EVEN THE GODS BOW DOWN TO CORONAVIRUS!

EMPTY: The ISL final was held in an empty Fatorda stadium this year due to fears of spreading coronavirus

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the United States overtook China in the number of coronavirus deaths. For a Saturday following the week when Germany proved to be the most efficient in dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. For a Saturday following the week when the biggest problem globally and in India is lack of infra-structure. For a Saturday following the week when Dr Kurian of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences rightly described the coronavirus pandemic as a human and social tragedy. For a Saturday following the week when it appeared that if we do not fall victim to coronavirus infection most people will die of boredom.
And a few stray thoughts on the United States having overtaken the rest of the world including China in the spread of coronavirus infection. Historically, America always prided itself on the fact that it was the most developed country in the world. It is not however very proud of the fact that it has more coronavirus cases than China. Not surprisingly the major hub of the virus is the Silicon Valley which is the computer capital of the US. Just ahead of California which is the home of Google and Facebook is New York City which is considered the financial capital of the world.
The race between coronavirus pandemic and the rest of the world is a like the story of the rabbit and tortoise. The rabbit and the tortoise challenged each other to a race. The overconfident rabbit decided to have a siesta confident that it could easily overtake the tortoise. This is what happened to the United States. While the US focused on electric cars and joy rides to outer space and the moon it ignored the nasty little virus which was spreading with lightening speed. The largest number of deaths due to coronavirus is edging towards a two lakh mark in the US. The reason is that you cannot prevent causalities till you are able to detect the presence of the coronavirus in time. The US has not been able to create the necessary infrastructure for carrying out tests to detect the seriousness of the condition of patients.
A young US female doctor attached to the New York health care system dramatized how dangerous the situation in the US is. She revealed that there were two categories of patients. The first category comprised people who had early symptoms and wanted to confirm if they had caught the virus. The second and much more dangerous category were the overconfident serious cases brought in ambulances at terminal stage. Stressing on the seriousness of the infection the young Indian doctor in New York confirmed that coronavirus could even be transmitted through the eyes if any droplets from a mighty cough or a sneeze got into the eyes.

GERMANY MOST EFFICIENT

AND a few stray thoughts on Germany having emerged as the most efficient country in dealing with coronavirus epidemic. As we have pointed out earlier the ability to minimise deaths depends on the efficiency of the testing system. As against the 90 cases which are tested in India West Germany has achieved a new record by being able to test on an average two lakh cases daily. Again part of the reason why Germany at least seems to be winning the war against the coronavirus is because it is a very disciplined country. Unlike India and most other countries the residents of Germany strictly follow instructions. Germany is the first country in the world to focus on creating more labs and more test kits so that the burden on hospitals in reduced.
A German doctor speaking to NDTV pointed out that the speed with which coronavirus spread meant that there is no space in hospitals for dealing with other equally serious cases of heart attack or stroke. Lockdowns have been the most successful in Germany and are designed to cause the lease inconvenience to ordinary citizens. No factories are closed down as it is realised that production must continue if not increase to generate funds for research. The only aspect which Germany is fanatical about is the ban on the gathering of large groups of people at a single venue.
It may be pointed out that due to the mega Islamic conference (Tableek Jamaat) held in Nizzamuddin in Delhi, the positive count has risen to almost 100%. Moreover since the delegates had come from various parts of the world and the country those who contracted the virus have taken it to spread throughout India, including Goa. The CBI has discovered that seven delegates from Goa attended the conference which was held in February 2020. Similarly, a large Sikh gurudwara the heart of Delhi which provided shelter during the agitation against the CAA has also contributed to the spread of the deadly infection. Germany is the only country which strictly enforces the rule of preventing even small gatherings of five and above leave alone big conferences.

INADEQUATE INFRASTRUCTURE

AND a few stray thoughts on the inadequacy of infra-structure worldwide to deal with the coronavirus. The last bastion in the defence against coronavirus is the ventilator. The disease becomes terminal when it affects the respiratory system and the lungs collapse. This calls for a very large number of ventilators. The ventilator is the medical device which provides oxygen to the lungs when they fail and it is primarily used in cases of heart attack and respiratory diseases. Besides being expensive hospitals do not keep too many ventilators as there is no demand for them. For the benefit of the common man a ventilator is the same as shifting the patients to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the last stage of any serious illness. The number of coronavirus cases is so huge that not all the ventilators available across the world are sufficient to deal with cases. Which is why already in the developed countries like the United States, UK and Germany, automobile manufacturers are being compelled to switch to manufacturing ventilators. Even in India all major auto firms like the TATAs and Mahindras have been instructed to convert their automobile factories to making ventilators.
Besides ventilators the biggest shortfall is in the availability of personal care equipment for the use of both patients and more importantly medical doctors and nursing healthcare givers dealing with coronavirus patients. Indeed, even in Delhi there have been cases of doctors falling prey to the disease because of poor quality of personal care equipment. As you have been watching on TV the clothes that doctors and nurses have to wear are like space suits. They have to be made of very special plastic material and put together to ensure there is no gap anywhere in the body suit whereby the virus can leak into the team treating a patient. Unfortunately, in India even the professional nine grade masks used by surgeons during operations are not available in adequate number. Far more dangerous is the distribution of cheap cotton masks which offer no protection against the spread of the virus. In India the primary problem is the lack of adequate testing labs and testing kits. In Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane very proudly announced that a testing lab had been set up at Goa Medical College at Bambolim. The lab facility was cleared by the Indian Medical Research Centre but failed within a few days of installation. So the only reliable testing centre is the Microbiology Department in Pune. The turnaround in the time taken for test results to arrive is crucial to saving lives, in the case of India the minimum time it takes to get test results is more than a week. When even the most advanced countries are struggling to strengthen the infrastructure you can imagine the case of underdeveloped countries like India. There is no point of talking about a five trillion dollar economy if you cannot make full-proof masks to deal with the coronavirus disease.

DR KURIAN SAYS

AND a few stray thoughts on the observations by DR Kurian of the All India Institute of Medical sciences that coronavirus was primarily a human and social disaster rather than a medical disaster. Coronavirus was a social disaster because the worst affected were the poorest of the poor. It was a human disaster as following the lockdowns the crores of migrant labour in the country could not even get roti kapda and makan. As Arvind Kejriwal points out so eloquently in his advertisements on NDTV, you cannot throw a member of the family or a guest out of the house because he has tested positive for coronavirus. If an individual has tested positive for coronavirus the probability is that he will lose his job. Kejriwal pointed out that over 90% of our working population were contract workers who had no savings. They lived on what they earn during the day. So Kejriwal made an appeal to employers not to sack the contract workers during the lockdown epidemic. Among the biggest victims during any lockdown are construction workers who are daily wage workers. If there is no construction they cannot earn enough even to feed themselves. The Delhi Administration which included the PM Modi and his cabinet were very agitated as the migrant labour who had lost their job were leaving Delhi and literally walking back to their houses in Bihar, UP and Rajasthan. Which meant that after three weeks when the lock down ended Delhi would not have enough labour for the various ongoing projects. Delhi has started providing meals for four lakh migrant labour per day to persuade them to stay back in Delhi. The Delhi Administration has provided shelter for the migrant labour in the schools which will remained closed till the 6th of June 2020. Not only in Delhi but in several other states and cities like Mumbai and Chennai migrant labour are trying to get back to their home towns. This is created and even bigger problem as the people in the villages from which the migrants had gone to Mumbai and other cities to work do not have the resources to feed the hundreds and thousands of migrants who are pouring in. Clashes have started between the original residence of the villages and the migrants. This dramatizes the need to spread Industrial business through out the country instead of concentrating it in a few areas. We seem to be heading back to the era when the bulk of the poor people lived in the BIMARU states which included Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

RAPID SPREAD

AND a few stray thoughts on how even the mightiest of the gods of all religions have to bow to a tiny virus which you cannot even see except through a microscope. Since coronavirus spreads very rapidly and demands a minimum safe distance of at least one meter between people, there cannot be any large gatherings. Which is why Saudi Arabia has cancelled Hajj this Ramzan when normally millions of Muslims from the world over congregate in Mecca and Madina.
The Roman Catholic Church is facing a very major crises. April 10 is Good Friday which a most important day in the history of Christianity. Indeed, Good Friday is the foundation of Christianity. Good Friday is the day when Jesus Christ was crucified by Roman soldiers. The legend of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity. But this Good Friday Pope Francis in Rome has directed Christians not to gather in churches out of the fear that they may contract coronavirus. Every day the Holy Father, Pope Francis who is head of the Catholic Church performs mass at one of the windows of St Peter’s square at Vatican City in Italy.
Since the coronavirus epidemic started He has been performing mass privately in his room and this is then telecast. The lockdown period has become like the Shravan month observed by Hindus and Ramzan observed by Muslims during which no marriages are performed. During the lockdown period marriages of every religion involving the getting together of large groups of people have been barred.In Delhi police even stopped a marriage where the Hindu bride, groom and poojari were all wearing masks! Many of popular springtime harvest festivals such as Onam in Kerala and Pongal in Tamil Nadu take place during the months of March and April. Since these coincide with the coronavirus lockdown period they have been cancelled for a year. The essence of any kind of sport whether it is football or cricket or tennis or badminton is the audience. This year the finals of the Indian Soccer League which is the football tournament promoted by Nita Ambani was played at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa — without any audience.
There are doubts about whether World Cup football scheduled to be held for the first time in the Gulf will go ahead as it coincides with all the lockdowns around the world. For the first time in over 200 the most prestigious tennis tournament held at Wimbledon in England has been cancelled. There are serious doubts whether the Olympics, the world’s biggest sporting events held in every four years, will take place this time in Tokyo as scheduled in August.
AND a last stray thought on the assurance given by a Cabinet secretary that the current lockdown will not continue beyond April 14, April 2020. However, in the wake of the Tablighi Jamaat incident and the vacation of the largest Sikh Gurudwara in Delhi, doubts persist on whether the lockdown will be terminated. There is no cause to continue the lockdown at least in Goa as there has been no local transmission. There has not been a single positive case in Goa of transmission of the coronavirus from one person to another amongst those who have not travelled out of Goa or come in touch with Goans or outsiders from another where there is presence of the epidemic. The object of the lockdown is to ensure that no virus carriers continue to remain undetected in Goa. We hope that by April 14, Goa will be liberated from any more new cases of suspected cases of coronavirus infection.

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