With the government easing more restrictions under Unlock3.0 to further revive the economy since August 1, the war against the Coronavirus pandemic has to be fought by each and every citizen across the country, according to health experts, including epidemiologists…writes Fakir Balaji
“As the war against the elusive virus is going to be long and hard, the government alone cannot fight it, and the onus is on each and every citizen to join the battle even after a vaccine is found to treat it,” Karnataka health task force chairman M.K Sudarshan told.
By enforcing the lockdown since March 25 and extending it up to May 31 with stringent measures, ostensibly, to contain the virus spread, the government managed to control the situation initially and ensured that the country’s woeful healthcare infrastructure was not overwhelmed by lakhs of positive cases.
“The government, its agencies and healthcare warriors have been doing their best over the last 4 months, risking their lives to contain the pandemic, as is evident from the case data during the lockdown and after it was gradually lifted to revive socio-economic activities and restore livelihood.
“The onus to carry on the fight is more on all citizens by wearing masks, sanitising their hands and maintaining social distancing,” asserted Sudarshan, former head of the community medicine department in the state-run KIMS (Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences) hospital in the city centre.
The Karnataka government had set up the 6-member committee in mid-April to analyse the Covid-19 data from the southern state and across the country to study the epidemiology of the virus cases, how different patients got infected, what measures for breaking the chain and suggest changes, if required.
Though testing of swab samples to find who got the virus was less and results took longer time due to shortage of diagnostic labs, the stringent lockdown forced most of the people across the country to stay home, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing at any cost.
“When lockdown was lifted and unlock 1.0 began on June 1, like a genie coming out of a bottle, thousands of citizens stepped out of houses, violated the norms and exposed themselves to the infection. With people travelling again in cities and states in their vehicles, buses, cabs and autos, select trains and flights, the number of citizens who tested positive soared by the day, as they too contracted the virus for violating the norms such as failing to isolate, quarantine and get treated if they were asymptomatic or get admitted in any designated hospital if they were symptomatic,” noted epidemiologist Giridhar Babu.
For instance, till the lockdown was in force up to May 31, the southern state with 7 crore population had just 3,221 positive cases and Bengaluru only 358 cases out of 1.2 crore (120 lakh) people. By June 30, the numbers shot up to 15,242 for state and 4,555 for the city.
“Within a fortnight by July 14, the cases shot up to 44,077 and 20,969, to a whopping 71,069 and 34,943 by July 19 or 5 days during unlock 2.0 and to a massive 1, 64,924 and it is now 69,572 as on August 6 in Unlock 3.0,” Babu recalled.
Babu is also a member of the task force and faculty of the New Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India.
With hundreds of people returning from most-infected neighouring states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in cars, buses, trains or flights, the number of Covid cases zoomed in the state, especially in this tech hub by the day as they carried the virus-like super spreaders and became a source of local transmission.
“Though a 9-day lockdown was again re-imposed from July 14 to July 22 in this tech city, 4 Sundays in July and night curfew was maintained till July 31, there was no let-up in the cases as they continue to climb, while recoveries also have been going up steadily,” reiterated Babu.
Admitting that lockdowns, shutdowns and night curfew do not reduce the cases but only delay them, noted pediatric cardiologist Vijayalakshmi I. Balekundri told IANS that the only way to be safe from the dreadful pandemic was to do “SMS” (sanitization of hands, mask-wearing and social distancing) as coronavirus was a communicable disease and fatal as it attacks the respiratory system (lungs) and affects all other vital organs of the body.
“The onus of winning the war against the pandemic is more on 130-crore+ citizens than anyone else across the country. God helps those who help themselves is an old adage, as each has to take care of himself or herself from being infected by the virus till a vaccine is found because it is preventable but not curable,” Balekundri said.
The Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute Emeritus Professor said though all five fingers are not same or equal, they become a force as a fist when together and converge themselves into a weapon.
“Similarly, the thumb is for the mask, index finger for washing hands, middle finger for social distancing, ring finger for maintaining toilet hygiene and little finger to avoid travelling to the extent possible or unless warranted,” Balekundri added.
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