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India’s worries

  • India is facing the worst public health crisis in its independent history which pales the earlier ones such as AIDS, SARS and H1N1 into insignificance.
  • The speed at which the virus entered the country and the multiple challenges it has posed before the people and the government are unprecedented.
  • While the initial response of the government was quick in restricting the entry and the quarantine of travellers from China and other South East Asian countries, the subsequent wave of international travellers has completely caught everyone off guard.

Time to strategize

  • We should realise that despite the best response, the epidemic will not be going away for all time to come.
  • It is a novel virus and people have no immunity to protect themselves.
  • Prevention, care and support are the only strategies that will succeed in mitigating the crisis.
  • This will need a carefully planned public health approach which identifies the risks based on evidence and pro-actively intervenes to mitigate them.
  • Civil society should be invited to be partners in organising the care centres and managing them.

Focus on counselling

  • As the flood of patients starts increasing in hospitals, counselling services for patients and members of their families would be of utmost necessity.
  • Large number of counsellors can be mobilised at short notice from existing national programmes and communities which have the necessary experience in counselling.

On testing

  • A critical gap in the level of response is the limited testing facilities available for people to know their COVID-19 status. Current testing procedures which depend on viral tests are expensive and time consuming. It is high time that rapid testing is introduced on a large scale in the country using the window of opportunity the lock down provides.
  • Rapid test kits should be made available in care centres and people who test negative should be asked to remain in isolation at home.

Migration of daily wage earners

  • Large-scale migration of daily wage earners and construction workers from metropolitan cities, in the aftermath of the lockdown, has resulted in enormous challenges for the administration.
  • Providing shelters and protecting them from loss of employment is a socioeconomic problem, where community involvement can ensure that the benefits governments are announcing actually reach the needy and those who deserve them.
  • Community-based organisations should also help in mobilising Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, funds for mitigating the misery migrant families now face and for no fault of theirs.
December 2023