Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pandemic and the Pandora’s box

As authenticity of information is crucial for decision making, transparency in communications is equally vital for implementation of any programme. It is well established that the outbreak of covid-19 required political will and concrete actions on part of the central and state government in India. Lack of such efforts on part of policy makers in different countries all over the world proved costly. In India gearing up to the neglected health care infrastructure for several years became more challenging. Merely creating more bedded facilities on a fire fighting mode and putting up calls intermittently for more tests to be conducted was proved not enough to meet the future requirements.

‘Know all’ attitude

In western countries, institutes of repute and citadels of learning conduct research on a variety of topics connected with the pandemic and are coming out with scientific solutions. These research activities sometimes spring from generous sponsorships of studies and also from the initiatives of individual institutions. India has not somehow oriented itself to this type of activity. Right from a politician to common man everybody feels that he is an expert in comprehending and tackling the pandemic. The ‘know all’ attitude perverse thinking and innate laxity resulted in creating a maze of information flows in social and other media. While elections are underway in states like Assam, West Bengal or for that matter any state the incidence of the pandemic does not reveal itself as tests are neglected.

Also Read: Musings on pandemic impacts

Cause of outbreak of second wave

As Dr. A. Velumani of Thyrocare Technology in the context of present day Maharashtra scenario opined that more affordable costs of tests and consequent increase in number of tests result in more positive cases. There are arguments of developing herd immunity and unknown presence of virus among 5% of the population. From the medical view point the cause of outbreak of second wave is yet to be understood. Was it due to new variant? Comorbidities? Was corona the cause for all deaths reported? What exactly was the contribution of political action or inaction? Is the social responsiveness and administrative adequacy and the management process suitable to tackle the pandemic? These are several of such questions haunting the people continuously. Along with the outbreak of 2nd wave of pandemic 2nd wave of government alertness unfolded. But, where is long term planning? The protocols prescribed like the number of days for quarantine, use of masks, Hydroxyl chlorquine, attending election rallies, Khumba melas or other religious gatherings all are different if not contradicting one another.

Some experts opine that the worst was over and the second wave will not be as dangerous as it was in the first wave. Let us all wish for the same to happen. Some economists’ predict future gloom, unemployment lack of inclusive approaches and feel the worst is yet to come. Even on the medical side the corporate commercialization of epidemic is cited as on the increase and menacing.

Also Read: Eluru health catastrophe

Communications sans authenticity

In a complex situation we are facing now, the biggest problem has been coming from communications flows sans authenticity and research. For example the efficacy of particular vaccines has been widely discussed in all types of media. Government’s approach in distributing the vaccine is yet another issue. There was a huge controversy over the time gap to be observed between the 1st and 2nd doses of vaccine 48 days, 6weeks, 8weeks or even 12weeks? No decisive communication ever reached the public. Though it was said that there were no adverse effects traced after administering the vaccine, emphatic dissemination of this information is still awaited. In countries like US, public safety is of paramount importance. That’s why J&J vaccine is facing pause in its administration. In India we cannot afford this luxury as could be seen in the haste to meet the requirement. Now Sputnik V is projected as 91% efficient efficient, more than that of Covaxin and Covishield. 

The pandemic is new and posed different problems in the country. Scientific research is immediately called for to navigate further actions in tacking the dire situations that raise their heads repeatedly. For the time being politics should be kept in abeyance.

Also Read: Neglect of agricultural labourers

Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
The writer is a researcher, consultant and teacher. He worked at ASCI and had brief stints at Cornell University, IWMI and other international organizations.


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