Rajat Sharma

Lockdown, social distancing are the only weapons to fight Coronavirus war

akb2910Today let me begin with a scary scenario. Visuals taken by a drone camera showed nearly 40 coffins of Coronavirus victims being laid out inside dug out trenches, converted into mass graves in Hart island off New York City. These victims were being given a silent burial.

Workers in hazmat outfits were stacking up the coffins inside deep trenches. This site has been normally used for the last 150 years in New York for people with no next of kin or families who cannot afford burials. During normal times, 25 bodies used to be interred on this island once a week, but now the mass graves are being filled up five days a week, with around 24 burials daily.

Normally prisoners from Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex, do the burial job, but because of the pandemic scare, prisoners are not being allowed to come out. Local contractors are doing the burial job. Did anybody ever imagine this nightmarish situation where the world’s biggest financial capital, known as the city of skyscrapers, is now becoming a city of the dead?

There are at present more than 5 lakh Coronavirus cases in the US, out of which more than 1.6 lakh cases are in New York City alone. Out of more than 18,000 deaths in the US, New York alone accounts for nearly 8,000. In the last 24 hours, 1,783 people died in the US, and the average comes to 74 deaths in an hour, or one person dying every 50 seconds.

One out of five Coronavirus patients in the world is an American, and among those dead, one out of five is an American. Bodies of victims are being taken in refrigerated vans from hospitals to the burial site. Since the number of those dead is increasing, authorities are giving preference to bodies that are unclaimed for the last two weeks. New York till last month used to be the world’s most happening city, a city that never sleeps, and now the silence of graveyard rules the city.

Gone is the typical swagger of US President Donald Trump. He used to brag at his daily press conferences that he was soon going to win the war on Coronavirus, but now the average American rarely trusts his words. Trump had earlier claimed that the situation would ease by Easter, but on Good Friday, the entire nation watched glumly as the Coronavirus figures took a steep climb.

The Americans have now realized that it was Trump’s fault in assessing the gravity of the situation correctly. At a time when lockdowns and social distance were the norms in many countries, Trump refrained from doing this. He was more interested in saving the economy instead of saving lives. The results are there for all to see.

In India, this brings us again to the need for extending lockdown and strictly enforcing social distancing norms. Punjab and Odisha governments have already extended lockdown till May 1 and April 30 respectively, and the Prime Minister is going to have a detailed discussion with Chief Ministers today and take a call.

On Friday, Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh created a scare when he said that “the figures that I have been given by Indian scientists and medical practitioners are that 80 to 85 per cent of India may get infected. If these figures are correct, then they are horrendous figures”. India is a nation of 130+ crore people. Forget 80 per cent, even eight per cent of the total population comes to 10.4 crore.

Capt Amarinder Singh is however right when he says that if developed countries having the best medical infrastructures like the US, Italy, Spain and France are facing an uphill task, how can India, with its poor medical infrastructure, cope up with the challenge.

The biggest hurdles are the super spreaders – a single person infected with Coronavirus spreading the virus among hundreds of people. Near Mohali, in Jawaharpur village, 43-year-old Malkit Singh was found positive, but by the time the test was done, the virus had spread to 32 persons. Now the entire village with 29 homes is completely sealed off.

Similarly, a man from Bihar came from Oman with Coronavirus symptoms. He concealed his travel history, and he spread the virus to 23 people in Siwan, which means almost one-third of the total number of 60 virus cases detected in Bihar so far.

The key to the fight against Coronavirus is: follow lockdown and social distancing norms fully. There is no other alternative. The sooner we break the virus chains in our localities, towns and villages, the better. There were incidents of attacks of police in Chhindwara (MP) and Bhagalpur (Bihar) on Friday, when police appealed to people not to congregate in mosques and graveyards for the -e-Shab-e-Baraat prayers.

Most of the maulanas had appealed to people to offer prayers inside their homes but there are certain sections of people who are unwilling to listen. Most of our Muslim brethren are strictly following lockdown and social distancing norms, but action has to be taken against those who violate the norms. Let us be united in our war against Coronavirus. Ultimately, the people of India will win.

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