Thursday, June 17, 2021

Be prepared

With the lifting of total lockdown in Dimapur from Monday we saw large number of people coming out from home to buy commodities and related works, overcrowding the markets. Such scene is also expected as and when the total lockdown in force for the last 12 days in the State capital is lifted. Yes, there will be enhanced movement of people, despite restrictions. This enhanced movement, at a time when we are struggling with checking the spread of COVID-19 infection is bound to create more problems. Though the recent spike, that still refuses to come down, has infused a degree of fear among the masses, but forgetting and callousness are age old habits of any collective. And habit has its own force. The challenge for the Government, at this moment, would be to ensure that there is no further spike in the positive cases, while at the same it is not seen as coercive. How to maintain a balance here is really very hard. Whatever restrictive measure Government finds feasible, and effective, can be taken up for discussion, and those found extremely crucial would also be implemented. But that is not the end of it. We have been repeatedly underlining two things. One, sensitize people on all the matters related to COVID-19, and ensure behavioural changes are seen on the ground. Two, take the civil society along. If Government is seen doing everything on its own, without any regard for people’s participation, there is bound to be less reception among the people. And unless people cooperate, no amount of Government force can implement policies effectively. To this end, it is extremely important that people observe caution, and follow guidelines that are now known to all. Physical distancing, wearing a mask, and sanitizing hands – all this doesn’t cost much. A change in looking at things, and then internalizing it, is the only defense we have right now against this disease. As the COVID-19 cases continue to show a disturbing spike, we now see the administration is also trying to upgrade its plans, and make extensive arrangements to meet the challenge. With limited resources, on the one hand, and rising cases on the other, it is really getting difficult for the administration too. As of now, there is total lockdown in some districts/parts of the State and it is expected to arrest the spread of the infection. But when it is lifted what will be the scenario? This question must be factored in when we lay out plans to fight this pandemic. Since it is going to be a long haul, the plans must take that into account. To this end the administration, besides contingent plans, must think in terms of worst case scenarios. That can help in advance preparation in case things worsen further. The administration also needs to seriously involve the frontline doctors, those who receive patients in different hospitals, conduct tests on them, and treat them. In fact these doctors can be a valuable input on how the problem can be effectively dealt with. This bottom up approach is very crucial in all disaster management exercises. These doctors have a first-hand experience of how the COVID patients behave, and how sometime their families add to the problems of the hospital management. They can actually tell us what is required, in terms of medicine, testing equipment, safety gear, hospital atmosphere, and sensitization of the COVID patients and their families. At the same time, what we are undergoing today is a healthcare problem that has consequences for the administration also. If the frontline doctors, those who work on ground, are given more chance to be part of decision making, and plan drafting, we can expect a better response to meet this challenge. The administration also should heed the suggestion, as put forth by some doctors that we need to have COVID-19 dedicated centers that can ensure specialized treatment. This can also unburden our main hospitals that are right now busy in treating COVID patients. After all, if it’s a long haul, we need to free these hospitals for routine patients. Otherwise, if we are saving lives by only treating COVID infected patients, we are jeopardizing the lives of the people with other ailments.