For God’s Sake! It’s Not A Spring Break!!

Veera is a published Author (‘Endured’ and ‘#LoveBitesLifeHacks’) and Columnist; a passionate Educator and Counsellor; Poet and Philosopher… but most of all, a lover of all things literary.

I find it uncanny, in these times when a pandemic is unfurling its vicious wrath, how little our understanding of the imminent danger to life and its churnings, really is.  Nations are locked down, the economy is a mess and we are all vulnerable. There is no cure, no vaccine, treatment uncertain, the danger immeasurable and the worst-hit and most vulnerable are the elderly. 

While the universe is angry, the earth furious and the gods annoyed, policy makers are in a bind as they think about how best to move forward in the weeks, maybe months, to come. Faced with the possibility of an effective treatment being months, or even a year or two away, the grim dilemma they face: either effectively shut down society for months to prevent transmission or see health care systems overwhelmed by people needing treatment. 

In a country as vast and over-populated as ours, this situation is bleak indeed! India has done some things well – like being among the first countries to shut off its borders proactively and managing contact tracing of people returning via flight to the nation quite early. However what India has not managed to do, is test enough people, and till recently, it has not leveraged a significant capacity for testing – especially in the private as well as the government labs. We seem to have missed the bus on testing.

The growth of the COVID-19 virus is exponential, and while this pandemic is sweeping the globe, the question remains, what can we ordinary people do to safeguard ourselves? Every nation, at the early onset, toyed and seemed comfortable for a while with the measures that were falling under the vague umbrella of social distancing – a swath of precautions meant to reduce close contact between people in hopes of slowing this virulent spread. But with no firmer censors placed on what we loosely term ‘Social Distancing’, the specifics of this behavioural campaign aren’t always consistent or easy to deconstruct. 

With the population density being what it is, Social Distancing in India would admittedly come with a new set of challenges. While we commend decisions in shutting down schools and businesses, or the advice in shifting to working from home, were we really doing enough? Was our understanding of this situation serious enough? While health officials were instituting measures to decrease the number of mass gatherings and public events were being postponed, fervent masses of our Indian population were being denied their one buttress in times like these, with temples like Siddhivinayak , Shirdi, mosques dargahs, churches and others being closed to the public. The measures instated were good, but did they suffice? 

Social Distancing is a term that means actively avoiding crowded public places – this, according to health professionals, plays a key role in decreasing the rapid spread of the COVID-19 and serves, as they say, to ‘Flattening the Curve’. Guidelines put forth by the ‘Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’ or CDC (the US agency charged with tracking and investigating public health trends), acknowledge that a  community’s size, density and health care access can shift the specifics, that social distancing measures may be scaled up or down depending on the evolving local situation. But most experts have advised ‘erring on the side of caution’, and taking a strictly conservative approach. 

Social Distancing is not about a personal agenda to ensure your safety against this virus. It is about being a responsible citizen. The end game here was buying time for hospitals to increase their capacity, for labs to ramp up diagnostic testing. It’s giving time to policymakers to amp their approaches to this crisis which has us all in a bind. It was all about keeping the deaths low, the health care systems functioning and the Intensive Care Units from not being overwhelmed. It was about being mindful of the medics, nurses and doctors who are defying death, working against all odds, to make sure we have a future, a tomorrow.

The shameful truth was, while the apocalypse loomed large, people were continuing with social gatherings with weak justifications for a choice that ultimately puts one’s short-term social enjoyment ahead of the health – maybe even lives – of countless people, who could be more vulnerable to the disease. House parties, game-nights, sleepovers for the kids, do not constitute social distancing in any form. 

For God’s sake – this is not a spring break! Without clear and forceful guidelines from the administrative authorities, a country the size of India with a population as large, people seem to be losing the plot and failing miserably to comprehend the gravity of an imminent outbreak and the importance of staying in. Maybe they are somewhat assured in the fact that the few reported cases in India seem small for a country with a population of 1.3 billion. The truth is, these were just the few reported and tested cases, and like numerous other countries, testing here was very inadequate in terms of numbers. The numbers we have, perhaps symbolize just the tip of the iceberg. 

Describing people as valued soldiers in the fight against the deadly Coronavirus, Prime Minister Modi has said that caution will help prevent lakhs of lives. The 14-hour Janta Curfew last Sunday, on March 22nd, seemed like a great move – streets were deserted, people seemed to have closed ranks to actually use the weapon of social distancing for those hours. But come evening, numerous citizens shockingly gathered in groups, processions and parades in various cities across the country, totally effacing and nullifying the very purpose of that clarion call!!! We desperately needed  bulletins, messages, announcements flashes with a list of specific ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to inform and apprise, not just the ignorant here, but also the ‘educated imbeciles’ who ride that donkey of convenience as they choose, believing honestly, that they are somehow, infallible!

Now, under a complete lockdown, it stands to reason that we may have a fighting chance. To end in a lighter vein, for the first time in history, we can save the human race by simply lying in front of the TV and doing nothing! So really, let’s not mess this up! 

Veera Shroff Sanjana
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