GASPING: Many patients across the country are gasping for breath and dying because of shortage of oxygen which many serious covid-19 patients need, if their lungs are infected by pneumonia due to delay in testing and respiratory problems
By Rajan Narayan
Goa may soon have to follow Maharashtra which has imposed strict lockdown from Wednesday, April 14 to May 1, under which nobody can move out of their house unless they have urgent valid reasons like going to hospitals or buying medicines or getting groceries. Wedding and entertainment guest list has been cut down to 25 people, while for funerals it is down to 20. All malls, multiplexes and open spaces including gardens have been closed for the period of the lockdown...
IT IS the chicken and egg story! What comes first? Chicken or egg? This story is the dilemma of the lockdown. Several developed countries have brought down the spread of covid-19 by imposing very stringent lockdowns. In the UK for instance during the lockdown period residents were not allowed out of their house for weeks and months. All the industries and commercial establishments were closed. Even if you wanted to get married you could not have more than 15 guests. Anyone who flew from outside to the UK was required to observe a quarantine period for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense.
In other countries in Europe the lockdown was even more stringent. The Prime Minister of Norway was recently fined a huge amount of Rs1,76,052 in local currency for inviting 15 people for her birthday instead of the limit of 10! In India of course it is not imaginable that Narendra Modi, who seldom wears a mask, will be fined even a naya paisa. While Goans who do not wear a mask out on the streets may be hauled up and fined a dozen times a day at Rs500 each default!
In the context of the fresh spike in covid-19 cases virtually countrywide, a limited lockdown has been re-imposed in various states. Maharashtra, for instance, has imposed a lockdown on weekends and is considering a lockdown during week days also. Similarly, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hydrabad and several other cities have banned interstate or travel within the state unless you have a covid-19 negative certificates.
Going by the huge spike now in Goa which is rushing towards 5,000 cases, with an average 500 cases per day, which are much more than the recoveries – and yet Chief Minister Pramod Sawant refuses to impose a lockdown at least in the major areas affected (for example, the casinos on the river Mandovi). On the contrary he claims that it is Goans who have contributed to the spread by being irresponsible regarding observing stringent covid precautions. Tourist are not responsible for the sudden spike though the largest number of cases are being reported from Candolim, Porvorim and Panaji.
The Urban Health Centre in Panaji which used to go more or less empty is now overflowing with long queues dragging out on the pavements outside. Covid-19 centres have been set up in the Fatorda and the Dr Shyama Mukherjee stadium at Bambolim plateau. The real problem is a shortage of ICU beds and ventilators. We are seeing a steady increase in the number of deaths. Hospital admissions are far less than those who choose to suffer it out in isolation at home if they can. But the bitter ground reality is that there are very few homes good enough for home isolation and treatment.
AT home it means you must a spare room with a toilet attached which only the patient may use and which can be constantly sanitised and sealed from the rest of the house, so that no other family member or visitor runs the risk of being infected. Nor are there enough doctors to monitor the condition of patients who choose to be isolated at home. In most cases when symptoms become worse patients are shifted to hospital.
THERE are both positive and negative aspects to imposing lockdowns. The worst affected by lockdowns are daily wage employees. The majority of the workers in urban areas and even in the industrial states in Goa are contract workers. The women who comes to clear your garbage door-to-door are daily wage workers. Most utility workers who attend to electrical problems or telecom problems or washing machine problems or your cable or dish TV problems are contract workers. In Karnataka and Maharashtra maids and drivers and other utility workers are not allowed to work if there is a lockdown.
If these workers who are the backbone of day-to-day life are lock-downed in their rented accommodation rooms they will not earn their daily wages. This in turn will mean no money to buy daily essential requirements. The larger consequences of both industrial and commercial establishments will be affected. Not to mention government offices. It may be argued the closure of government offices will reduce the harassment of the public and the bribes that are constantly demanded!
Then there are the essential services offered like that of the public transport department, without whom you cannot renew or get fresh licenses. Similarly, when there is a lockdown commercial establishments — except those which are selling food items, milk and other essential goods like medicines –will be closed. All the Caculo, Delfino and other malls will shut and this will cause immense loss of business, not to mention undesirable lay off for the employees because here they cannot work from home.
Similarly in the case of industries which have already been effected by the maintain one meter distance rule they will have to enforce breaks for even their contract labour, who have nowhere to go but back to their village homes.. The bitter ground reality is that even some of the biggest factories in Goa such as the Zuari and other big pharma units at the Verna Industrial Estate, which manufacture covid-19 medicine Remdisivir, employ the majority of their labour on a contract basis. So if they cannot work due to the lockdown it means that thousands if not lakhs of employees will be jobless. No jobs, no money to pay accommodation rent, buy rations to sustain themselves till the lockdown ends.
During the first phase of the covid-19 last year when Narendra Modi announced the country-wide lockdown, migrants by the lakh were forced to return to their home towns and villages by taking trekking it out the roads and highways. It was a stupendous scenario of tragic proportions as we read about it and saw the heart-rending pictures in the media. This particularly affected the residents of the bimaru or sick states which have historically been Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pardesh and even Orissa.
WITHOUT bus or trains to go back home and not enough money to live it out in their cities of employment the affected migrant workers had no choice but to start walking with their family and measly belonging, hoping nothing untoward happened on their journey back home.
The BJP may want to make India a Hindutuva state but the ground reality is that the bulk of the population is concentrated in urban pockets which provide the highest income. The bitter fact is that with mechanisation there are very few jobs in the villages. Even the few jobs that are available fetch very low wages. Compare to this the states like Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu which survive on migrant labor and offer a minimum of Rs 10,000 per month.
If the rural migrant worker brings his wife along she complements their income by working as a domestic maid. So a migrant labour couple may earn in Goa at the very least Rs20,000 per month. This is also true of major cities in Kerala where the locals go off to greener pastures in the Gulf countries to do far better paid menial jobs at construction sites. The taxi owners who are making so much noise currently about app based taxis do not drive their own car or cars in Goa! They pay migrant drivers to ply their cabs. Trawler owners do not go out to sea to do the fishing. They only supervise their migrant employees from Orissa to do the hard work while they take care of the accounts only.
The choice: Starve or run the risk of getting infected by covid-19. If there is a complete lockdown, evidence from countries abroad have shown that Covid-19 cases come down quickly. But declaring a lockdown is not enough. It has to be enforced. You cannot have a lockdown and yet see a khumb mela in full flow attended by millions of devotees indifferent about wearing mask or maintaining physical distancing. Election campaigns cannot go on without either politicians or the public at the public rallies oblivious to wearing masks or keeping distance out of respect for covid-19 infection!
It would go a long way if our people followed simple procedures like wearing clean masks, remember to maintain distance, wash their hands frequently. Unfortunately our people don’t believe in any discipline! A mask is not a piece of cloth to keep your mouth and nose covered. There are cheap masks and the more genuinely protective masks with four layers of material, referred to as the N95 masks which cost Rs500 plus, plus. Needless to say the marketing of a whole host of good and bad masks has become a money making racket with Facebook posts displaying colourful designer masks to match daily wear outfits as also swim suits!
MOST mask wearers do not realized that a mask must cover mouth and nose adequately to offer maximum protection. The tendency is that we wear our masks so as not be break the law and be fined in public, but while shopping or with friends the masks soon slip off to chin level or off altogether for photo selfies! Some think scarves and dupatta make for perfect masks and go around with half their head and face drapped! There’s a fortune to be made in sanitizers too despite the fact that washing hands with soap and water is enough protection.
All we have to do is collectively have the will to follow the minimum SOP laid down! And be free from covid-19 contagion in a short time and we may carry on with normal life so that the economy doesn’t come to a grinding halt and we live perpetually stressed out lives anticipating fearful consequences.
It is clear that with a return to rising covid-19 cases we have not been taking the pandemic seriously enough to make it count. Unfortunately, we are not even taking vaccination seriously. While there are states and countries which are desperate for vaccines and even in the mass “tikka” camp held in Goa over the weekend only 8,000 people were vaccinated!
Frontline doctors and nurses are so tired that they want to go on strike. Why should they risk their life on a population of stupid people who cannot even abide by minimum protocol rules to and advice to stay safe, discourage the infection from having the last laugh on human beings? May be we deserve to die to help bring down the population of the world!