Who would’ve thought that the next time this world comes together, it will be to fight a virus that is spreading like wildfire and has killed thousands, and continues to take down everything in its path? Countries have closed their borders, people are locked up in their houses, all international flights cancelled, shops are empty, roads are without traffic, and yet no one knows how much longer before we get out of this. The world is trying, our doctors and nurses are out there risking their lives to treat people, and find a cure, our leaders are trying to do their best to control the spread of Coronavirus in India, and set up infrastructure for treatment.
What is COVID-19?
The disease causes a respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms like cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficult breathing. One way to protect yourself is to wash your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell.
How does it spread?
Coronavirus disease primarily spreads through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It can also spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. In this article, we will be discussing the spread of virus in India, our preparedness to deal with the pandemic, and what our government is doing to control the spread of the virus as compared to other countries.
As countries globally began enforcing compulsory lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, India, the world’s second most populous country, followed suit. India’s strict lockdown of its 1.3 billion people will disrupt the lives of many, including daily wage workers, migrant workers facing hunger, poverty and forced to walk home.
While India placed travel restrictions relatively early in the spread of Covid-19, and several states moved quickly to close all public places, but the country’s high population density and the associated difficulty in carrying out social distancing, our overburdened public health infrastructure, and high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the prospect of transmission of diseases from the young to the elderly in joint families all stack the odds against effective containment of the disease.
Let’s take a look at India’s strategy to handle this virus, and if it has the infrastructure, manpower, and intellect to stop the spread of this disease.
The government took charge of the fight against Covid-19 right from the beginning — the first week of February. Taking rapid actions to limit travel by suspending visas and quarantining all incoming travellers has helped. All international passengers entering India undergo Universal Health Screening. According to health officials, more than 1 million passengers have been screened at airports, limiting the entry of coronavirus.
The response also mirrors India’s reaction to previous disease outbreaks, including Ebola in 2014, when people were quickly put into quarantine or under surveillance. Indian citizens have been advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad, and citizens have been evacuated from Iran, Italy, China and Japan.
The government has said the extreme measure of a lockdown is necessary to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus, though public health experts point out that all this does is give the country some time to build capacity to fight the virus in the coming months.
However, India has been criticised for its poor record of testing people in the battle against coronavirus. India hasn’t been conducting nearly as many as test as required, countries like USA, Italy, Spain have been carrying out more tests in a day than India does in one week. One particularly vulnerable community are those in poverty, especially because private health care is expensive and inaccessible to many while public hospitals lag behind in quality.
There’s also a problem of infrastructure, India likely lacks enough hospital beds for the number of people likely to be infected. But beyond the question of hospital capacity is a question of trust in the public health system. Many public hospitals in India are overcrowded, lack staff, and patients have shared concerns with him about being treated badly at public hospitals — an experience that may lessen their chances of willing to go again.
The key to managing the COVID-19 outbreak is to identify people with symptoms early so they can be isolated but often people don’t come forward until they have advanced symptoms and have spread the disease. Experts also believe that extreme social distancing measures like those taken by countries like Italy, which has quarantined the entire country of 60 million people, is not “remotely possible in India” because India is a populated country and a large of this population lives in crowded areas and slums. Even when we talk about closing our public areas, our transportation system like the metros and public buses are also always overcrowded.
There’s also the problem of rumours spreading in our country, mainly through platforms like WhatsApp, and in times like these with chaos and tension around us, people tend to believe these messages. And, although misinformation can be common during an outbreak across different countries, India’s problem involves more than just arbitrary messages.
At this time, India is in a critical position if the correct measures are not taken, it might enter the phase of Community Transmission, and then there’s no going back. Experts have warned that India still has time to contain what otherwise could be a catastrophic outbreak, putting millions of lives at risk. Many fear that the country’s healthcare system may not be able to cope with a massive outbreak. Around 130 million people will head to hospitals even if 10% of India’s population is infected, according to conservative estimates.
So, India is putting all its faith in hands of its doctors, nurse, and the hospital staff to be the heroes that the country needs in times like these, We must not forget, however, that in order for them to be successful, we need to be equally cooperative, we need to follow the norms of social distancing, and be the responsible citizens that the world needs us to be to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in India.