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Opinion | Pandemic in India can be controlled only if people strictly observe Covid protocol

With most of the hospitals in pandemic-hit states almost full with Covid-19 patients, reports are pouring in from different states of bodies piling up in morgues and crematoriums.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: April 13, 2021 15:36 IST
Aaj Ki Baat
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Pandemic in India can be controlled only if people strictly observe Covid protocol

The number of daily fresh cases in India on Monday stood at 1,61,736, while 879 deaths were reported from across the country. The death toll in India has now reached 1,71,058, with incremental jumps in the last two months.

Maharashtra continues to lead the tally with 51,751 new cases and 258 deaths reported on Monday. The pandemic is now spreading fast in the Hindi speaking hinterland states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Haryana. There has been a four times jump in the number of fresh cases reported from Bihar.

There is no sign of decline in the number of fresh cases. On Monday, Karnataka reported 9,579 cases out of which Bengaluru accounted for 6,387. The pandemic is surging in the national capital Delhi which reported 11,491 cases and 72 deaths on Monday. Uttar Pradesh reported 13,685 new cases, with Lucknow (3892) and Prayagraj (1295) leading.

Gujarat reported 6,021 new cases and 55 deaths, West Bengal 4,511 new cases, Madhya Pradesh 6,489, Tamil Nadu 6,711, Rajasthan 5,771, and Andhra Pradesh 3,263. Among the cities, Mumbai reported 6,905 new cases and 43 deaths on Monday, while Nagpur reported 5,661 new cases and 69 deaths. All in all, a gloomy scenario across India.

With most of the hospitals in pandemic-hit states almost full with Covid-19 patients, reports are pouring in from different states of bodies piling up in morgues and crematoriums. In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed a report of how an entire village in Jharkhand’s Godda district, refused to carry out cremation of an old man fearing Covid infection. The old man Karilal Mahto had died of heart attack in his home. His son, a Covid patient, was in hospital. When news reached the local administration, an ambulance was sent, and frontline workers wearing PPE kits, took the body for cremation.

In Surat, Gujarat, a young man, Parim Shah, took his mother, Bhadra Shah, to different hospitals after she complained of breathing. The woman died, there was no ambulance, and Parim Shah had to take her body in a hand cart to a crematorium. Parim said, he failed to find a single ambulance from any hospital.

In Dhule district of Maharashtra, the body of a Covid patient, Vishnu Thakur, was taken to a crematorium in a garbage truck due to non-availability of ambulance.  The Corona epidemic has not only taken a heavy toll of human lives, but has also corroded the innate sense of humanity that has been existing among our countrymen for centuries.

In the crematoriums in Bhopal, Lucknow, Nagpur and Raipur, bodies have started to pile up, and relatives are waiting for hours to cremate their loved ones. An old crematorium that was shut down in Surat 30 years ago, is now being refurbished to handle the large number of bodies. A single crematorium in Bhopal is handling more than 40 bodies on average daily.

At the Vishram Ghat crematorium in Bhopal, 49 bodies were cremated on Sunday, with more waiting outside in ambulances. The caretaker of the crematorium had to request two government hospitals not to send any more bodies. Bodies are being cremated round-the-clock in Surat crematoriums, with more in waiting.

The situation in hospitals is chaotic. Covid patients are lying on the floor, some on stretchers, others sitting on chairs, as beds are simply not available. The Covid dedicated ICU on the 8th floor of Mumbai’s famous Lilavati Hospital, is simply unable to handle more patients. The Covid ward is packed with patients, and beds are not available. Some beds had to be shifted to the hospital lobby due to lack of space.

In Ahmednagar district hospital, two Covid patients died because oxygen supply was suspended for nearly 15 minutes.  In Chandrapur, Maharashtra, Covid patients were lying on footpath outside the government hospital in 40 degree heat. When video of the patient lying on footpath became viral, the hospital administration hurriedly admitted the old patient, but he is still suffering due to lack of ventilator.

People belonging to the poor and middle classes are the hardest hit. Once they are tested positive, it is an uphill task for them to get a bed in a hospital. If at all they get a bed, it becomes difficult to get oxygen or a ventilator. If one succumbs to the pandemic, getting a vehicle to transport the body from the morgue to the crematorium is another tough task.

At the crematorium, it is another uphill task to arrange for a decent funeral. Because of the fear of the virus, there are few people who are ready to help the needy. The poor and migrant workers living in the cities, live in dread of lockdown, because they know that they will lose their jobs and earnings. It is another uphill task for them to again return to their hometowns or villages.

Senior doctors and experts I spoke to, told me that if people observe Covid protocols strictly – wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and frequently washing their hands - the pandemic can be controlled in four to five weeks. The virus chains have to be broken. As far as Covid vaccines are concerned, it is easy to say that all adults must be vaccinated. If all adults above the age of 18 years have to be vaccinated, we need at least 200 crore doses to administer to nearly 100 crore Indians.

Even if India procures all the vaccines that are being manufactured across the world, it will be insufficient. The good news is that the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been approved for emergency use in India, and it will soon be manufactured and distributed by an Indian pharma company. Let us keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

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