When I was a child I remember my mother telling me not to drink water from my neighbour’s house whenever I visit them, because their mother is supposedly a cancer patient. I also remember my father warning me not to talk with drug addicts and drunkards simply because I might contract AIDS from them. There was also an instance when my mom panicked and desperately emptied all bed linens, mattress and even window screens and sanitized them after one relative who is a drug addict stayed overnight in our house. We were even prohibited to peep at the room, leave aside going in. She’d spent many hours deep cleaning the house that day.
Those were the time of 90’s when Cancers and AIDS were mushrooming in the society and little was known about the disease that people began stigmatizing the drug addicts, women operating booze joints, people from red-light areas, etc. That was the time people from that locality, who is not even diagnosed of Cancer or AIDS, are told to be avoided at all cost. We were heavily warned with consequences if we come closer to them let alone fraternizing them. As I stand here today, looking back the late 80′ and 90’s on how things went by I don’t blame my parents for keeping us from such person as I understood that it was a kind of precaution or rather a prevention per se from such sickness. They were ignorant and the sickness was new with no official guidelines or SOP’s to deal with. It was only after many years, the WHO finally concluded that AIDS and Cancers are not communicated by speaking with them, eating together, touching, hugging or even sleeping together with AIDS patient with measure. The whole newspapers and National TV promoted socializing with them as Discriminations was at peak. Many TV’s captured commercial breaks promoting AIDS patient against discrimination, billboards, flyers, seminars and many medical event took place encouraging the healthy people to stay closer with them giving love and not discriminate.
Coming back to today’s situation, it is unimaginable to experience the air of 90’s once again filled with ‘untouchable’ practices even to a person of doubtful character, and what’s worse is that even Doctors and Nurses are not spared this time. The usual practice of publishing ‘orders’ from different authorities imposing total lockdown including ban on vehicular movement and closing shop before and post arrival of stranded returnee, deploying hundreds of police and medical staff, logistical support team, people in full PPE dress, etc have reminiscent the Zombies movies depicting the returnees as infected, trying to spread the virus and bring the world to an end ultimately, not unless some hero jumps in from nowhere and starts shooting. But true to the comparison, the environment has been developing a negative ripple effect while the administration(s) are unintentionally bringing back the era of caste system of un-touchability and eventually the returnees will fall victim post quarantine and despite with negative test. It won’t be surprising to see Churches and societies, neighbours and relatives alienating them in the name of precaution thereafter.
Thought unofficial release sources says Corona, with low fatality rate, is not as deadly as E-bola or SARS, it is pertinent that death due to hunger and poverty, other terminal sickness and suicides during the last three months have exceeded the Corona Virus toll. What more alarming is that being the age of social media’s and technology, false news spread faster than anything. Alarmed villagers resorted to erecting entry gates and digging up roads, prohibiting the visit of person from one village to another in spite of Corona free zone between the two village, not allowing death to be buried in cemetery, Orders to kill dogs if found loitering, volunteers and uniformed personnel locking up village roads and towns not knowing the extend of discrimination they impose on daily front lines workers and other officials who needs to take the road daily, some even depriving medical emergencies other than COVID-19 and the list goes on. On the nature of Corona virus, it is equivocally presumed that there is no evidence of contracting COVID-19 disease by touching a COVID victim since the virus is not known to have penetrated the skin cells and sweat glands till date, which mean a person is safe as long as he wash his hands with just ordinary soap after touching the victim. I am surprise to notice a bullet point from WHO website stating “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19”, and other myth busting concerns. In other words, it is safer than we thought. There is even a chance of not contracting the disease even after the virus has entered the nose, ear or eyes as the virus has to break the strong immune system of the body first. One article says that, even if it enters the body, ingesting of the virus by hot water can do the healing as the Virus gets kill from the acid present in the digestive enzymes of the stomach. Apparently, many people around the world with initial infection are cured from home, taking natural remedy as there is no difference between hospital and home treatment, not unless one needs ventilator or intensive care. In fact, recovery takes more time in hospitals as the amount of cross contamination from the medical team touching between mild, sever or recovering patients without changing PPE or Gloves is high (not unless Doctors and Nurses change it hundreds of time daily), scarcity of medical equipments, patients depriving of nutritional foods as family attendants are not allowed to enter, makeshift hospitals in halls without isolations where patients are barely a feet apart, non existence of treating medicine or vaccine are all taken into account of.
Understanding on fear of Corona has remained elusive but seeing the wide protest across America to ease lockdown amidst the country facing the highest surge of infection in the world including death has became rational. Brazil, France and Italy and many others follow suite in spite of its heavenly toll, in fact they have steadily reopened the economy, Malls and markets, public entertainments, parks and Concerts, etc. This again has made one to wonder how exactly the Covid-19 has to be dealt, considering the outcome one is to believe that only ‘Knowledge’ can save us from infection and not imposition of unbearable diktats from Village and government level authorities, therefore education is the essence to fill the gap. Government needs wide publication on rational approach of the virus till such time the WHO or the health authority officially releases a finding and meanwhile, the adamant public to be little discipline in following guidelines not crossing the line jumping over the fence to see what’s in when a notice clearly states no to look over. These are virus, unseen from the eyes unlike ‘law and order’ problem that can be taken for granted hoodwinking the authority for excuse. Your status or packing will not help you from Corona virus, don’t experiment yourself to see yourself, it might prove fatal.
In the meantime, Corona is imminent to stay long and we have to learn to live with it. There must be a way to deal the situation taking utmost care that nobody is discriminated in the name of this disease. Now that our brothers and sisters from Chennai and other place will soon be released from the QC let us not stigmatize them of being the Corona carrier, not that, after their arrival had led the rise of COVID-19 cases in the state, as this virus don’t choose people and our brothers and sisters didn’t acquire intentionally therefore cannot be blamed. They have already faced many ordeals while in mainland and are all human with emotions just like anyone else. The government and medical Institutes are working day and night to find a way but un till such finding on how to live amongst them comes up, let us learn to live together as human. Let’s us share love and pray for each other, proactively attend to their grievances. In spite of danger lurking around, we still could be friendly yet with cautions, we may avoid handshakes and hugs, sharing plates and rooms unlike the AIDS era, but encourage them to be strong and positive. Let us also not believe in rumours and unverified words, and most importantly let us not succumb to the social media news. Together and with the help of God, we shall prevail.
Dr. Sambit Patra, the national spokesperson of BJP in a debate was asked “What is the meaning of COVID-19?” to everyone’s surprise Dr. Patra instead of answering ditched the question by counter replying, why shall I answer that question? I know the answer but I won’t tell you, and thus picked a long nuisance quarrel. Had he known the question and answered gracefully like a true gentleman, viewers will have witnessed productive debate. Unfortunately, it was an embarrassment for him, being a former Medical Officer, and the BJP party as the debate was between two spokesperson of rival party which was telecast live on TV.
Back home there was a picture circulating in Social media of three persons in PPE dress at Dimapur railway station for photo ops, only to be told that the PPE was worn ‘ulda’ with backside front. There was also controversy of Police beating up at least two doctors in the name of Law enforcing against Corona, Village Volunteers gather in groups at the village gates in the name of Covid-19 protection, Villager shooting dogs, Then comes sanitizing public places with fogging machine even while there was no report of COVID-19 case and before any stranded citizens arrives, (Sanitizing for Corona is done only after arrival and departure of returnee and not before, unless sanitizing is for other purpose like malaria, dengue etc. It is like washing ones Anus before excretion and not after. It is a waste of resources and time and worst of all it contribute to environmental pollution spraying chemicals).
Considering the above stories, we are seeing the likeness of Dr. Sambit Patra amongst the government, Police and the public, taking the stage even without the basic knowledge of COVID-19, deployed under the aegis of Administrations and Village Councils. We have seen volunteers and police personnel turned overnight-corona-warriors breaking SOP’s and yet enforcing diktats on publics. Perhaps little did they know that Pandemics and Law & Order problems are not synonymous.
In spite of the Governments glamorously declaring the state preparedness for pandemic, we have also seen Dimapur District Hospital undergoing basic constructions desperately adding more Masons and labours to finish the job behind the scene. Then came the challenge on procurement of PPE’s, BSL 3 & 2 lab, Ventilators, beds and isolations wards, Truenat machine etc. Though the procurement was late comparing with other states our government somehow did managed in the nick of time. But truth be told it wasn’t only the deployment of volunteers, uniformed personnel and procuring equipments that the readiness is all about which the government has be mulling earlier days.
The real question on government’s tall claim on preparedness shed doubtful light. How many of the people on duty are certified or qualified to deal the situation that they decide to impose different measures in the government and village level? This is not a good time to play hide and seek and when found seeks forgiveness in the name of our lord. If the government can claim that by procuring machines and arranging logistic support to the returnees suffices to readiness on Covid-19 pandemic than it’ll be a disaster when community transmission outbreaks. It’ll be like soldiers sending to war supplied with latest technological equipments without knowing how to use them.
While appreciating the risk the Government servants, Civil Societies and village councils are taking up to protect the public from infection, the professional approach towards this pandemic is rather frightening. In spite of our effort to contain the virus within the returnees, the possibility of Community Transmission becomes imminent and what worries more is the volunteers and Village Covid-19 teams across Nagaland unprepared to deal the community outbreak which mean the worst is yet to come.
The only solution to get equipped is through extensive trainings from the certified medical personnel. Knowledge is the essence, thus, the medical team can once again play a crucial role for mass educating the public on tackling community transmission. CIHSR Dimapur aka Referral Hospital and few other departments from other districts have done noble community service taking up medical campaign educating the public and its leaders. However, its manpower isn’t sufficient enough to cover all area. Considering the lack of medical personnel to conduct village to village seminars the government can extend help requesting the retired medical pensioners, Nursing teachers from medical colleges and medical professors all across Nagaland, unemployed nurses and doctors , dispensable ASHA, NHM, H& FW workers etc to voluntarily step in so that the regular duty of Doctors and Nurses are not affected. Those qualified yet dispensable persons can conduct seminars on Health Hygiene, Community transmission and cross infection/Contaminations. This way all corners of the State can be covered in few days time, before mass infection, which could turn to be the wisest and best investment of resources.
The reason being taking into account the community transmission as serious threat above all is that many uniform personnel and Village Volunteers have little or no knowledge how to handle the outbreak. When once the community outbreak occurs, these people will be most vulnerable to infection due to exposure perhaps even could be the source for wider transmission.
If at all the Medical fraternity decides to stand up for campaign on preventive measures, I would like to contribute some faulty practices that have been observed irrespective of Uniformed and Village Council persons;
1. Not maintaining social distancing themselves while on duty which they impose.
2. Faulty procedure wearing Gloves and Masks, including its disposal.
3. Sharing of Gloves and Masks amongst them.
4. Repeated use of Masks and gloves, if reusable or washable and its correct methods.
5. Sharing of intoxicative substances like ghutkas, suparis and other tobacco products.
6. Pulling off mask and gloves in the pocket to be used after.
7. Sharing of water bottle.
8. Hectic duty followed by glorious get together for alcohol and hangouts.
9. Travelling/ Riding together, taking/giving lifts.
10. Feast on duty.
11. Volunteers get together in the evening for sports and games while restricting publics to come out of home.
12. Traffic personnel enforcing odd-even number ask for ID, DL and other Documents thereby coming in direct contact. Etc.
There could be many others practices which the medical fraternities could identify and educate them because if we the general public approach them for constructive correction it will only creates negative repercussion backfiring for ‘telling’ the authority, with “apni kuboli kun ase” attitude, but untill then, the government urgently needs to intervene conduct mass campaigns using all possible resources and personnel available at disposal before it’s too late.