While our Prime Minister is leading the fight against the coronavirus pandemic from the front, most do not seem to realize the gravity of the situation. Unless everyone in India including the opposition, NGOs, corporates and the common people unite to contain the spread of the virus, we have an impending disaster to deal with. 

By S.Neyalasinger

With increasing cases of people infected with Coronavirus and increasing fatalities across the globe we are fighting a pandemic the likes of which have never invaded the world since 1918.  Some 14,600 people have already lost their lives and there are some 3,35000 people infected with the virus. The number of infected are increasing in India too and it rose to 390 on Sunday. Seven people have succumbed to the disease so far.

The scariest part of this epidemic is that there is no vaccine to fight the virus as of now. Scientists in Israel and the US who are trying to develop a vaccine say that it might take even a year or more before they have a drug that can fight the corona virus as whatever vaccine they develop will have to go through numerous tests before they are declared and certified as safe to be administered to humans.

In the meanwhile the best that nations around the world can do is to contain the spread of the virus and restrict human casualties to the bare minimum.

India in comparison to many other countries has far fewer number of people infected with the virus and far lesser casualties. But the number of people getting infected with the virus has seen a huge spike over the last few days. Unless the country takes drastic steps to curb the spread of the virus we may soon have a disaster of gargantuan proportions on our hands considering we are a densely populated country with a population of 1.3 billion.

The central government has responded fairly efficiently to the crisis so far. It has evacuated Indians stranded abroad and put them on isolation for 14 days to ensure they are not the carriers of the virus. It has set up screening facilities at all major airports. Cancelling flights to and from most European countries, Gulf and far east are also good measures to contain the virus in the short term.

But the bigger problem we need to address is that of social responsibility. The media is rife with reports of how a celebrity singer infected by coronavirus partied with politicians and other celebrities. There are also reports of how a Keralite NRI from gulf attended a series of social gatherings and a Bengali NRI moved around with abandon even after knowing he tested positive for the virus. Such irresponsibility will cost us dearly moving forward.

Our Prime minister Narendra Modi is leading the fight from the front. In his speech to the nation on 20th March he called for a Janatha curfew on Sunday and outlined the steps that people should take in order to contain the pandemic. While most of the nation responded enthusiastically to his call to clap and clang vessels and bells as a gesture of appreciation to our coronavirus fighters, there were a few cases where people gathered together to celebrate and put themselves at the risk of getting infected with the virus.

Many people in the opposition tried to politicize the issue while the PM was striving to make the nation aware and remind people of their social responsibility. The likes of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi demanded a massive financial package to tackle the epidemic and criticized the government for not doing so. The time is not yet ripe for the government to announce a financial package. But it is obvious that a task force constituted by the PM under the leadership of the finance minister is already working on it. Mamta Banerjee, a hardcore critic of Modi asked students and teachers to attend schools putting their lives in jeopardy.  She also accused Modi of highlighting the pandemic to divert attention from CAA protests.

It’s unfortunate that the opposition in this country wants to capitalize on a crisis that has the potential to have severe health and economic implications on our country.

As we are on the verge of moving into the third stage of the pandemic it is important that both the central and the state governments should take certain steps. Lock down of public places and business establishments of all kinds except those providing essential services and encouraging people to work from home are all steps in the right direction But the government should also enforce social distancing, particularly on those sections of the population who are not taking the epidemic or its impact seriously. Shaheenbagh protesters are a case in point. There is also a genuine need of more testing kits which the government must equip the medical professionals with. They have started involving private hospitals for testing, but this should be intensified and more private hospitals should be brought into the fold. War times are easier to manage. But here we are fighting an invisible enemy without having weapons to kill it. Survival is the best that we can manage under the circumstances. Unless the government, the opposition, voluntary bodies and the citizens of this country unite and follow a well thought out strategy to contain the disease, we have a disaster on our hands.