Saturday, December 9, 2023

Inarguable adage

The emergence of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus, signaling the onset of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, is not happy and encouraging news in the less-than-a-week-old New Year. Slowly but surely measures to curb the spread of this virus are already in place in several States in the country. The Centre had already advised States to ramp up testing and vaccination, and put in place necessary restrictions ~ all of which underscore the inarguable adage: prevention is better than cure. But then, after two years of the pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives and wreaked political, economic, social and cultural havoc across the globe, do we really need to be told that a stitch in time saves nine? While there is no reason to panic, it would be sensible if we got over our festivities hangover, devote several sober minutes to look at the country’s emerging Omicron situation, strategize the prevention of its incursion into Nagaland and hone our fighting skills against the virus. In the first place, the virus is still amongst us ~ the numbers may appear negligible but that’s because of our abysmally low testing rates, especially during the festive season. Simultaneously, our vaccination rates must have also dropped considerably. Under the circumstances, we are once again vulnerable to all variants of the virus. Now, because we don’t want another lockdown disrupting our lives further, it stands to reason that our State Government act promptly to ensure Nagaland remains a low COVID-infected State and Omicron-free. But the remedy to the pandemic is not the sole responsibility of the Government ~ unless the people also take responsibility for our own health and lives the Government would be fighting a losing battle. But that doesn’t mean that our Government cast all blame on the people, as it does on so many issues such as Power failure, development-deficit besides numerous social and economic issues. Yes, the start of a new year is a good time for our State Government to revisit its roles and responsibilities ~ its constitutional obligations. This assumes all the more importance as we face another Assembly election in a year, which in political terms is a very short period. Coming back to the pandemic, it is imperative to repeat and remind again that the pandemic is not over till the World Health Organization (WHO) says so ~ never mind that this august health body has come under enormous censure in the last couple of years. It still remains the world’s apex health organization, especially in matters of global public health. So, this essentially also means that social media does not and cannot have the last say on global public health issues ~ not even health and medical experts, who make the full and often unwise use of social media, not so much to inform on good health practices but to propagate their ideological stands under the guise of health issues. Be warned that pretty soon our political parties and personalities will also resort to similar insidious measures to garner support and votes. There actually is nothing to beat the good old-fashioned open courtyard or football field one-on-one debate and direct questions to political aspirants. The point here is: beware of social media messages ~ go to the source of such messages and ask questions. Basically, think independently and be guided by established authorities and experts ~ don’t take things at its face value. There are always more than two sides of any story ~ even the pandemic and its management, not to mention how our Health Department and its delivery system is managed, or mis-managed, and the whyfores. So, while the demand for our State Government’s total transparency and accountability will persist, even if at times inaudibly, it will not be forgotten or stopped. Keeping this in mind, our State Government now needs to get down to the business of dealing with the possible threat of Omicron in Nagaland. This must necessarily include the livelihood of the people in various sectors ~ not just focus on the health delivery system. Hopefully, we should not have too many Omicron cases if we take matters into hand on time but just in case, the State Government must also keep our robust private health sector in the loop from the word go ~ keeping in mind the second wave last year. Unpredictability is the middle name of Time therefore future projections are much favoured effective weapons of smart Governments.