By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Yesterday we in Mysuru District have entered a more stringent kind of anti-Covid lockdown than what we had seen over the last five weeks. I call it more stringent because it leaves only two days a week open for citizens to do their shopping for their daily needs. Although it is new for us, it is not for the first time that such a lockdown is being imposed in our country. In fact, many districts in our own State have right now been placed under similar restrictions and we are emulating it rather late now, although it is a different matter whether it helped them or not because that inference is still very unclear.
But as a practicing doctor, I consider the imposition of our latest form of lockdown nothing more than a ‘Knee Jerk’ response of our authorities to the raging covid situation which certainly seems like a galloping mad horse refusing to be reined in. They just had to be seen doing something different. Not much scientifically or medically correct thought seems to have gone into the decision to implement it in their hurry.
I feel that while imposing the present stipulations of just two open days in a week, we perhaps did not do the right thing because on Friday we saw a glimpse of what it can do to a population desperate to beat the curfew hours and do its shopping for the forthcoming three days of total curfew. Everywhere we saw closely packed people at every one of the shops, throwing fear and caution to the winds and extending their arms over each other’s shoulders, with currency notes tightly clutched in their hands and desperately asking the clearly overworked shop-keepers for what they wanted. Social distancing had gone for a complete toss and it was nowhere to be seen.
Only in the very few more orderly areas of our city, populated by very educated people, were they standing patiently in long queues for their purchases. In all other areas it was utter chaos with every possibility of becoming a law-and-order problem if the Police dared to interfere with the people’s frenzied shopping mission. I don’t entirely blame the people too for their very unreasonable behaviour because no one had told them how to do their shopping for a full three days in a very limited time of just four hours.
So according to me, Friday was certainly a super-spreader day as far as the virus was concerned. If only the authorities had extended Friday’s shopping window till about 4 pm, this mad rush could have been avoided. And, if they are very serious about continuing this kind of a lockdown, I feel that this should be the minimum window if we have to benefit from the five-day curfew. But has anyone in the corridors of power given a thought to how the poor and downtrodden can store their milk, meat, poultry and fish for a full three days without having refrigerators in their homes or will our government in its relief package soon include low-cost mini refrigerators too?
There are rumblings that the lockdown across the State is very likely to be extended since it seems to be doing us good. But I feel that if this happens and if we here in Namma Mysuru continue to have our five-day curfew, our two weekly shopping days, with their insufficient four-hour windows, will certainly become super-spreader days for the virus.
And, talking of doctors, they seem to be good only for two things. Firstly, to bend their backs and treat at completely illogical and paltry, government specified rates, the multitudes of Covid patients who flock to their hospitals and secondly to bear the ingratitude of disgruntled people who complain that their charges are far too high! What an irony! Now that the Government has also said that hospitals should not demand any advance from covid patients at the time of admission and also hand over the bodies of the patients who die, without insisting on settlement of their bills, can anything be more illogical? Has anyone given a thought to how hospitals should settle their own bills without patients settling their bills at the time of discharge?
The medical aspect of what makes an effective lockdown is something that no one seems to be asking experienced and senior doctors at the time of drafting rules and regulations as it seems to have happened in the case of the present lockdown too. All I can say without sounding overly critical is that it is completely unscientific.
So, what kind of a lockdown do we need if it has to do us some real good. The answer to this question will automatically become apparent to you if I tell you that an airborne viral infection spreads maximally only through close proximity. A lockdown to prevent this does not have to be very complex. It should just prevent overcrowding of people in public and private places too, so that the prescribed physical distancing between two people is maintained at all times. That is the whole and sole requirement and nothing else.
How we do it is up to us and I feel that we can achieve this by spreading out our people at all times. This can be done quite easily by banning all social gatherings as we have already done and also by increasing the number of days and hours when people can come out and do their shopping.
We should open business establishments of all kinds to enable their owners also to make a living. We should let our people do all kinds of their shopping leisurely, over six hours each day, for a full six days of the week with good social distancing under the watchful eyes of our Police personnel and then watch how overcrowding vanishes.
Let us be strict in enforcing working hours for business establishments and declare that the evening hours on all days are a time of complete curfew. This restriction is very necessary because people tend to flock together for a mandatory daily round of gossip after their working hours, to complain about how tough life has become under lockdowns ! The post-shopping period should see something like a total curfew.
And, for how long should this restriction be enforced? For the full duration of the time till Covid disappears completely from the scene in our country. It is only because we failed here and allowed lavish weddings and unrestricted congregations of all kinds towards the end of the last year that we saw this second wave which seems to have come with a vengeance. It may be a year or even more but we have to grin and bear this inconvenience. We simply have no other choice if we have to stay alive! So please do take care and stay safe and stay healthy!
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