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Coronavirus-manifesto: Understanding the pandemic at hand and its management

While the government is focused on overall governance and augmentation of additional medical care capacity, the role of the community is no less crucial.

Coronavirus-Manifesto is about understanding the criticality of the imminent threat to humanity, posed by the virus and the corresponding responses expected from the individual nations down to the community level to meet the horrendous challenge.

In the contemporary sense, complete globalisation, despite continued serious geopolitical antagonism prevailing in the world, a full-fledged conventional third world war has till date been mercifully averted. But COVID-19 caught the global community off guard, engulfed the planet so swiftly, triggering panic. The way even NATO countries are grappling with the pandemic what with the post-cold-war lone superpower USA amongst the worst affected, justifies vehement opposition to biological warfare.                                          

It will be long before it’s formally ascertained whether the coronavirus- outbreak was accidental or of natural origin or as the parallel ‘theories’ speculate that the outbreak was indeed strategically targeted but there is an unambiguous understanding across the globe that the threat is for real and the world is at war on Coronavirus.

While China is officially claiming relative calm in the Wuhan, its epicentre, the pandemic has spread across the countries with the clouds of mass deaths looming large. While grappling with the ominously evolving situation, World has literally come to a standstill. Unprecedented crisis demanding unprecedented measures like ‘lockdown’ is enforced in most parts of the world.

Read: ‘The killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan’, claims research paper published by Chinese scientists

As claimed by the Union Health Minister, India was following the developments & reacted to the evolving situation with concrete actions since the moment China alerted WHO on December 31, 2019, about the ‘unusual’ pneumonia cases in Wuhan followed by the formal identification of the virus as 2019-nCoV i.e. Novel Coronavirus 2019 now called COVID-19, by the Chinese on January 7, 2019. Precautionary measures were announced from time to time with an emphasis on personal hygiene and social distancing.

Encouraged by the overwhelming public participation witnessed during the pan India voluntary ‘Janata Curfew’ on 22nd March, a complete three weeks ‘lockdown’ was finally ordered on the 24th March to enforce social-distancing to break-the-chain. The second week into the lockdown, going by the rising figures, there is every possibility that the restrictions will be extended especially Intra-community unity infection spreads exponentially. Despite avoidable political cynicism, while both the central as well as the respective Govts. of the States and UTs across  India are working overtime in unison under the able leadership of PM Narendra Modi, the role of the public at large at the community and individual levels is no less critical in meeting the challenges due to the humanity- threatening Coronavirus.

To begin with, adherence to the lockdown is fundamental to the community response. Why? Because social-distancing is the key to check the spread and it could be achieved by restricting the population to their homes, hence the lockdown. What is social-distancing? Social distancing is limiting human to human contact with break-the-chain. What is ‘break-the-chain’? Break-the-chain is meant to prevent one asymptomatic or positive person infect another. Even while the scientists are busy in deciphering the nature of Coronavirus & design the mitigating prescription against the disease, it’s the community effort that becomes paramount in containing the spread of the infection.

Read: India under Lockdown: The downsides of under-reacting were simply too scary

As the statistics suggest, the mortality rate due to corona is not as high as compared to the other forms of flue but it is the rapidity of its spread, unavailability of specific cure & lack of sufficient critical care medical capacity that makes the pandemic so precarious.    

In terms of sheer logistics, lockdown is crucial to ‘flatten-the- curve’, i.e. to contain the spread in order to match the graph of the rising number of the affected with the available critical care infrastructure. Inability to manage this crucial interface would mean forced ‘triage’ to prioritise ‘life’ while optimising the available limited critical care facility, whereby patients with a higher degree of survival receive priority as is witnessed in other countries. Therefore, to avert the eventuality, compliance with the lockdown is imperative, demanding absolute community participation.

Social distancing ensures necessary intracommunity isolation, experts recommending social distancing even at home including celibacy, to rule out the possibility of intra-family transfer of infection, just in case a member is afflicted and is asymptomatic. Personal hygiene is equally essential.

The virus is released from the afflicted body in droplets through involuntary cough or sneeze, depositing itself either directly on the nearby human body or on the fomites and then travelling further again from human to human or human to fomites to humans and the chain goes on.  Imagine, it’s the ‘fidgety’ hand that enables the ingress of the virus into the human body via mouth, nose and eyes. So, in addition to washing hands with water and soap frequently, ‘no-touch’ the face must be the resolve even if a naughty wasp chose to park itself on one’s pretty visage. Sanitising fomites including high-touch spots like knobs, handles, food packets-containers, post, phones, gadgets etc. and washing vegetables and fruits is equally important. There are apprehensions that if the virus bypassed the lungs reaching guts straight, it could appear in faeces, thereby making handling-disposal of faeces important particularly in case of sick and children. Self-medication especially prophylactic (chloroquine intake without doctor’s supervision can be dangerous) has to be avoided. Individuals’ response to such emergency restrictions can be varying, therefore, while children and elders would need extra attention, patience and compassion are necessary to avoid disharmony and psychological distress in the family. Don’t ignore the emotional needs of the pets and bring them on to domestic kitchen food gradually in a case dependent on packed pet- food to prepare for the extended lockdown. Cigarettes may not be in supply, smokers need to withdraw gradually. Maintain routine dietary and workout schedule. Start yoga, if not already practising. Keep in touch with your colleagues and friends. In case you are not on work- from- home regime, spend time on updating your professional skills, reading and explore or refresh abandoned hobbies. Your housekeeping staff, drivers etc. might require your emotional and monetary support. It’s time to show you care. Maintaining a safe distance, balcony interaction with neighbours can be very heartwarming.  

At the community level the resident welfare associations, mohalla/ward/block committees, must in coordination with the local panchayat member, municipal councillor, MLA, MP, police and nearest designated hospital, besides ensuring thorough compliance with lockdown, mobilise volunteers for:  in house waste disposal; water storage and distribution; pump house operations and maintenance; medical emergencies other than coronavirus (for coronavirus, only officially notified contact links must be followed ); psychiatric counselling of elderly & lonely residents as well as children who may experience emotional issues due to confinement; routine care and veterinary emergencies for pets as well as stray street animals including birds etc.; monetary needs of security staff; monetary and emotional support to needy residents; enforcing social distancing at essential services delivering outlets like shops and ATMs etc.; regular awareness campaign regarding lockdown, social distancing, sanitisation of fomites etc. through public address system; ensuring dignity and compassion for quarantined or ‘positive’ residents and their families.  

The community must ensure security & utmost regard for residents who are at the ground combating coronavirus including medics; paramedics; biowaste handling & sanitary staff; communications & transport including aircrew personnel; police & civil defence personnel; defence & paramilitary personnel; media & other essential services personnel etc.

While the government is focused on overall governance and augmentation of additional medical care capacity, the role of the community is no less crucial. In fact, the success of the lockdown is directly proportional to the degree of compliance with the ‘stay home –stay safe’ purpose of it, by the individual citizens. Lockdown comes at an enormous cost on the national economy, experts suggesting, might take years to recover, it has to be a panic-less collective endeavour to ensure lockdown delivers the envisaged results and the human cost is restricted.

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Lalit Ambardar
Building Design Management Consultant. Activist. TV Commentator. Public Speaker

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