The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought the world to a standstill. In this fast-paced era, the unprecedented challenge has brought us to our knees and forced us to become slow and secluded. Though the consequences of this pandemic would take a long time to be fully understood and assessed our immediate attention is for the challenges at hand. We need a system for flu clinics and extensive testing after which lockdown can be released in phase. People should be made aware that it’s a dynamic process. Even though the lockdown is relaxed, social distancing and cough etiquettes should be strongly propagated. People need to be educated – the virus would not move around until we take it around.
What do we do with the borrowed time of lockdown?
It is time we put the Make in India mission to work in healthcare. Promote the production of ventilators, PPE, masks, and drugs in India. It is the ideal time to scale up our production capabilities and sustain it into the post COVID phase also so that we become independent and with more job opportunities. Establish community clinics (flu clinics) with extensive testing capabilities. Educate people better and win their confidence. Prepare for post lockdown period. Invest and increase our research capabilities into medical science. We have bigger challenges in new frontiers.
Lessons for the future
With the increasing frequency of outbreaks being seen, its time India prepares itself for more such scenarios in the future.
Interdisciplinary research and collaboration is the need of the hour. The technological advancements happening elsewhere should be adopted into the medical field for a swifter and more coordinated response.
India needs newer laws to deal with the current situation where humans can become potential healthcare hazards and push the nation into crisis.
The media should differentiate between news and opinions. The government should pass laws that government provided or only verifiable authentic information should be considered as news and everything else as opinions. Media should always quote the difference.
Healthcare communities are no less than soldiers manning the borders. They need to be adequately protected and provided a safer environment to work in. The government should bring stricter laws to prevent any abuse or ill-treatment, which this community is fed up with. If we do not treat our heroes well, we only deserve the villains.
The present health infrastructure needs some serious attention. More budgetary and resource allocations have become mandatory. This pandemic has laid bare the vulnerabilities of our healthcare system, poor infrastructure, and overdependence on other countries for our health equipment needs.
India has unique problems like personal beliefs and biases. Non-disclosure of contact or travel history has put doctors and nurses at grave risk and is being quarantined in large numbers leading to wasted precious resources. We need to decide where our freedom of speech or expression ends and duty to the nation begins. Social media has made every person an internet warrior, a potential anarchist who can put a question mark in front of every statement issued by government authorities. We need cool heads, which does not bring politics and religion into everything.
The law enforcement agencies need priming to handle a crisis like a pandemic. We need laws to bring private, government, research institutions into a unified well-coordinated system capable of handling national health emergencies on a war footing at short notice. The rules of engagement have changed.
As a measure of immense forethought India needs a world class advanced disease control center at national level with global appeal, bringing together researchers, epidemiologists, virologists, and needing unhindered budgetary allocation. So next time there is a medical emergency of such proportions we know who is calling all the shots.