Pandemic to Pandemonium

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

It feels like an eerie silence has pervaded our lives and minds, ‘Janta Curfew’, the public lockdown has turned a city like Delhi into an eerily silent cemetery.  The coronavirus has literally locked the country indoors and there are fears that this daylong lockdown is just a glimpse into a grinding halt that can go on for weeks if not months.

Government response of shutting down of all activities has come too late, we should have stopped all sorts of international travel many week ago but we allowed too many infected people to cross into our borders. With thousands of people coming in every day till March 22, the airport and the health authorities weren’t prepared to deal with the deluge of scared travelers who are neither properly screened, nor quarantined in a government facility. Travelers were asked to fill a form and told to go homes in self isolation but in a country where we feel pride in defying government directives, not surprisingly many people simply ignored all advice and went about their business like nothing has happened. News papers and TV channels are filled with reports of people ignoring and fleeing the quarantine and let me add these are the people who have the means to travel internationally. If we have literate masses ignoring the rules and recommendations of public safety, what would happen when this virus will begin to inflict the lower echelons of the society?

Believe it or not, we are already in stage 3. Without adequate tests and overwhelmed testing centers, there is no way that in a country of 1.3 billion we have only confirmed 300 something positive cases. I do not believe the official stats, I have heard that many were simply turned away from hospitals and one has to have all three symptoms of shortness of breath, pain and fever to get tested or have a doctor do a checkup. People are placing their hopes in blazing Indian summers where soaring temperatures, running in mid forties, will break the spreading cycle of coronavirus.

Economy is the last thing in people’s minds right now but we are looking at a complete collapse of economic activity. Imagine a scenario where you are not spending money on taxi, restaurants, malls and only confined to the walls of your home, those of us who can manage to work from home on a laptop are a very meager percentage of overall workforce, who cannot work by staying at home. People in government sector, banks, post office and manufacturing are all but a few examples of jobs where people are forced to go to offices everyday. But the unorganized labors and daily wage earners are the ones that are hit hardest by this, rickshaw pullers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and many millions more are the worst affected of the lot, these people have mouths to feed and how long do you think these guys can go without earning a single rupee. There is a genuine fear of rising crime rate in this pandemic and we do not have enough manpower to tackle such problems. Not to forget the food shortages and inflation that will hit us sooner or later if we don’t tackle this now.

These are extraordinary times and we have to come up with extraordinary ways to fight this problem. Please stay indoors, please be safe.

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