Millennium Post

Community participation

With a total of 152 cases, we're way past sounding alarms over the spread. At this point, everyone is no more expected but required to exercise extreme caution. There has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in March as the Centre and states have prepped up measures to shutdown public spaces as they attempt to seize the spread. Cinema halls, malls, educational institutions have all been asked to shut till April and may very well be served the notice to remain shut for an even longer period as India joins the global battle against the virus. Much of the strategy to handle the pandemic has been same for countries as prevention followed by quarantine of those infected being the norm. While India has not yet ordered general self-quarantine to the public, it has been advised in areas where cases have popped up. While grocery stores are not yet out of stock, the threat of the same looms large in the wake of the rising cases by the day. While efforts have been made to track down people who've been in contact with those tested positive, general advice of exercising caution takes precedence. The gloom that has dawned upon the country was not unanticipated given the global spread. In fact, it is already laudable of India to have curtailed the spread to the extent that it has with a timely-initiated screening measure at airports. Yet, several cases have been reported across the country blaring alarms of immediate measures to prevent a potential catastrophe. The less severe impact of the Covid-19 in India has enabled it to tap on community surveillance and tests those with history of travel to infected countries or contact with those tested positive. General testing of anyone showing symptoms has not been initiated. The methodology suits as there has not been any evidence of community transmission anywhere in India. All cases reported have a foreign-travel history or contact with such a person. With the Epidemics Disaster Act, 1897 invoked and the Union Health Ministry monitoring the situation, the Government of India has successfully deployed all primary measures to combat and restrict the virus outbreak.

Taking the fight to the next step, the Government of India launched a 'COVID-19 Solution Challenge' on March 16 via its MyGov Innovation portal on the internet. Through the challenge, the government aims to attract feasible solutions that can be leveraged in the fight against the coronavirus. Deploying technology for a solution in times of such crisis is not unfounded. In fact, necessity is the mother of invention. And, there is an absolute necessity for the technology to aid us in our fight against the pandemic. With a timeline of 15 days, the portal will allow free entries by individuals or startups submitting novel solutions to combat the COVID-19 and would thereafter be scrutinised by the government for adoption, if found feasible. The government has also reserved rewards for top three solutions in order to incentivise participation. Even the Chinese government utilised technology to contain the virus spread. It launched an official mobile app in mid-February viz., close contact detector, that can be used by employers to check on other workers to see if they have been in close contact with people who have COVID-19. Besides that China has been utilising Big Data, Artificial intelligence, etc., technical services to maximise its efforts in controlling the pandemic. While we may not tread the technical path of the Chinese, we can come up with a variety of indigenously developed technical solutions that may aid in our fight against the spread. At this juncture, apart from our responsibility to exercise caution and self-quarantine, it is our moral obligation to aid the government through any innovation which may give impetus to our handling of the outbreak. And, while innovation takes its course and presents any feasible idea that can support our fight, it is upon the administrative hands of our country to ensure a societal calm and proactive awareness vis-à-vis Covid-19 as both are crucial to eliminating the virus altogether. In the absence of a vaccine, symptomatic treatment remains the best bet for those infected while precaution should be the general mantra. Nevertheless, the government's effort to involve community suggestion for technical solutions is a positive step that we remain in dire need of. At the core of the entire pandemic is the community participation in both prevention as well as collaboration, be it for technical solutions or adherence to health advisories updated by the government.

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