Managing COVID-19 in India
It’s been about 6 months since India has been waging a full-fledged battle against the menace of COVID-19. The roles played by health workers, doctors, medical professionals, and government employees have been instrumental to this effect. Right from the days of Janata Curfew till the recent milestone when India conducted more than 8 lakh tests in a single day, the efforts of all including common people has been largely laudable.
The periods of timely lockdowns have helped us set up requisite systems in place to control the viral spread / wrath, including PPE kits, ICU arrangements, beds for patients and other related requirements. Different quarantine policies, social distancing norms, use of masks, launch of medicines / immunity boosters and other preventive steps have contributed towards curbing the spread of the deadly virus. Let’s try to understand in detail, how India and its people are managing COVID-19.
- Launch of Aarogya Setu, website, helpline numbers: The government has put commendable efforts to distribute viable information and data related to COVID-19. One such initiative is the Aargoya Setu app, that helps citizens identify their risk of infection and keep themselves safe at all times. The Ministry of Health has developed a dedicated website to disseminate authentic information on the virus, its spread, prevention, and other guidelines along with real-time data and helpline information.
- Closure of places that invite public gathering: The government had taken timely action to close all the places of frequent social gathering, whether gyms, offices, schools, malls, colleges, parks, restaurants, hotels, temples, metro or sports complexes. After 21 days of first lockdown, only shops were re-opened. Restaurants were only allowed for home delivery. As of today, some trains, domestic flights, parlours, restaurants and temples have opened subject to specified precautionary norms. Soon, gyms and cinema too might open, however schools, colleges and coaching classes are likely to remain closed till further notice. Offices are working with low staff count, with many employees working from home.
- Relief packages and financial package: With the spread of Coronavirus and the ensuing economic upheaval, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has undertaken some strong financial measures. Interest rates have been slashed in order to increase liquidity in the economy by around Rs 4 lakh crore. A 3-month EMI moratorium from banks and financial institutions was extended to retail loan borrowers. Relief was also extended to taxpayers by deferring ITR and GST filing dates. The government also issued relief packages worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore for low-income households, daily wage laborers and migrant workers.
- Medical set-ups and vaccine trials: The government has designated thousands of facilities and centres across the country for testing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19. More than 20,000 railway coaches have been converted into isolation wards. Some hotels too have got linked to prominent hospitals to increase their bed capacity. Meanwhile, the government has also initiated steps to develop vaccine(s) against the pandemic.
- Home isolation concept and awareness drive: The government has promoted and encouraged the concept of home isolation for patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. At the same time, regular monitoring and guidance is being provided by healthcare workers. The family members of the patient are also quarantined in the same house for at least 2 weeks, so that the infection does not spread further. An awareness campaign is also being driven to eliminate the stigma centred around COVID-19 patients, workers and/or volunteers.
- Increase in daily testing capacity: COVID testing is being performed on a daily basis across the country. Emphasis is being laid on covering the existing Coronavirus hotspots. With the help of antigen test kits and a few others, testing rates are being ramped up on a daily basis. The results of increased testing have been quite encouraging. Along with immediate medication and medical attention, infected people and even people with mild symptoms are being asked to quarantine for at least 15 days.
- Plasma therapy: Plasma therapy has shown encouraging results across the country in preventing mortality amongst critical COVID patients. It provides them with the antibodies required to fight the virus. The government has also set up a ‘Plasma Bank’ so that patients and their families can easily access convalescent plasma. Many recovered patients are coming forward to donate plasma to help the others infected recover.
- Arrangement of Oximeters: It was being noted that a major cause of death due to Coronavirus is the reduction in the oxygen levels of the patient. Considering it as another priority area, the government has arranged oximeters and oxygen concentrators to help patients facing breathlessness problems recover.
Where there is will, there is a way. Coronavirus might have troubled all of us a great deal in the form of curbs on travel, many forms of jobs, social interactions, and more. However, with the timely steps taken by the government and various agencies and people involved as well as the overall trend and pattern that the pandemic has exhibited, we are sure of winning the battle against COVID-19 (provided we don’t let complacency set in and continue to follow the requisite norms). The big question is – how well, and how soon?