How to handle a pandemic
- In his book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, veteran journalist P. Sainath poignantly details what it looks like to be a poor family that relies on government hospitals.
- He remarks how the 1994 plague in India got unprecedented media attention because unlike several other diseases, it couldn’t be restricted to rural areas and urban slums.
- The disease-causing bacteria had the audacity to enter elite spaces; in Sainath’s words, “Worse still, they (the bacteria) can board aircraft and fly club class to New York. Too many of the beautiful people felt threatened.” K.K. Shailaja is Minister for Health and Social Justice, Government of Kerala
- COVID-19, although a lot less dangerous than the plague, was brought to India by infected passengers flying in from affected nations.
- Peculiar scenario: those who can otherwise afford private healthcare are now relying on government facilities to be quarantined and tested.
- It took a pandemic like COVID-19 for some to realise what most of India has been dealing with for decades.
- The case of an Agra woman: she reportedly resisted the option of being isolated at a public health facility because “the sight of the unhygienic toilets made her retch”.
- Every year after the Union Budget, newspapers carry articles critiquing the abysmal allocation for the health sector.
- This is an apt representation of the consequences of meagre health spending and lack of motivation from state institutions to strengthen public healthcare infrastructure.
Preparing for an outbreak
- Kerala government’s preparedness for COVID-19 was relatively stronger than other States.
- The government tightened the norms for people returning from other countries.
- The next step was to cancel big religious ceremonies.
- More recently, the government started checking people at different entry points to the State.
- Learn from China and South Korea: aggressively trace and test potential cases of COVID-19
- Experts have said that the only reason South Korea was able to handle the crisis without imposing any lockdown was because of rampant testing.
- All of this can be achieved only through clear political will, strong public healthcare services and commitment on the part of people.
- Follow GoK Direct App, to get instant messages from the Government of Kerala regarding Covid 19.
- The ‘Break the Chain’ campaign advocates ideas of basic cleanliness and hygiene.
- This buffer period should be leveraged by the State government to strengthen testing facilities so that we reach a point where a maximum number of symptomatic individuals can be tested.
- The healthcare system in Kerala is decentralised to achieve the potential gains of improvement in service delivery and access.
- In a remarkable turnaround, China had zero cases of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on March 18-20, including in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic..
- This comes three months after the first case emerged in Wuhan. But on March 21, Guangdong province had one instance of local transmission from an imported case. As on March 22, China reported 314 imported cases.
- At the peak of the epidemic, mainland China reported thousands of fresh cases and hundreds of deaths each day before the total number reached 81,054 which is nearly 26% of the global case load of 3,16,659 as on March 22.
- The total mortality from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in mainland China stands at 3,237, which is less than the deaths reported from Italy (4,825).
- Europe and the U.S. seem to have squandered that opportunity.
- Putting the rights of the community ahead of the individual, many countries have been adopting tough measures akin to China’s — restricting travel, banning mass gatherings, cancelling important events and shutting down educational institutions and entertainment in a bid to cut the transmission chain.
- China’s cover-up of the outbreak until midJanuary, nearly a month after the first few cases showed up, will remain a stain hard to erase.
- Worse, its refusal to inform its people even after notifying a cluster of cases to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019 and gagging doctors for raising an alarm show that not much has changed since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002.
- Scientific papers published by Chinese researchers have given their peers across the world a head start in understanding the virus and the disease.
The perils of an all-out lockdown
Double crisis looms over India: a health crisis and an economic crisis.
- The economic crisis is hitting with full force, throwing millions out of work by the day.
- Unlike the health crisis, it is not class-neutral, but hurts poor people the most.
- Almost everyone in the informal sector — the bulk of the workforce — is being hit by this economic tsunami.
- If poor people are asked to stay home, they will need help.
- The average household in, say, Canada or Italy can take a lockdown in its stride (for some time at least), but the staying power of the Indian poor is virtually nil.
Tap social schemes
- Since time is of the essence, the first step is to make good use of existing social-security schemes to support poor people.
- When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive.
- Services that help poor people in their hour of need without creating a major health hazard should continue to function as far as possible.
- The way things are going today, it will soon be very difficult for some State governments to run the Public Distribution System or take good care of drinking water.
- That would push even more people to the wall, worsening not only the economic crisis but possibly the health crisis as well.
Not an unfettered right
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, filed an application seeking to intervene as amicus curiae in the pending litigation in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
- That the case has attracted the attention of the international human rights agency is a matter of concern for the Indian government.
- On the other hand, the intervention may enable the Supreme Court to read in public international law principles in determining the constitutionality of CAA. This application stands out for a number of reasons.
- This is a voluntary application rather than at the invitation of the Supreme Court.
- She accepts that India is a state party and signatory to various international conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights which contain important nondiscrimination clauses, including on the ground of religion.
- India is obliged, under international law, to ensure that migrants in its territory or under its jurisdiction receive equal and nondiscriminatory treatment regardless of their legal status or the documentations they possess.
- In response, the External Affairs Ministry argued that “no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty”.
- The Preamble to the Constitution lays out the position, wherein the people of India have resolved to constitute Indian Republic into a sovereign and not just any one authority.
- As such, the courts (judiciary), the government (executive) and elected legislatures (legislature) are equally sovereign authorities.
No one can claim exclusivity over sovereignty.
- Furthermore, Article 51 (c) of the Constitution directs the state to “foster respect for international law”.
- According to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, “national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and to the international community through the UN”.
- Furthermore, Article 14 extends the right to equality to all persons, which is wider than the definition of citizens.
- Even illegal immigrants shall, consequently, be treated by the government in a manner that ensures equal protection of Indian laws.
- It is hoped that the Supreme Court will conclude that the intervention is necessary as the Court would benefit from the High Commissioner’s expertise in public international law principles.
- 80 districts in lockdown to contain virus spread
- With first deaths reported in Bihar and Gujarat, toll rises to seven; inter-State transport, suburban trains, bus services suspended
- All train, metro and inter-State transport services across the country were suspended on Sunday till March 31 as the death toll from COVID-19 rose to seven nationwide, and the number of confirmed cases stood at 396.
- Unprecedented restrictions were imposed in 80 districts across 17 States and five Union Territories affected by the pandemic.
Isolation best weapon: ICMR
- Isolation, and not indiscriminate testing is the only way to limit the spread of COVID-19, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said. A lockdown is the most important step in breaking transmission of the disease.
- PM thanks people for staying indoors, says battle not over
- He urged citizens to adhere to restrictions
- Maoists kill 17 policemen in Chhattisgarh
- Seventeen members of a police patrol were killed in an ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma on Saturday.
- Police sources said around 350 Maoists, including women cadres, opened fire on a police patrol, consisting of 100 personnel, in an attack that lasted around five hours.
- The bodies of the policemen could be retrieved only on Sunday.
- Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh, D.M. Awasthi told The Hindu that most policemen who were presumed to be missing after the encounter, were either killed at the spot or died due to “loss of blood” following gunshot injuries.
- Fifteen policemen were injured, with two in a critical condition.
- IIT-D team develops cheaper COVID-19 test
- Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology here have developed a method to detect COVID-19 that can significantly reduce the test cost, making it affordable for large sections.
- The National Institute of Virology, Pune, is in the process of validating this test on clinical samples. The “probe-free detection assay” has been optimised and tested for sensitivity at the research laboratories of IIT.
- ‘COVID-19 is a new animal in the zoo’
- Co-chair of the Empowered Committee for COVID-19 Response, India, and Member of the National Institution for Transforming India, NITI Aayog, Dr. V.K. Paul said the changed circumstances of the spread of the disease called for a revised testing strategy and marshalling of all resources to contain the pandemic.
- Banks to provide only essential services
- With several States announcing complete lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, the financial sector is also responding with reduced timings in branches and providing only essential services.
- The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has said banks will only provide essential services from Monday.
- They will provide only services such as cash deposit and withdrawal, clearing of cheques, remittances and government transactions.