Pandemic panic

The lockdown strategy was the only option available, as we have little choice and it has paid dividends in other places (Coronavirus: Did India rush into a full lockdown without planning? Or did it have little choice?) But this tool should be used to boost the needed infrastructure at various levels of crisis, one of the most important being the availability of personal protective equipment for those at the frontlines. This, in turn, calls for a massive focus on funding.

Also, the success of the lockdown depends to a major extent on the way people are taken care of economically. Mere will is insufficient and in an already ailing economy, how things will unfold over time is a serious concern. Somehow the government must do three things. First, it must find ways and means to improve the health infrastructure, a crucial task even if the success of the lockdown is taken for granted as the virus may reappear.

Second, it must ensure supply and affordability of essential commodities, and third, make sure that money goes into the hands of the masses. Unless these concerns are addressed, the economic and health crises will grow deeper and past the scope of tinkering. The need of the hour is to announce relief packages, such as the waiver of EMIs and a moratorium for repayments, waiver of interest and penalty charges for credit card bills, money into hands, and free ration for at least a couple of months. Countries like Canada, Italy and the United States have already unveiled a slew of such measures. In India, a few states like Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have announced some relief measures.

A very shocking point is the decision to hike the excise duty on petrol and diesel, which seems quite untimely. The news is like a bolt from the blue for the common man. It is high time the government thinks of the needed measures to extend various kinds of needed relief to the citizens at a critical juncture like this. – Ramana Gove


It is worth remembering the context in which the people of Italy and Spain clapped hands to show appreciation for their medical staff (Banging plates will not defeat coronavirus – we must build a quality public-health system to do that). In both countries, the coronavirus outbreak has severely stretched the healthcare system. The situation in Italy was so bad that nurses were forced to make decisions about who to treat since they could not treat everyone. The clapping was therefore meant to show appreciation for healthcare workers performing a truly heroic task, many working with no break for days.

We have hardly reached that state here because the government’s own count is only around 900 cases. Then, what are we clapping for? As usual, we take something from abroad, strip it of its context and reduce the whole thing to a parody.

One more thing: the TV visuals were all from the main metropolitan areas and that too, the middle-class areas. Is there no India beyond that? It is also unfortunate that the government has delayed an increase in testing, something all doctors recommend, and focussed on social distancing. With this attitude, the prediction is that we will see a massive increase in cases in about two to three weeks. Then, indeed, our pathetic infrastructure will get severely stretched, and doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers called to perform heroic deeds. Let us hold our clapping till then. – M Suresh


“Sanitation workers” is an expression which came into use relatively recently as the politically correct alternative to what were initially caste slurs used over centuries (Coronavirus: They cannot work from home. Or follow social distancing. Here is why). In this context, “social distancing” is not the correct term for what is, in fact, the need to maintain a physical distance from possible sources of infection because the privileged are in danger. The real meaning of social distancing is clear from what Raju Kamble, the sanitation worker from Mumbai featured in this article, is reported to have said. This is a welcome article, which shows that some still care about the ugly realities enough to describe them instead of building walls to hide them. – Mukul Dube


In view of the unprecedented nationwide lockdown, the hoarding of essential goods continues across the country, impacting all retail outlets (Coronavirus lockdown: Supply of essential items hit as confusion about exemptions prevail). An erratic supply chain will have a cascading effect on the lives of crores of citizens. The call for calm and assurances that there’s plenty of supply has not eased consumers’ anxieties. The supply chain of essential goods and services needs to be maintained. – Anish Esteves


The announcement of a lockdown for 21 days, effective Tuesday midnight, will be counterproductive if arrangements are not made to look after the basic needs of the workers and daily-wage earners in both the organised as well as the unorganised sectors. The marginal and small farmers as well as the small businesses are vulnerable to sudden lockdown. Healthcare and health check facilities in most places even now are abysmal. Incidents like blaming the airline crew for the spread of the virus will abound in a country where caste, class and community prejudices abound. The government must provide protective cheap and easily available equipment and health check facilities. – Dilip Borah


The recent outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has caused worry and anxiety among people across the globe. Necessary precautions regarding personal hygiene are now considered topmost priority. Hence, the demand for hand sanitizers, which reduces the risk of the contracting virus, has grown manifold. Further, there is a need to raise awareness on the proper use of sanitizers within households. Herbal and alcoholic sanitizers are highly on-demand in the market.

As it is known, alcoholic sanitizers are vulnerable to risks such as a fire, safe use of all types of sanitizers for personal hygiene is essential but with necessary precautions. Exposure to cooking gas upon application of alcoholic sanitizer must be avoided to reduce the risk of burning the hands with fire. Extensive awareness of potential risks of the same should be communicated across various communication channels including social media, whilst considering the health and safety of the people during such a pandemic. – Varun Dambal


I have a humble request to make to and the author of this article (Coronavirus: India is not even testing all those it considers suspect cases). Please stop publishing such heresy. I have been reading your publication, though not very frequently, to get an alternative perspective of news. Usually, the presentation is worth noting but not this article. Please stop publishing just for the sake of grabbing eyeballs.

If only the author had access to the words of Dr Henk Bekedam, World Health Organisation’s representative in India when he said, “India’s response has been comprehensive and robust.” I don’t think a news reporter is endowed with more knowledge and vision than a World Health Organisation official on matters like these. – Feng Boni


Miscellaneous comment

I read your article on Sanjay Manjrekar’s sacking and how the Board of Control for Cricket in India likes “yes men.” It is brilliantly written and very sharp (The dismissal of Manjrekar: On the top of BCCI’s wishlist is a commentator who ruffles no feathers). As a cricket enthusiast who has drawn inspiration from the legends of the games and anecdotes shared by commentators, it saddens me to see the level of cricket commentary in Indian cricket. Compare it with England and Australia, where I have seen commentators doing impartial and sharp criticism of the game in progress. Indian Cricket has a long way to go. Please keep writing about this. – Saurabh Bansal