Indulging In The Wrong Corona: Covid-19 panic

Indulging In The Wrong Corona: Covid-19 panic

Shrestha Mohapatra K Aditya | Mar 23, 2020

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You’re not alone if you were exhilarated to book your tickets to home after your college shut down in light of the spreading of the COVID-19. Short-sighted and self-centered as most teenagers are, you realize the gravity of the situation when it hits closer to home. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global pandemic over a new coronavirus which causes an illness known as COVID-19 that has spread over 188 countries and territories and counting. Although the illness sounds like the name of a college fest, the pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has a fatality rate of 2-3% and is no party for us.

The origin of the virus is much debated with some researchers saying that it is improbable for the virus to be created in a lab, owing to its unique molecular structure and genetic code which cannot be created artificially. The strain of the virus is found mostly in bats and Pangolins and research state that unless we restrict our diet and contact with other species, such diseases will keep increasing with un-ethical meat consumption, which is the reason for the mutation of the viruses.

The probability of a SARS-like virus re-emerging in China was just a matter of time and researchers noted that the presence of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats in southern China was a "time bomb". The now-shuttered Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market advertised dozens of species such as giant salamanders, baby crocodiles and raccoon dogs that were often referred to as wildlife, even when they were farmed. Despite researchers tracing its initial cases to a Seafood Market in Wuhan (One very Bat soup, eh? Pun intended), Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao claimed that the virus might have originated from the US army, which participated in the Military World Games held in Wuhan last October. He also shared articles from Canadian conspiracy site Global Research promoting the theory that the virus originated in the US. With wild speculations going on about the virus’s usage as a biochemical weapon, there are conspiracy theories going helter-skelter about the origination with the 1981 book ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ by Dean Koontz which eerily predicts the Coronavirus outbreak in a passage. Economists believe that the verbal sparring between China and the US could foreshadow a much larger wave of anti-China sentiment worldwide.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, refused American assistance to fight the new coronavirus citing a conspiracy theory claiming it could be man-made by the United States government and accused the country of trying to bring into their country ‘a drug that will keep the virus alive and prevent its eradication’.

The fact that the stocks for the Corona beer have been hammered by the coronarivus shows that most people are not educated about the precautions that need to be taken.The spreading of fake news on social media and news might be more dangerous than that of the virus and Team MM urges everybody to follow WHO guidelines for safety and precautions instead of indulging in false information.

Battling the virus world-wide

While Europeans are paying a price for living in open, affluent democracies, where governments worry about public opinion, China acted with a harshness, common to the Asian countries, that stunned the West, making unpopular moves and accepting deep economic damage as the price of containing the disease. It imposed strict quarantine measures, prohibiting them from leaving their cities and even their homes.

The coercive power of an authoritarian government was only one factor. However, countries like Singapore and Honk Kong assertively tracked down contacts to contain the outbreak without shutting down the economy. This method of containing the virus is a contrast to the approach taken by China and Italy as it didn’t shut down the economy of the country but also managed to contain the virus securely. Singapore’s strategy, of moving rapidly to track down and test suspected cases, provides a model for keeping the epidemic at bay, even if it can’t wipe the disease completely.

While countries have spent years building a public health system that includes designated clinics for epidemics and official mandated messages urging the public to stay indoors and take measures, a developing country like India might face a set-back with no strong public health policies and a weak underdeveloped health economic sector.

India, in its efforts to revamp the laws to tackle pandemic, has resorted to the Epidemic Diseases Act that was enacted to fight the bubonic plague in Bombay. This century old Act which spans over a few pages can only be a make-shift remedy for battling the disease, at the very best. Lawyers believe that ‘an overaching law’ which grants the Centre the power to impose laws on the State is required. The framework of the law does not give complete autonomous power to impose travel restrictions and access a person’s medical information without intervening with thresholds of other acts of the constitution. Moreover, it is highly doubtful that the number of detected positive cases is accurate considering the limited testing kits and a shortage of facilities and logistics. While applauding the Health care workers and Doctors on 22nd March at 5 pm by clapping and banging utensils was due, providing them with better facilities is still due. With it’s economy wavering to a new-found low due to closed businesses and the suspension of Indian Railways, this might be a tough battle for India to overcome.

Quashing the Quarantine

 While the extrovert in you might view this as the perfect opportunity to go meet your friends, you need to stay inside. Irrespective of the fact that it might not prove fatal for you, you can still be a host and transmit it to someone who’ll be at a higher risk because the virus’s RO number is over 2. Moreover, maintaining quarantine is of utmost importance for easing the burden on health care infrastructure and improving the odds that individual patients will survive. The key is to “flatten the curve” aka slowing the rate of increase in infections so that you spread out the cases, even if the total number doesn’t change.

Social distancing isn’t just about protecting yourself. It’s primarily about protecting other people by slowing transmission. Disregarding the disease as something which affects only old people is highly insensitive and foolish.

No matter how tempting it might be for you to pack your bags and travel during these holidays, we need to remember that it’s not a holiday to celebrate but has been mandated by the government to restrict social gatherings and minimize human contact to prevent spread the disease to susceptible individuals.

The only thing that makes life possible is a permanent intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next - Ursula K Le Guin

As a student, Joe was very exuberant about the forth-coming end-sems, hall days, farewells and much more. He was already excited about getting done with his end sems to enjoy the much-awaited summer vacations. The fact of going back home and pursuing his hard-earned internship always made him as happy as a sandboy. But to everyone’s surprise, the COVID pandemic that made it to the global directory changed the course of life. With the pandemic spreading exponentially, Joe experienced something which was beyond his imagination. His college was called off, but the fact of getting holidays didn’t excite Joe this time around. The fact that the citizen curfew and lock-down were implemented throughout the nation made it worse for Joe, all his plans were seized and he was quarantined. Let’s help out Joe by suggesting to him with different things he can take up to get away with the boredom of being quarantined at home.

  •  Learning a new skill- Joe can utilize this period, to learn a new skill that would thrive his placement prospects, as the industry demands to hire people with expertise skill sets rather than an academic luminary. Taking up online courses from the various sources available would do wonders in this respect.
  • Revisiting old hobbies and developing new ones- In this jam-packed lifestyle we hardly get time for pursuing the activities of our interest and passion, but this is the apt time to work upon it. Not only would Joe enjoy doing it but he would also nurture his talent in a way, but all of these should be done keeping in mind the guidelines to prevent the outspread of the pandemic.
  •  Catching up with friends and family through social networking- Socialising is something Joe loves to do, but given the fact that he’s not supposed to interact with a lot of people in person due to the pandemic, he can make use of his social networking accounts to connect with his friends and family members whom he wishes to interact with. In this way, not only can he strengthen his bonds with them and know about their whereabouts but can also make sure they remain safe by spreading the word through social media.
  • Focusing on self-development- There are certain aspects in every individual's life in which he/she wants to develop. For instance, Joe has a problem of stage fear, he gets nervous to ventilate his ideas in front of a large populace. For Joe, this is the time when he can work upon his weaknesses and evolve himself.
  •  Moving towards leading a positive lifestyle- Most of the students like Joe, have mental and physical health issues and sleep deprivation due to the unhealthy lifestyle they lead in their colleges. Joe can exploit this period to lead a positive lifestyle by spending more time on self by exercising, meditating and much more.
  • Catch up on your reading and writing - Everyone always seems to be complaining that they don’t have enough time to read or write stuff. Our commutes are only so long, after all, and if you’re like Joe, you’re not at your optimal level of reading enjoyment while strap-hanging, anyway. Isolation gives you a heck of a lot of downtimes to read books and nourish your writing ability. Writing letters to your loved ones during this quarantine can be a great way to spread awareness about COVID, express your feelings and concern for them. Freelance writing and blogging can also be considered by those who are into writing.
  • Earning while learning- Freelancing, Vlogging on Youtube, Online Tutoring, Blogging, Online Quizzing, establishing Start-Ups can be some of the effective ways through which students like Joe can fill up their pockets while working and learning from home.
  • Binge-watching your favorite shows, series, and movies.

Team MM hopes that Joe uses this period of isolation effectively, has an eventful quarantine period and stays safe.

Response of NITR

Our institute directed its students to vacate the hostels by 17th of March 2020 and all academic activities to be suspended till 31st of March 2020 by issuing a notice in this regard on 14th of March 2020. Later on 16th of March 2020, the administration came up with another circular informing that all the hostels should be closed down for all UG, PG, Ph.D students and project fellows by 19th of March 2020, except for the international students. As a result, a large section of the populace went back to their native places, but a majority of the international students who aren’t allowed to fly back to their own countries had to stay back in NITR. With the campus being almost empty and the fact of being isolated from family and friends during this pandemic period has gravely impacted the lives of these international students and the repercussions faced by them. Here are the views from a couple of international students, who had to stay back at NITR aloof from their family and friends.

Kawangu Lukama, a student from Zambia, had the following views-

The actions implemented by our institute aren’t effective at all. I feel that the Institute officials should have realized the danger of this pandemic earlier and hence taken precautions a bit earlier. This could have prevented the risk for the students, unlike now when they were subjected to travel by various means of transport to go back to their native places which increased the threat of getting infected. If the rumors of making the institute campus a quarantine center is true, I feel, as an International student, this might endanger our lives as the risk of spreading the disease (Covid-19) will enhance.

Pitawalakankanamagevihanga Madushasenevirathne, a student from Sri Lanka, citing his discomfort-

The decision taken by our institute has serious repercussions on us, we’re mentally down and dejected as even during such a frightful situation we couldn’t fly back to our native places and support our family. I feel our institute should extend the holidays till summer vacation to minimize the threat of spreading of COVID-19. Even though our campus is situated in a relatively safer place, but we still have students coming from different parts of India so there’s a large possibility of someone or the other being infected and if they return to the campus then everyone's life will be at stake. If we’re given a summer vacation, we all can fly back home and within two months of vacation, I believe the situation will be alright.

While there's unrest about the maintenance of security of the students on campus with the declaration of the NITR campus as a quarantine centre for patients, there is no news from the administration giving life to panic amongst students and parents. 

The Director has urged the student community not to panic at this moment and has assured that any decision regarding rescheduling of the semester will be taken keeping the internships/placements in consideration. The Director assures that he is trying his best to evade the campus from becoming a quarantine centre and the administration will try their best to resist such pressures. The administration will be taking a firm decision regarding the continuation of the current semester in a few days. However, it is not enough to quell the rising questions in everyone's mind. On a circular released on  24th March, the summer vacation was rescheduled from 1st April to 31st May and the revision of the academic calendar, internships for pre-final year students and early course completion of final year students will be approved after an emergency Senate meeting scheduled on 27th March.

Team MM hopes for everyone to be safe and follow the established guidelines to help prevent the spreading of the virus by doing their bit. It also hopes for speedy measures to be taken by the administration.

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