"This is the beginning of a long fight," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the voluntary self-isolation or 'Janata Curfew' came to an end at 9 pm on Sunday, March 22.
The self-imposed 14-hour curfew was a prelude to a massive precautionary exercise that was announced later in the evening, on Sunday, where about 75 districts with confirmed coronavirus cases were put under lockdown.
India, for a brief-five minute, was united with people coming out onto their balconies, near the windows and in the open spaces clapping, clanging the vessels and ringing bells to express their gratitude to the "corona warriors" —medical professionals, medical staff and interns, health and sanitation workers who are leading the battle again COVID-19 from the frontline.
Images and videos of this rare sight from a commoner to a Bollywood celebrity standing in solidarity abounds on social media.
However, with over 400 people having been tested for the novel coronavirus in less than two months and with seven reported deaths, there is a dire need to draw attention to the fact that in spite of prior warning bells from China and Italy, India was not prepared to tackle the pandemic, till now.
With the central and state government proactively resorting to desperate measures to mitigate the outbreak, the focus needs to be zeroed-in-on the three important Ps of the country which includes population, poverty and poor public health service.
Here are the top 10 things that should have been done instead of the musical-gratitude show as a measure to fight coronavirus in India:
- Investment in proper medical infrastructure: The government data report highlights the country's ill-preparedness when it states there is one isolation bed per 84,000 Indians, and one quarantine bed per 36,000 Indians. The report further points out that there is just one doctor per 11,600 Indians, and one hospital bed per 1,826 Indians.
- Equipping doctors with protective gear and equipment: After India got done with celebrating the curfew, doctors from across the country took to Twitter to request the central government to provide personal protective equipment and work on better government strategies. PPE consists of mask, eye shield, shoe cover, gown and gloves which doctors wear while treating COVID19 patients
- Education on the significance of social distancing: Mere communication to avoid interaction would not serve the purpose. It would lead to results as were seen after the curfew ended when several pockets of the nation reported visuals of mass gathering and celebration. People need to be educated on the idea behind flattering of the curve and how social distancing is crucial in the equation, to break the chain.
- Work on proactive measures, not reactive actions: Central government's order to put travel and transport restrictions, stamping of palms, states sealing borders should have been done at an early stage which might have ensured less interaction/travel and hence less transmission of the virus.
- Awareness to stop panic-travelling and panic-hoarding: Although the Prime Minister in his 30-minute telecast did ensure the citizens of availability of necessities and groceries, awareness regarding the provision should be made. Additionally, the mass-movement of panic-stricken citizens to their hometowns and villages puts the non-infected areas at risk.
- Attempts to curb misinformation: With 1.3 billion Indians under the lockdown, the only medium of communication is the internet. Social media is brimming with all possible myths, conspiracy theories and hoaxes that are complicating the situation further.
- Upgrade the testing strategies: World Health Organization (WHO) has hinted at the lack of testing facilities to be the reason for suppressed figures on coronavirus in India. With over a billion population and an expected escalation to Stage 3 of the transmission, testing strategies need to be worked on and made more inclusive.
- Lapses in COVID-19 screening: Several media reports have put to the fore incidents which have pointed at the lapses in the screening and testing mechanism being followed.
- Private laboratories for testing: As the figures suggest, there is an extreme need to step-up with the testing individuals for the virus. Only six private laboratories have been notified for testing till now. The Indian Council of Medical Research urgently needs to have coordinated efforts with the private entities.
- Aggressively act on opportunistic players: Amid the outbreak panic and curfew conditions, prices of essentials including hand sanitizers, face masks, fruits and vegetables have shot up which not only adds to the sense of panic but also creates an atmosphere of crisis and uncertainty. The government is expected to cap prices for the same in case businesses try to use the situation to their commercial advantage.
Also Read: 80% Of People Infected With COVID-19 Will Recover Themselves: ICMR Chief