We are in a high risk situation. There have been 20 deaths so far, and the number of new cases are increasing on an average by one hundred daily. We also find that there are more than 1300 cases of local transmission. Moreover, the impact of the painful lockdown has cost jobs and livelihoods of struggling thousands.
In the first week of August, amidst this tense atmosphere, Health Minister, Dr.L. Jayantakumar asserted that self-precaution is the only remedy against this pandemic. No, he was not shirking his responsibility. He had said that because the attack of Covid-19 is deadly and the government alone cannot save the public.
On the sidelines of the Minister’s announcement, I went to our local shop and had the opportunity of talking to him for a while, as customers were sparse unlike in earlier days of the pandemic. This good Samaritan of a shopkeeper, who had also been fined for opening his shop, uttered that those who are not in the vulnerable group might take self-precaution and might well protect themselves, but those in the frontlines, despite of whatsoever precautions they take, might get infected. He cited the example of Dr. Uthan who selflessly assisted in curing the first Covid patient of Manipur, who also has since treated 73 patients and helped 11 more recover, has now become infected himself. “I am also in the vulnerable group. I sanitise my hands every five minutes and wear masks. But it’s still risky, though I am not yet infected now”, he added.
Self-precaution, that is, wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing might be good but there are many who cannot do these things. I don’t know whether it is by utter negligence or lack of awareness. When I met a local brother who is a bricklayer, during an evening walk (evening walks have increased because exercise and good food can increase immunity as publicised), I engaged myself in a short conversation with him. As he spoke he was getting closer and closer to me, and I was stepping back and distancing. I thought he was not aware and I cut the conversation short.
If I am aware and the other is not aware, the results can be disastrous. So, why doesn’t the Health Department launch a poster campaign?
I think posters can reach everywhere, the nook and corner of every leikai (locality). As for awareness in the media, not many people have access to the media. Therefore we can hold awareness meetings, abiding by the guidelines of the standard operating procedure.
In the meantime, I would like to add staying alert is a very important aspect of self-precaution. Here comes in the role of the media, which must inform the latest areas declared as containment zone and the data of positive cases down to its minutes, and if possible the names and particulars of the positive cases. However, some might argue that it would trigger stringent stigmatization but this is not stigmatization but a response construed negatively. However, I feel sorry to hear from Hemantakumar Ningomba, Editor Sanaleibak that it was a great struggle to get accurate data of the daily caseload.
If we know our next leikai is a containment zone, then we can be extra cautious. We can self-isolate, venturing out only for the extreme essentials.
The virus has intruded into unsuspecting leikais: Two leikais in Thangmeiband and. Wahengbam leikai besides two leikais in Thoubal district recorded about thirty cases each. There is a catastrophe lurking but it is invisible. You imagine how you would spend in a flooded Covid Care centre without meals at the proper time. You will expend money, labour and many other inconveniences which will increase your difficulties. It will be a disaster, a catastrophe. Hence, instead of blaming the government, will it not be good to take self-precaution?
What scientist Pasternak of Brazil, who is critical of her governmnet’s handling of the pandemic, and what Oja Chinglen Maisnam of Manipur University say have some similarity. Both held that only science can fight the virus, and not force or super-impositions. Oja Chinglen has always been suggesting that an expert team of scientists must advise the government as is done in UK where scientific advisers assist the Boris Johnson government.
I suppose the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in our state, it may happen sometime in September or October. It will be devastating if we don’t take precautions now, given that top epidemiologist, Dr. Jayaprakash Miliyil asserted that half on the Indian population (670 million) will be infected by the virus. We should be prepared to face this coming winter, the season of flu.
Several families have put up clear posters banning the entry of visitors without masks. Masks wearing has increased, a good news, but self-isolation is yet to catch up. As soon as the lockdown hours begin, the roads are filled with walkers who exercise to boost up their immunity.
I know that besides self-precaution, which is being followed, test,trace and isolate still needs to be carefully executed. We cannot completely rely on individual responsibility. But it is better than to be picked up in an ambulance and kept in a Covid Care Centre where a mother complained of complete blackout when she stayed with her positive infant.
The writer is a freelance writer and journalist