ABRAR A MATTOO
The novel coronavirus is not a laughing matter, and if you come across someone who thinks that it is, pinch him awake, for he must he asleep. Only a month ago, on 19th of February, Italy had three positive cases of the virus and today they have more than forty-seven Considering that Italy has the world’s second best healthcare system, and ours in India ranks at 140th, this fact alone should terrify us to the bone.
Around the globe there are about 35 companies and numerous academic institutions working tirelessly to create a vaccine for the virus, but what should keep us on tenterhooks is that it may take about eighteen months to do so.
India is densely populated, the healthcare system is in a shambles as it has not been on the priority list of the current government, and a great chunk of the population is uneducated. Also, India has a huge population which indulges in tobacco chewing that influences the consumer to spit. We can always encounter people in the streets who are expectorating and dirtying the streets. These consumers of chewing tobacco are primarily illiterate and thus, they pose a serious hurdle to India’s fight against the Covid-19.
Another hurdle is superstition, especially of the religious right, which has repeatedly claimed that cow urine can be a cure. This in general undermines the importance of medical science and also adds to carelessness, such as the popular impression that the disease is lethal only to 2% of the positive cases, particularly to the elderly and those with underlying diseases. But considering that this disease strikes out of the blue and the victims have complained of unbearable pain, it must not be taken for granted.
There is also a great amount of misinformation being circulated on internet and social media. The deadliest among them is that the virus does not survive for more than 12 hours outside the human body. Research (Doremalen et al 2020) conducted by American scientists suggests that the virus can survive on some surfaces for 2-3 days, including plastic and steel. This also means that on your mobile screen the virus can survive for 2-3 days.
Kashmir is insufficiently armoured to be able to lock horns with the virus. The medical institutions are understaffed and ill-equipped. Two female doctors at the most important medical institutions of the valley (SMHS-SKIMS) have been put under observation after showing Covid-19 symptoms.
Another misfortune that Kashmir suffers from is that for about 70 lakh or so population, there are not more than 93 ventilators, including the ones that are in use. Considering that Covid-19 mainly affects the upper and lower respiratory tract, another issue that uniquely concerns the populace of the valley is that 69.7% of the adults are exposed to tobacco smoke at home, according to a GATS survey. Researchers believe that those exposed to smoke and pollution are at higher risk.
Reportedly, there are a number of Indian firms that manufacture medical devices, and one among which is “SCANRAY”, a Mysore based firm which has exported ventilators to Europe. It is claimed that the said firm alone can produce about 5,000 ventilators in a month. The J&K administration must place orders for ventilators with such firms, in case the need arises.
The lockdown must be tightened as government has primarily focused on Srinagar city, the result of which is that the other districts are escaping attention. Markets and public places have operated to a great degree without any interuption from the government in almost all the other districts of the valley.
A task force must be put into charge to ensure that public institutions that are still functioning are abiding with the WHO guidelines and maintaining safe and secure environment.
The J&K administration must assure the daily wage workers and private sector employees that their loss of income shall be reimbursed from the Exchequer. Announcing a financial package may ease the general anxiety and encourage people to stay in their houses. It may turn out to be a major step towards containing the pandemic.
The administration must also take cognizance of those tradesmen and grocers who are taking advantage of the situation and maximising the prices of essential services.
These steps by the administration can help curb the general restlessness and prevent the disaster from taking shape.
Together, we shall slay the beast.