This late Autumn has started to witness the tragedy wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the hectic political bunglings of bye-elections to five Assembly constituencies, the losses of near and dear ones have added miseries to sections of the larger public. Film star turned politician R.K.Somorendro, (Kaiku) lost a loving sister (though not related by blood) in the most shocking way, deprived of general humanity during the last hours of the deceased.
I was shocked to learn it on Thursday from a person who people generally avoided because he was queer and therefore quite confusing to be in his puerile company. He wore a cowboy hat and in even in the hot season, he always had a thick coat over his back.
He told me that we had suffered the impact of the painful lockdown (our means of livelihood have been destroyed) and now we are suffering the impact of COVID-19 illness. “The number of positive cases has doubled in the past 20 days. The death rate is also doubling up fast. The measures we have taken have not slowed down the spread of the virus,” he said.
Another dimension of the pandemic is, according to him, forcing people to undergo COVID-19 test. A family turned out another family as one of its members was suspected to be infected. No amount of reasoning could convince them he would not be infected, and the boy underwent test (braving great hardship) at the Babina Diagnostics. The result came out negative. But the poor family had spent Rs.2400/-, a major chunk of the food budget of the month. At their time of need, the government was not there to reimburse their hard earned and scarce money. And so in these days of economic hardship, the family incurred a deficit. Cases like these have caused social discord.
The government has initiated local lockdown in Thangmeiband area. These circuit breakers are essential but the circuit will not be broken if mixing of households indoors, parties by youngsters and elders alike, congregating for gambling sessions are not banned. Workplaces are also vulnerable areas where strict measures are required.
Last week, against this backdrop, ex-MLA, R.K. Anand asserted that the government needed to review its present strategy against COVID-19. The number of positive cases in his constituency Naoriya Pakhanglakpa surged and there was no way out to slow down the spread of the virus. If the consultative committee review and change the present strategy, the public may experiment with another approach that may slow down the spread of the virus. There have been talks among the public that the present strategy did not pay much dividends.
Some areas are more vulnerable to the virus. Areas where the houses are congested and there are mixing of households indoors exhibited cluster infections. There are some leikais relatively unaffected yet. We find that in these leikais, individuals never group together and seldom venture out to work. Few individuals attend government offices and they are poor. They make ends meet somehow.
In reality, we are on the threshold of an acute crisis. Health workers have become very vulnerable group. While doctors are infected, the patients have no way to look for treatment. The infection rates, as they are high, has reduced the capacity of the health care system. If we have to protect the health Care system, the rate of infection among health care workers has to be levelled off.
Have we lost control of the virus? Is the lethal virus getting out of control? On Sunday, there were 426 new cases. Given the doubling rate, we may fear that in November there might be 700 new cases each day. What will happen if our COVID-19 centres and hospitals are overwhelmed? If we take the statement of Dr. Y Mohen, President Indian Red Cross Society that the health system has collapsed, (he told Manung Hutna of Impact TV last week) the COVID-19 pandemic will take a heavy toll of lives. So much so, indeed, that we need to change our COVID-19 strategy.
The writer is a freelance writer and journalist