The ‘nothing will happen to us’ brigade partied as if there’s no tomorrow. Except tomorrow will be a huge problem
In South Korea, medical investigators are telling us the story about “Patient 31” of the SARS-CoV2 virus. This middle-aged woman member of a cult in that country behaved very differently from the first 30 patients. She did not isolate herself and instead went around her daily routine, which was to recruit new members into her order. It has turned out that she can be traced back to 80 per cent of South Korea’s 8,000 plus cases. Who will be the “Patient 31” in India? Will it be Kanika Kapoor, the Bollywood songstress who did not self-quarantine and instead went around partying in Lucknow and Kanpur? Will it be the bureaucrat’s son in Kolkata who did not isolate himself? Will it be the man in Kasaragod, Kerala, who met his MLA and attended a football match? Will it be all those who fled quarantine and bled into the community? Will it be the learned illiterates, who have taken advantage of their status in society to hide their condition and selfishly avail the best resources while infecting the many others lesser privileged than themselves? These are people who have been diagnosed with having the virus, not even counting the thousands of others advised to self-quarantine and instead are moving around or the countless others who actively lied on their self-declaration forms or had an aspirin before immigrating into India to reduce their temperature. The viral outbreak has made a couple of things clear, and this is clear across the world. Most humans are selfish and stupid. One cannot expect them to be responsible, especially the entitled international traveller. Sure, there can be a sense of panic and people who want to avoid being under quarantine by the Government. These are people who are scared of using Indian-style toilets, for example. Others do not want to curtail their social lives. All that people are being asked to do is stay under house arrest for a few days, cook their own food and drink their own drink. Yes, we might all be social creatures and many of us might want to eat, drink and be merry but do not be as stupid as those youth who are busy hunting for deals as airlines cancel flights. This will be a trying and tragic time. At the rate things are going, thousands will be infected and many people will die. This will not just be an inconvenience to the wealthy and entitled because their helps lost a parent or their factory shut down for a month or so. Being in denial and thinking that nothing will happen to you, like the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP taking out huge rallies, is simply asinine. India’s huge population density will work against it. It is critical that every one of us takes the situation seriously. If you have come back from abroad, stay at home. If you feel respiratory distress, go to a hospital. Do not be in denial about the situation. Denial is a killer.
This is why the Government’s containment protocols should now get aggressive. The testing sample spike notwithstanding, which is multiplying overnight, it takes no rocket science to understand that community-level transmission has begun already, faster than we think because of untamed human behaviour. But even these conditions do merit hotspot or staggered lockdowns to break the chain of transmission. The choice is ours to make. In the end, self-disciplining, self-isolating and social distancing can make the crucial difference between us becoming an Italy or at least closer to China. Remember in India, the existing health infrastructure would not be able to absorb the onslaught the way the Chinese have done by setting up facilities overnight and installing disinfecting tunnels for those out on the streets. So we have no option but to rely on non-pharmaceutical approaches to containment. There is actually no choice. Either we do it ourselves or have a military-like emergency imposed upon us.