CONSERVE: All the wasted bits of soap at home or in the hotel you stay in can be converted into liquid soap to wash your hands as often as you can
By Rajan Narayan
Lockdowns, curfews and Red Zone are not going to be eliminated or even reduce the speed of the spread of coronavirus infection. We do not have the health infrastructure to halt it. Follow the rules. Keep yourself clean. Help others to remain clean with simple contributions like soap and handkerchiefs to create a climate for better hygiene…
WHEN I was doing my masters in economics I used to dread modelling. Not the kind of modelling that you see on the ramp and popularised in Goa by the late Wendell Rodrigues. But the mathematical models that are the favourite of economists who see themselves more as astrologers predicting what will happen in the future based on what happened in the past. Every night for a change we are bombarded with economic forecast of the speed with which Covid-19 will spread and whether we will ever get freedom from Covid-19. More than freedom from Covid-19, freedom from fear of Covid-19.
Nobody has been spared by the novel coronavirus which is alleged to have been made in a lab for biological warfare in Wuhan district of China. Apparently, China’s objective is to destroy the economies of all other countries and become the world champion. It will not be the United States which will be the Muhammad Ali of the economic world but the People’s Republic of China. Just when you think that the Covid-19 will only target poor migrants, comes the news that pilots and aircraft mechanics have become victims of Covid-19. The Health Department depends on the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to make sure the lockdown is implemented. The latest statistic is that almost a thousand CRPF personnel have been infected. Most shocking is that the caregivers — doctors, nurses, ward boys and all the hospital staff including those who drive ambulances or dispose of the bodies of Covid-19 victims are terrified.
THERE are many theories about the recent sudden death of the Vicount of Pernem, the late Jitendra Deshprabhu. The medical staff of the GMC have been accused of negligence. Apparently they had been directed by the consultant to conduct a CT scan. There was no one available to conduct the CT scan according to official claims. The real story apparently is that Jitendra Deshprabhu had allegedly died of coronavirus infection. The consultant who ask for a CT scan was aware of it and had directed that proper protective material should be provided to the senior resident and the technicians and attendants conducting the CT scan. Now there is a desperate shortage of this Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As we have all seen from TV images the body of the caregiver has to be completely protected from head to toe. Even the goggles worn by the doctors and nurses should not have any gap to let the virus sneak into the body of the doctor. Is it possible that the senior resident who was to perform the CT scan decided to disappear as no PPE was provided to him?
Every time you watch images of caregivers or Covid-19 patients you are repeatedly warned that you should wear masks. You are even fined Rs100 if you do not wear a mask. But the mask offers little or no protection if the patient is already infected. The biggest obstacle to preventing the spread of Covid-19, is that the seriousness of the virus is not understood. The manner and speed with which the virus strikes is not explained. Particularly in countries like India where literacy rates are very poor and there is an acute shortage of equipment. How does one react to the sight of dead coronavirus patients occupying beds in hospitals along-side patients who are being treated? How does one explain to a semi-literate person that even the dead body has not only to be disinfected but buried at least 10 feet deep?
The economists who are busy coming up with economic models every minute and every hour now tell us that the virus will peek in India only by June or July. Going by their earlier prediction linked to the number of tests conducted by now the number of cases should have declined. As they have done in similar situations where lockdowns have been imposed. But as we have consistently pointed out it is not the lockdowns alone which will halt the spread of the virus. It is the total hygiene infrastructure. While you are repeatedly told to wear a mask you may also allow to people to chew paan and spit it out.
If the pace of the spread of Covid-19 fell sharply in countries like Italy and Germany after lockdowns it was not only because of the lockdowns but because of the hygiene infrastructure. It was because of the discipline that citizens of these countries followed. It was because of the social security which prevented migrants from walking hundreds of kilometres to their home towns.
The immunity system of the migrants must have been already there as they decided to walk back because their employers were not taking care of their food, shelter and physical spacing needs in their adopted work places. Is it a surprise that the few migrants who were taking by train or bus to their native places proved positive for coronavirus? Instead of placing migrant workers under quarantine and building their immunity they are further exposed to Covid-19.
CAN you imagine the horror of a goods train running over a group of 16 migrant workers who were taking rest on what seemed to them a safe railway track? Surely the loco pilot had eyes to see if he was alert that before the powerful lights some people were asleep on the tracks?
The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are among the few political leaders who recognise the grim reality of such situations. Which is that we have to learn to live with the coronavirus epidemic or pandemic. We are not going to stop the spread of the virus with lockdowns. We are not going to stop the spread with sub-standard make-do equipment. We are not going to prevent fatalities if we are short of even PPE for caregivers. Let alone ventilators for patients. The tragedy is that we have become so obsessed with Covid-19 that we have forgotten patients suffering equally from heart attacks, strokes and even TB, claimed more lives last year than Covid-19. The fatal flaw is communication. We have got to create awareness on every aspect of Covid-19. We should throw away the silly masks which only give you a headache and teach our people basic hygiene in which you cover your mouth and nose with at least a handkerchief if you have to sneeze or cough. You cannot keep washing your hands frequently with soap and water if there is no water and there is no soap.
May be besides distributing food to migrants we could also distribute wet wipes. There are countries and even cities in India which have made requests to hotels to donate the unused soaps in starred hotels. Starred hotel are very generous with multiple small packets of fancy soaps, most of which are used once and then go waste. Can we request the starred hotels to send us the unused and semi-used soaps which we can convert into liquid hand wash? We don’t have to wait for hotels to send us their unused soaps. We can do it ourselves as many of us including me waste a lot of soap, leaving small bits of soap unused. Similarly, instead of forcing poor migrants who do not even have bus or train fare to go back home to buy a mask – buy a packet of cotton handkerchiefs for them to use as a protective mask on their face. Lockdown is not a question of spending 18-20 hours at home watching TV or speaking to your friends on your smartphones.
Lockdowns is to ensure that you do not pickup infection by preventing people who may be infected from visiting you. Or after the bread man, milkman, fish woman and those who deliver Swiggy and Zomato food deliveries. Make sure you wash your hands before and after you have your meals. You may not be able to stop Covid-19 immediately. Many of the viruses follow a cycle. As dramatized by earlier epidemics of swine flu, Spanish flue, Ebola, some bird flu. After any of the flu reach their peak they tend to start declining. What we can do is speed up the decline and extinction of the coronavirus. You don’t have to do major things. It is the little things that matter. If you maintain basic hygiene and make sure you follow instructions strictly than you can contribute to the collective afford to slow down the spread.
In the case of Covid-19 it’s not just the sneezing or direct contact with the carrier. Because in the case of Covid-19 not only a person who is positive but every object like his mobile, clothes, shoes and vessels he uses carry the infection. Which is why when a patient tests positive he/she is totally isolated which means that you cannot carry anything with you into the isolation ward except perhaps your mobile, provided it has been detoxed before you take it.
COVID-19 Opportunity for Goans
By Blaise Costabir
The mighty mite strikes again! This time the much maligned migrant labour is at the forefront of zoom debates, as now there are no official parties. Just a few months back, the discourse was on how they were eating up jobs, land and opportunity. Some groups started a movement to reclaim the Goan identity from the procession of so called migrants.
The moot question remains, who is a migrant and who is the original Goan. The last people on earth who can complain about migration are Goans. They have been the original migrators; first it was Africa, followed by El Dorado, the Gulf; once sufficiently heeled, they moved to greener and cooler climes of London, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The latest exodus is based on the coveted Portuguese passport, the impending BREXIT situation in UK, prompted many in two minds to head to the UK. Then the mighty mite struck and within a few weeks the entire globe shook.
The decision to lockdown slowed but did not stop the virus; however, it created havoc with the economy and those who lived hand-to-mouth are suffering. During the lockdown, the biggest difficulty was experienced by those at the bottom of the proverbial pyramid. They could not go out on a daily basis and buy provisions as was their normal practice. This singular change caused enormous heartburn and anxiety among the daily wagers.
This anxiety has translated into a desire to go to a safe place, that safe place is usually “home”, no matter what the conditions or what the cost. This is exactly what has happened; some of those going are the ones who may have no issues, they have work, they have their rented home, they have food, but the wish to be safe with their loved ones. Those who are not fortunate are even more desperate and have started walking to a place they feel they will be safe, HOME.
There is another factor. There are many who have hastened this exodus by directly of indirectly threatening or cajoling these people who are already on the edge to leave, saying it is the best option as there can be another lockdown.
Across the country we can see this exodus. Will it cripple industry. Yes, slowly but surely without us saying it, the migrant work force has become the backbone of many sectors. In Goa, for hotels, beach shacks and fishing industry, this was a normal off season phenomena as most returned home for their annual holiday. This time, because of the fear factor they are joined by many more. Construction, industry, agriculture can be hampered.
It can be a blessing in disguise, lots of Goans are going to return from the other parts of India, the Gulf, cruise ships and yes, even UK. They have seen the value of hard work and life in Goa is not as stressful or cramped. So, here is an opportunity to fill in this void and make the best of the moment. If they delay or avoid it, be sure opportunity will not come twice. We crib Goans do not get opportunity, now it has presented itself, are we ready to take it? TIME WILL TELL.
(Blaise Costabir is a first generation entrepreneur and Managing Director of GMI Zarhak Moulders, famous for Shakti water tanks)