The first article I wrote was ‘social distancing leading to emotional distancing’ just after the Prime Minister’s broadcast on March 22 and the last was ‘Corona Pandemic-6 months down the memory lane’ in September.’ As we approach the end of the year, I observe some more controversies and contradictions. We know that all living beings have the survival instinct; more so in human beings; if they are convinced of a threat to any of their family members, they will go out of the way to take precautions, if required they may even resort to violence. In spite of this, a large number do not wear a mask or only wear on the main roads to avoid fine or just a formality; BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) proudly announced that they collected Rs 10 crores as fine from persons not wearing a mask.
The social distancing is rarely being followed; you can look at the pictures taken at social and political gatherings. This only proves that the people are not convinced of the danger which is being projected by the authorities / institutions / marketing / pharma / vaccine companies having vested interest. Another major contradiction/controversy going on since months is not allowing employees in the private sector to travel in local trains. In addition to private offices, restaurants, shopping malls, industrial establishments have been permitted to open; but not permitting train travel for the employees are causing the public inconvenience and to incur heavy expenditure. This has also opened up another avenue of corruption as if we do not already have enough in our country. Sometimes I wonder if indiscipline and corruption are the essential parts of our system or it is in our DNA.
I had some family commitment to travel to Goa in November during Diwali. As I did not wish to get quarantined or forced to take a COVID-19 test, I was debating in my mind whether to go or not; fortunately, it was announced that there would no quarantine on arrival in Goa or in Mumbai. There would also be no requirement of COVID testing of the passengers, either before boarding or on arrival; thus, I ventured and made my trip to Goa for 3 days. Though once again, now in December, the compulsory COVID testing has been introduced for passengers on arrival in Mumbai from Goa and from some other cities. I am told there is again a commotion at the Mumbai airport; the passengers on arrival are rubbing shoulders with each other (social distancing!) and waiting for the covid test to be performed before being let out of the passenger terminal; as a matter of fact, there is a video about this going viral on social media.
I booked my flight to Goa by Vistara on November 12. I was advised by the airlines to download the boarding pass and preferably print it; I was also advised to download the app Arogya Setu, do the self-assessment and keep it ready to be shown to the staff before entering the passenger terminal building. I showed the green and clear signal from Arogya Setu on my mobile, my boarding pass and entered the building. I started wondering about the contradiction; on one hand, the self-assessment on Aragya Setu is accepted and on the other hand, normal healthy persons are forced to go through the COVID testing; some are declared positive and taken to a hospital for 4 to 5 days and without being given any medicine, they are declared negative after a few days and are let go home. I have posed a question to all my medical doctor friends and relatives “Medical Science, till last year, never required normal healthy human beings to be sent to a pathologist, why is it required now when Corona is another type of flu?” I have not been able to get a reasonable and convincing answer. It has also been reported that based on the probability theory, there exists a possibility that 16 % of the tests are false positive.
Before the pandemic, passengers with downloaded boarding passes were required to proceed straight for the security check; this time I was asked to go to the counter where my printed boarding was exchanged with the normal boarding pass. Before entering the aircraft, each one of was handed a plastic face shield, a cheap disposable cloth mask and a small bottle of sanitizer; we were advised to remove and keep our own mask and wear the one given by them and also put on the shield while entering the aircraft. All of us, of course, obeyed till we sat on our seats; the plane was full, not a seat was vacant (social distancing!). We all realised that through the shield we could not read, thus we lifted the shield upward, fortunately, it had a hinge otherwise we would have been compelled to remove the same. Then came the air hostesses with food trays and here goes the mask too. Of course, there were a few exceptions among the passengers, they never lifted the shield or removed the mask and sat shrunk with a disgusted expression, trying to create more distance, looked paranoid. When we landed and came out of aircraft, we were asked to dump the shield and the mask in a big plastic container on which it was written ‘biomedical waste’. Thus these were meant for one-time use. The same procedure was repeated on the return journey on the 15th.
One a different subject, imagine the amount of plastic and cloth waste generated; in addition to the food, paper and plastic waste generated when the food trays are collected back and dumped in big plastic bags after every flight. We talk of reducing plastic waste, segregation and our unsuccessful attempt in treating the mountains of Municipal Solid Waste. Incidentally, during my 3 days stay in Goa, I visited the 100 ton/day municipal waste treatment plant with proper segregation and without foul smell; probably the best in the country and needs to be replicated in all the cities.
Now let us have a look at the controversy generated worldwide about Vaccine; a lot has been written in the print media. These vaccines by a number of renowned companies without completing mandatory animal and human trials are being approved to be given ‘under emergency approval’. Today’s newspaper headlines are ‘In US survey, over half are unwilling to take the vaccine under emergency approval’ There are pie charts of the survey done; if a vaccine was available after getting regular approval from the US Food and Drug Authority (USFDA), most of the respondents would be willing to use it or were at least neutral about it.
Another headline today says “Identify health centres in every block to check adverse effects”. Underlining the potential challenges of serious adverse reactions that could be triggered by Covid-19 vaccines during the largest adult immunisation drive, expected next year, the central government on Tuesday said it has directed all states to identify at least one health centre in each block level that would be linked to the vaccination centre for management of such adverse events. Will this encourage the persons to take the vaccine or deter them?