The 2020 COVID19 pandemic has proved to be one of the most challenging episodes in the history of mankind. Never has one witnessed a situation like this before when people were forced to stay at home having minimal contact with the outer world. The “Novel Coronavirus” is considered to be a highly infectious disease, more hazardous than the Spanish flu or the Sars that the world had seen a few decades back. Currently, COVID19 has affected more than 1.8 million people worldwide and the numbers are increasing every day. WHO (World Health Organization) has given several health guidelines for people to follow in order to stay safe. These guidelines become very important given that the rate of infection is ever-increasing. Doctors and researchers have stressed on taking proper precautions to stay safe amidst the crisis. Out of it the most important is the usage of masks as they say that it can prevent the spread of disease and can block particles or viruses from affected persons.
In fact, there is a scientific reason behind wearing masks. A virus can leave the body of an infected person in the form of droplets, especially when a person sneezes or coughs without covering his hands or mouth. If the other person wears a mask then it can act as a shield and block the particles from entering inside the body by penetrating the mask. Therefore, masks can act as a barrier against any viral transmission. Apart from this, general guidelines such as washing hands with soap regularly can also minimize the rate of infections and reduce the chances of contracting the disease. However social distancing must be maintained to protect oneself from infections.
Dr. Sukamal Biswas, a senior medical officer at Beleghata ID hospital states that looking at the current situation, wearing a mask is mandatory for all. “Covid19 is a highly infectious disease, but the mortality rate is low (2-3% worldwide), which is a positive sign. However, certain precautions must be taken to ensure that one does not contract infection. While stepping outside, it is advisable to wear a 3 ply mask, or if one can afford, then he/she can wear a N95 mask, since masks can prevent dust and virus particles from going inside. In case if N95 mask is not there, a 3 ply mask is a must,” advises Biswas.
Talking about the general health guidelines, he states, “After coming back home, the mask should be soaked in soap and water and kept for half an hour and washed with few drops of Dettol. All fruits, vegetables must be washed with soaps, and clothes should be washed too. Taking a bath after coming from outside is necessary. Keeping a sanitizer is always advised.”
The doctor also feels that the virus is spreading fast and the condition is worsening. People should isolate themselves and stay at home and not go out unless it is very important. Maintaining these safety measures can help one to stay safe and prevent infection spread.
Global scenario of the pandemic
The COVID19 pandemic has created a hue and cry worldwide since it has affected a huge number of people. When the disease first started and was in its early stage people failed to see its severity. However, as days passed, the cases started galloping from hundreds to thousands within a few days. Almost every country made strict rules and ensured lockdown to bring the situation under control. Europe and the USA were the two badly hit continents apart from China and slowly India too joined the list. But the positive sign was some of the countries like Italy and Dubai took stringent precautions and successfully flattened the curve. Dubai put in place a sustained implementation of strict precautionary measures such as thermal screening, rapid tests, and proper treatment while emphasizing on masks for ensuring the safety of the residents. In fact, Dubai recorded a significant decline in the past few weeks and the rate of recovery has gone up. It is being said that people have been maintaining the precautionary steps and taking the rules seriously. They have practiced social distancing, travel restrictions and have worn masks every time they have stepped out. Through strategic planning Dubai has been able to make tremendous progress in controlling the spread of the virus and combating the disease.
A similar situation exists in Italy where we see that even a couple of months back, the country was in a dreadful state where we saw thousands of deaths and infections taking place every day which took the total cases to almost 2.4 lakhs. But miraculously, Italy has been able to strongly curb the infections and around June, the cases started to drop below 30000. The number of people infected is less now and the COVID positive who were admitted in ICU and intensive care are fast recovering. This happened because Italy understood the severity of the situation and took rapid action to curb the spread of the virus. From creating separate coronavirus areas in the hospitals, to getting more beds in the ICU, ordering more PPE kits for all healthcare workers, to maintaining safety hygiene such as social distancing, avoiding gatherings and wearing safety gear while venturing outside, Italy has shown an outstanding progress in controlling the outbreak.
When the rest of the countries have almost brought the situation under control, it seems that the numbers in India are still on a steeply higher side. Maharashtra, New Delhi and many other cities are struggling with massive increase in cases. West Bengal is also topping the list. The number of cases is rapidly increasing with no sign of positivity. Although it has been said that the rate of mortality is low, still the rate at which the infections are increasing is extremely alarming. Safety guidelines have been issued by the Government of India as well as the state government regarding regular usage of masks and washing hands. But sadly, people are not following the rules and regulations and putting lives in danger. Right now the total number of cases stands at approximately 65000 and are increasing, with the daily cases rising sharply.
Ravi Kumar, Counselor at the Directorate of Education, New Delhi points out some significant reasons why people do not want to wear masks –
· Over Generalization of facts: This is a very common thinking approach in most humans where they relate their present condition to their past conditions. They feel that earlier they did not wear masks, so now there is no need to wear masks too. In this way they over generalize the importance and necessity
· Minimization of facts: This happens when people tend to take situations extremely lightly and do not understand the severity or gravity of it. In this case, people tend to downplay the COVID situation and feel it’s a normal flu and people do recover. Thus, they automatically develop a tendency to defy norms and follow their own principles. What they do is minimize the importance of the disease and defy rules.
· Inconsistency of facts: Also, many people are suffering from inconsistency of facts. It is true that every day the guidelines are changing and people feel that there is no control over the thing and there is the sense of distrust that is growing in the minds.
· Interpretation of Information and its reactions: This is the most common factor and is prevailing widely among the mass. Some people are privileged enough to be informed about the facts and data which help them to stay alert and follow the guidelines since they are aware of the consequences. On the other hand, due to lack of education and awareness some people are unable to get the desired information. So they are surviving based on partial information. It is very important to properly educate people and spread mass awareness about the ongoing situation so that they understand it and act responsibly. This will make them take safety measures and wear masks and follow other protective measures.
Awareness is highly imperative here. Recalling the past few months and the condition of the state due to Covid19 pandemic, IPS Sandhi Mukherjee (Ex IG, W. B) states that this situation is something which mankind has never seen before and is extremely unusual and threatening. “Everyone is facing a crisis right now and many are facing mental health issues. On top of this, the constant pressure of wearing masks and gloves has taken a toll on the human mind, especially among the underprivileged sections that have lost jobs and are not being able to feed their family. Under this abject scenario, the extra burden of buying or making masks is making things worse,” he laments.
“What is important is to understand their psychology and work things out. The Police should join hands with the local clubs and distribute masks and to every household, and communicate to everyone to make them realize the importance of wearing masks, so that they become aware,” suggests the thoughtful cop.
Talking about the duties of the Police during this crisis, he further mentions, “Police should act responsibly and not resort to illogical means such as ‘Lathi Charge’ in a show of power. Rather they should come together with members of local clubs and organize a structured way to distribute masks and raise awareness. If things still don’t work, then they can think of using other means. But if we want to see a change, we have to change the way of working. Only then we can improve the overall situation.”
To put the things in a nutshell, the general public of India must understand that they are living amidst a global pandemic which is life threatening. Motivational Speaker Indrajyoti Sengupta feels, “Coronavirus is a very clever disease and has the ability to hide within people. It might not affect one but every other person, if there is close contact”. “The sad part is, even though its severity is being flashed everywhere, people tend to defy rules by not wearing masks or not taking proper precautions. Spreading awareness is important, not just by the administration but by all of us. As a responsible citizen, it is everyone’s duty to come forward and raise awareness regarding wearing masks and ensuring the safety of everybody”, he shares.
Stay informed; information in power!