India has entered a critical phase of the Covid19 pandemic with total cases reaching almost half a million. As testing improves the number of positive cases are also rising
Nandkumar M Kamat
The present COVID19 pandemic would be over once sufficient number of people are tested for presence of viral RNA, sufficient number are screened to detect anti COVID19 antibodies and finally sufficient number of people get the first dose of anti COVID19 vaccine. This could be achieved in next 300 days. Till this happens there is no substitute for the lockdowns because the virus is so smart that it is just waiting to attack when people begin to mix freely.
The costs in terms of wellbeing of citizens during the period of lockdown are incalculable. Lockdowns do not stop pandemic but are required to give sufficient time to health sector to be ready for the peak period and reduce community transmission. Lockdowns also help health professionals and scientists to learn more about disease symptoms and treatment choices. Unless central government ends the present lockdown on June 30, this week India would complete 100 days of the lockdown declared on March 24.
India has entered a critical phase of the COVID19 pandemic with total cases reaching almost half a million. As testing improves the number of positive cases are also rising. Worldwide cases have reached a record ten million and the number of deaths half a million. In the same period Goa crossed a thousand positive cases with more than three hundred claimed to be cured and only three COVID19 linked deaths. Government has looked only at one side of the picture during the lockdown- the detection of COVID19 cases but the other side – the extent of growing morbidity in the population due to extended lockdown is ignored. I am a senior citizen and the lockdown has completely ruined my health. The lockdown has gifted me chronic hypertension which I never had as an active scientist. The lockdown has created a traumatic situation in the
Government does not understand the terrible impact of lockdown on disabled children whose special schools are shut down. These children are facing severe behavioural and psychological issues at home. There are thousands of senior citizens and parents of the disabled children who are genuinely worried about deterioration of their health. Nobody has cared to survey the status of physical and mental health of the senior citizens. Apart from lack of physical activity it is the lack of normal social communication and monotonous indoor routine which has heavily impacted the senior citizens. For citizens of my age the lockdown has come like a curse as the normal routine got disturbed. For a country used to bundhs, hartals, curfews the experience of lockdown for the first time since independence has been extremely traumatic. The lockdowns were announced all of a sudden and caught the whole country by surprise. The country is still in a state of shock while anticipating further extension of the lockdown. People could not even establish a reliable family or societal level support system to face the hardships of the lockdown.
Highly urbanized states like Goa with high degree of nuclearization of families are facing the real impact of the lockdown as families are cut off from the families. Friends are afraid to visit friends. There is an irrational fear psychosis of COVID19 in the air but at the same time people are seen violating the safety norms. Social distancing is actually two metres but everywhere it is less than a metre. The dependence on Thermal guns in several government and private offices is also risky because these readings are not reliable as compared to ultrasensitive Thermal scanners. Hundred days of lockdown has resulted in citizens lowering the guard and many are acting as if the pandemic is over. The present community transmission shows that hundred days of lockdown in Goa did not fully achieve its basic objective- to prevent such transmission. From outdoor bullfights to evening football games, bike races on highways, group jogging and outdoor picnics and increasing footfalls on beaches the general scene in Goa as we reach hundred days of lockdown is of normalcy.
The overworked police are also fatigued with their monotonous duties since March 24 and seem to ignore the violation of the lockdown guidelines. In our area along MDR3 road connecting Bambolim to Dona Paula a dozen riders on noisy modified motorcycles are creating nuisance for residents and senior citizens by over speeding and noise pollution. When you hear the ear-piercing noise you wonder whether there is really a lockdown. Senior citizens are entitled to a peaceful and tranquil environment. But the failure of the law and order machinery to apprehend the violators have ruined their health.
Government has not created a professional support system for senior citizens. If we study the deaths of otherwise healthy senior citizens during the period of lockdown a simple pattern is discernible- many of them could have actually died due to the trauma of the lockdown. I had met a few of known to me before the lockdown and they looked healthy and cheerful. They were expected to live much longer. Lockdown for them was like solitary confinement. Extension of the lockdown would see further rise in morbidity and mortality among this vulnerable section in Goa. Its overall impact on disabled children would be very high. Lockdowns hae already taken a heavy toll on young people who have become worried about their future. Suddenly they find themselves staring at an economy without growth and employment opportunities.
This is an extraordinary and exceptional academic year and any government needs to give health and safety of the students and teachers top priority than worrying about routine academic objectives. COVID19 is reweaponizing itself under south west tropical monsoon condition and the worse is yet to come. The government has not bothered to get the strain of Covid-19 found in a thousand positive cases identified at the molecular level to detect any mutations.
Goa government needs to follow latest ICMR guidelines to preserve the tested samples and subject this to check whether a local variant of COVID-19 is involved in suspected community transmission. There could be several closely related COVID19 strains in Goa and the more infectious ones would unleash a second wave as we complete hundred days of lockdown. The next hundred days would decide our success or failure to withstand the trauma of an extended lockdown.