Covid, beyond data

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on October 01, 2020

The pains and struggles must be captured

When India reported over 94,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus just days ago, a tweet showed up silently on the micro-blogging site. And it cried out loud.

“Officially 94,000+ people lost their life in India due to Covid-19. One of it was my son,” said the lady. “It may be just another number for everyone but my family is devastated. I will never forgive people who are still roaming without masks,” she said.

Maybe it’s time the messaging on Covid-19 reflected some of this real pain, caused possibly by someone’s recklessness. Maybe some of the messaging needs to tune into what hospital administrators, doctors and medical staff are saying. Away from the rising and falling statistics on cases and fatalities, there are real lives, struggles and pain.

In offline conversations, the head of a hospitals-group reveals they are running short on ICU beds. There are reports of oxygen shortage and even rationing of it for patients. In fact, a disturbing, though not unfamiliar, trend that an online survey picked up recently was that people had to use “clout/connections to secure an ICU bed”. People had to follow up extensively, had to pay a bribe and some of them still did not get an ICU bed, according to respondents from across over 200 districts in the country, surveyed by community social media platform LocalCircles.

Doctors in private conversations confess, they are exhausted. They spend almost an entire day in a protective body-suit. That gives them scars on their face and body, for instance, apart from all the other discomfort that goes with it. Many have been working for months on a trot with no break, and even their quarantine time is being shortened, says a senior doctor, adding in a chilling tone, the last thing you want is a tired doctor handling critical procedures.

But that message seems to be lost on people who complain of “lockdown fatigue” and want to “get on” with their lives. For livelihood reasons is one thing, but certainly not for frivolous ones.

The importance of a mask as a first line of defence, if one did have to step out on an emergency, has been emphasised by experts. And, yet, it’s not worn or worn below the chin. And that is both unconscionable and selfish.

A similar mindset is revealed among two-wheeler riders who keep a helmet on stand-by, in case a policeman appears on the horizon. But a bike accident harms just the rider and a few close by, may be. With the coronavirus, you become a carrier, transmitting it to people, who could even die of the infection.

At one point, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Commissioner had said that people had suggested he have marshals on the road to ensure people wore masks. He decided against it, in the hope that citizens would show mature and responsible behaviour.

When coronavirus case numbers show a dip, it’s quite natural to be hopeful. But that should not spur a sense of false confidence and more reckless behaviour. Till the time India is out of the woods, it’s good to remember one simple fact, says a virologist. There are only a finite number of beds, doctors, nurses and medical staff available. And they too are stretched.

There is no doubt that people need to show more responsible social behaviour. Not just for themselves, but also out of respect for the heroic hours clocked by the mostly unsung healthcare givers, medical staff, cleaners and others, whose struggle do not get reflected in the statistics.

Published on October 01, 2020

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