Opinions

Covid-19 is not the only ailment troubling Indians

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Child receiving the polio vaccine

Covid-19 is here to stay as per reports from practically all over the world. From one angle, there is nothing really surprising about this. If there were an ailment which had been completely eradicated from the world, particularly developing countries like India, one could have assumed that an anti-corona vaccine would spell some relief in the coming years. Diabetes, dengue, flu, viral fever, pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid, malaria, measles, mumps and so on still keep afflicting a greater part of population, young and old, year after year. Of these, all are not infectious, but once a person is declared a diabetic or has a heart attack (both of which are non-infectious), he/she is expected to exercise greater caution about his/her medicines, check-ups, etc, than before.

Tuberculosis has still not been eradicated totally. It remains an infectious ailment, though of course, now its treatment is far more effective than it was earlier. Also, stigma is no longer attached with TB patients. Measles and few other diseases affect most at some age or other. The general rule is that the patient is kept isolated from other members of his family till he/she is cured totally. Recent history has been witness to dengue – caused by mosquito bites – affecting a percentage of population every year during monsoon season. One can go on about numerous diseases which strike at numerous people at practically around the same time every year with a few being linked with seasons, as for instance dengue is with monsoon.

So far, pre-Covid-phase had not been marked by any lockdown and severe impact on economy. Compared to other diseases, dengue has certainly received substantial media coverage. What does this suggest? Just as most ailments, including viral fever, are least likely to be done away with in the near future, prospects of Covid-19 lurking around for quite a while (or even forever) cannot be ignored. First, one is forced to point out that Covid-19 is not the one and only ailment affecting people in general. But if only Covid-19 continues to be focused upon, people suffering from other ailments are likely to suffer more. Serious attention needs to be paid to this aspect.

Give a thought: corona-panic has forced most people to stay away from clinics and doctors for their regular check-ups. Of course, doctors at hospitals and their clinics are available for online consultation. But can each Indian make use of online consultation? Besides, now, it has become mandatory for patients to go through Covid-test before being treated for whatever has forced them to visit hospitals. This really does not seem fair. An immediate relative of this journalist recently suffered a fracture in her lower limb. She was rushed to a hospital. The surgery of the fracture could have taken place within a few hours. But it was delayed till result of her Covid-test came (which was thankfully negative).

This rule needs to be reconsidered. One is getting the impression that practically each and every aspect of the country’s functioning and a person’s life is now dependent on Covid-19. If Covid is here to stay, for how long can people’s lives, theirs and the country’s economy remain practically stalled? This does not imply that no attention should be paid to Covid-19. Rules regarding wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing and similar norms should certainly be enforced. But coronavirus cannot be checked by lockdowns, sealing of borders, curfews and so forth. Coronavirus does not spread at specific hours. It cannot cease at particular points because of borders being sealed.

Besides, there is no guarantee that vaccines being waited for will eliminate this virus, like a magic wand, from spreading, within a short period. If this was the case, nobody would have said that Covid-19 is here to stay. Perhaps, greater attention should be paid to taking measures for increasing people’s immunity against coronavirus. It is not impossible. Announcing the need to wear masks or imposing fines for not wearing the same is not enough. Some money can be used from Prime Minister’s fund to distribute free masks among people at large. Likewise, soaps and other such goods needed to maintain required hygienic standards can be distributed.

Spreading “news” about new corona cases and deaths is certainly essential to make people aware about the need to follow measures to guard themselves against being affected by Covid-19. At the same time let us be aware, though India ranks third (at the time of writing this piece) in the world regarding number of Covid cases, several other factors cannot be ignored. India has the second largest population in the world. Mortality rate is fairly low compared to that in other countries. Also, Covid-deaths in India are not even a percentage of this country’s population. In contrast, a fourth of Indian deaths are due to cardiovascular ailments every year. Covid-19 cannot be ignored but it is equally important to pay attention to other health problems affecting a larger number of this country’s population. Sadly, hardly any attention seems to be given to this reality at present!