From the Viewsroom

Time for a hard decision

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on May 02, 2021

Containment with welfare measures will help people and hospitals

After United States infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci suggested a lockdown for India to break the chain of virus transmission, a few local talking heads are mustering the courage to mention the forbidden word.

The discomfort at calling a lockdown is understandable, as it brings back heart-rending memories from last year, of families with their tired children in tow, taking the long, dark, road to their villages. And to not have a repeat of this, many administrations are side-stepping taking a hard decision.

But there’s little time to lose now as India’s coronavirus cases hover around the 4 lakh-a-day mark, and deaths inch beyond 3,600. Saturday did see an ever-so slight dip in cases. In these numbers, though, are the many human stories of people dying due to the lack of oxygen, medicines, ICU beds, not getting an ambulance in time and so on.

Doctors speak of colleagues working 16-18 hour days; some of them “mummified”(as one doctor put it) for hours in protective clothing that’s very uncomfortable, sweaty and does not allow for regular washroom breaks. Besides, the overall fear of taking the virus home to their families.

It’s already a code-red situation, if one can call it that, with delays seen in testing across the country, critical patients waiting in hospital corridors and porches for beds; and crematoriums working for long hours.

But the projection is for worse, given the more transmissible Indian variant of the virus and added pressure on a stretched hospital-system, doctors and support staff. A couple of US studies project over 5,000 deaths a day if interventions are not made, quickly.

Learning from last year’s lockdown, administrators will need to undertake stringent steps, ensuring alongside that welfare measures are delivered with dignity. If food, water and shelter are made readily available, essential services kept running and people are then told to stay indoors — the virus could be deprived of hosts to survive and thrive and the healthcare system can get a much deserved breather.

Published on May 02, 2021

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