cases on account of the disease is a certain indication of the country’s urgent need to fine-tune its strategy. Some new challenges has emerged after the complete lockdown which need to be addressed urgently along with the fine-tuned defensive and offensive measures against the disease and the economic crisis to reduce human sufferings. Law and order mechanism must now be put on high alert to prevent any chaos that may arise in the new scenario.
This is not the proper time to criticize the government on lack of medical infrastructure and personnel, but is a time to urgently address the crisis with whatever resources we have. We can successfully overcome the crisis with courage and wisdom. The scare, which unfortunately has gripped the nations, must be thrown out by awareness about the disease and the ability of our medical fraternity in dealing with any eventuality. It is not a small achievement that out of about 500 patients there were only nine deaths and over two dozens of the patients were cured and discharged. We do suspect community transmission of the disease but there is not any proof as such. Some cases of which we could not trace the origin linked with foreign travel can be dismissed as failure of tracing efforts, but we must keep testing all the suspected patients for the infection, to know if there is any community transmission. It is needed for several reasons, including the concealment of infection by patients avoiding hospitals and incidence of deserting the hospitals where they are quarantined.
It is a serious phenomena of patients’ psychology. Everyone knows that a patient is safer under medical care, but many patients of COVID-19 tried to avoid hospitalization and testing, and many of them actually fled away from hospitals where they were quarantined. There were also cases of patients going to the remote villages and living in concealed manner even if they knew that villages lack medical facilities. It is where the fine-tuning of the strategy is required. There is a widespread rumour that the patients are to be killed to save others. Government and all responsible people must find out ways and means of defeating this and any other rumour. People must have confidence on our doctors and nurses who have done very well so far with minimum number of deaths, and many of them are cured and discharged from their quarantine. Hospital administration must also deal with suspected patients is such a way that can instill confidence in the patients. Government must run large scale campaigns to boost confidence of the people in our system of deliverance, and people should also understand that they are safer in hospitals than anywhere else.
In this regard the ICMR’s clarification is noteworthy in which it is said that 80 per cent of the people will recover on their own after brief illness, 20 per cent of them may require medical care, and 5 per cent of them may require hospitalization. Going by this, people need not panic, and should beware of scare mongers. Defensive measure of lockdown should not scare the people, and they must understand that India has a population of about 135 crore, and 20 per cent or even five per cent patients are too much to handle for the country when we lack is medical infrastructure and have a shortage of medical professionals. Wisdom is therefore to remain in homes as far as possible to reduce the heavy likely burden on our medical system. Complete lockdown is therefore most effective measure to check the spread of the disease which all should welcome without scare and with willingness. Rumour-mongers on the internet and mobile must be checked by the government and people with credible information resources on prevention and cure of the disease.
Fine-tuning of the India strategy should be done along with the line of advisory of the WHO also who has said that lockdown is only a defensive measure. The organization has called for a mixed approach which is likened to a football match. Government must understand that “to protect against infection” and “to kick out corona” are two different things. You can’t win a football game only by defending. You have to attack as well. “Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time, but they are defensive measures that will not help us to win,” the organization has warned. To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics, the organization has reiterated while calling for “testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case and tracing and quarantining every close contact.” The disease is “accelerating” but “we are not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic,” the WHO chief has said while warning against “using untested medicines without right evidence could raise false hope and even do more harm than good, and cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases.
The other dimension of the corona strategy relates to the economy and well-being of the people. The experience of the lockdown so far has witnessed supply hiccups of the essential good, both medical and others. Prime Minister has appealed and then given direction to the competent authorities to ensure that there should not be any supply hiccups. Major problem in this regard is to reach the people who do not have money to buy even the essentials. Most of them are daily wage workers, beggars, or destitute persons. Government needs to fine-tune its strategy so that no one dies without food, medicine, of medical care. Government must reach to them or those people must get access to the government facilities. This is must to ensure the well-being of the people under lockdown.
The economic and fiscal measures require much more than they are put in place now. It is needed to avoid market crash and the collapse of the entire economy. RBI, Ministry of Finance, and all the administrative machinery should do whatever they can in the present crisis situation taking note of the advisories and recommendations of IMF and other organizations and experts, irrespective of the provisions of the budget, which may require even second thought to the budget. Interest free borrowings available from International organizations may also be used if necessary. “Janata Curfew” showed that the government has overwhelming support of the people, and it is time for the government to work firmly with care to defeat the crisis without indulging is petty politics and authoritarian way.