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Dealing with the pandemic

Dealing with the pandemic

The Covid-19 outbreak was declared as a pandemic by the WHO on Wednesday as the global health body took note of more than 1,18,000 verified cases and a death toll exceeding 4,200 across 114 countries. Since January 30 — when the WHO categorised Covid-19 as a global public health emergency — the spread of infection has rocked the world. February and March have been disastrous as the death toll kept on rising first in mainland China and then South Korea, Italy, Iran followed by other nations posting a relatively lower number. India's count of persons infected stood at 73 as of Thursday, fortunately with zero fatalities. The health machinery has sprung into action as the world's second-most populous country has a gigantic task of preventing a local outbreak ahead of it. With a clear awareness of the fact that no vaccine is available yet, the only option is to prevent the spread, while maximising efforts to treat the infected with a batch of existing medicines that can control the symptoms. With more than 10 lakh people screened at airports, India's attempt to seize the spread has been commendable so far. Given the spread in countries such as Iran, Italy and South Korea, the threat of an epidemic in the sub-continent looms large. The country consequently suspended all existing visas till April 15 barring few exceptions as the prime minister announced no travel for any ministers outside the country. Delhi government declared the Covid-19 as an epidemic as it issued orders for cinema halls, schools and colleges to be shut till March 31. The Central government has further directed all states and Union territories to invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 that will allow them to enforce advisories as and when needed. A 14-day quarantine measure has been floated for anyone travelling to or from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, France and Germany. Radio, Media and Social Media will serve as an effective medium to spread awareness of the virus as the topic reaches dinner tables across the country. Telecom departments are disseminating preventive info whenever anyone makes calls. Health advisories are being routinely issued in newspapers and public notices to keep the citizenry in the loop of steps being taken to seize the spread. The crucial phase of trying to restrict the first pandemic since H1N1 back in 2009 is all the more important in India. The aggregate hygiene, population density, health infrastructure, etc., factors in India don't posit better odds for controlling the disease once it slips and spreads. For India, it is better if the fight is fought and won at the preventive stage.

Not only has the Covid-19 impacted people but it has thrown global affairs into disarray. The markets are critical and the impact of the virus on the financial world appears to be a dangerous trend for our limping economy. China's growth has been drastically cut, well exposing its capacity to sustain such a downfall. But when we speak of India in the same context, the fall would be catastrophic. While efforts are made to restrict the spread, India has to also take measures to prevent a meltdown of its economy. Band-aid steps wouldn't contain the impact. At this stage, the slash in oil prices is perhaps the only silver lining for India which imports 83 per cent of its crude. If the consumers don't get the benefit, at least the government should prepare to fill its kitty in an event of harsh impact that the Covid-19 might have on the economy. If the state and Centre work in tandem, the spread can be seized and existing cases can be quarantined for supervised recovery. Proactive machinery is the key to stability in times of an epidemic. Simultaneously, the role of the citizenry is also required. India did not celebrate Holi as it does every year. As commendable as it was, present times require the same conviction in preventive steps that each and every individual can take to ensure their safety. While the government will lead the charge, it is the people that together make its strength. Many employers have asked employees to adopt a temporary work-from-home schedule for some days. Similar maturity is required to avoid situations that can lead to perilous outcomes. An active citizenry will yield India the most in such grim hours.

(Image from livemint.com)

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