On Social Distancing

Editor,
With the world running out of order due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I applaud the state government and the district administration of different districts in Meghalaya for their serious take on the effects of this pandemic, by taking stern precautionary measures and directives and laying emphasis on the need for social distancing among people. This is a pivotal preventive mechanism to ensure that our state does not have any positive case at any point of time or the times to come, as long as the virus is taking its rounds. However, keeping in mind the essential need for social distancing at this very juncture, it is astonishing to see people thronging outside the Deputy Commissioner’s Office, East Khasi Hills, to procure curfew passes. They seem nonchalant about following this protocol (social distancing), despite repeated appeals to do so by the very same authority (Deputy Commissioner) and the Health Department. And what’s more absurd is that the police force themselves inside and outside the DC’s office premises are doing the same; looking lost in their own world, not directing people to follow the protocol.

My question is what if (God forbid) any of the people lined up there are already carriers of symptoms of COVID-19? Wouldn’t that pose a serious threat to the other people there and thus facilitate further spread? Will the authorities be responsible to contain this unnecessary crowding? Else how are they going to tackle an outbreak if it happens without creating panic and chaos? Therefore, it is essential that the authorities should specially look into this serious matter and ensure that people who come to procure these curfew passes maintain social distancing among themselves as this is the only way forward to contain the spread of COVID-19, as it is often said that prevention is better than cure.

Yours etc;

Mewan  P Pariat,

Shillong-2.

South Korean model for tackling Covid19  

Editor,

The world salutes South Korea for its unique and outstanding measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic without resorting to hardline measures such as lockdowns. However, President Moon Jae-in, while cautioning against premature optimism, has expressed hope that South Korea could soon enter a ‘phase of stability’ if the trend holds firm. With about 8,000 confirmed cases and more than 65 deaths, it was until recently the country with the most confirmed cases outside China- but South Korea has since emerged as a source of inspiration and hope for authorities around the world as they scramble to fight the pandemic.

As countries ranging from the United States to Italy and Iran struggle to manage the virus, South Korea’s handling of the outbreak-involving a highly coordinated government response that has emphasized transparency and relied heavily on public cooperation in place of hardline measures such as lockdowns- is increasingly viewed by public health experts as a model to emulate for authorities desperate to keep the virus under control.

Whereas China, where the virus originated, and more recently Italy have placed millions of their citizens on lockdown, South Korea has not restricted people’s movements- not even in Daegu, the southeastern city at the center of the country’s outbreak. Perhaps, the South Korean society’s emphasis on discipline and community may have given it room to avoid implementing more draconian measures. The most conspicuous part of the South Korean strategy was to do more tests and they tested 15000 people daily.

The modus operandi of South Koreans to diagnose people with infections of Covid-19 and tracking them was something unique. This country has the highest proportion of cashless transactions in the world. By tracking transactions, it is possible to draw a card user’s movements on the map. Also, mobile phones can be used for the same purpose. In 2019, South Korea had one of the world’s highest phone ownership rates. It is estimated that there are more phones than people and so phone locations are automatically recorded with complete accuracy because devices are connected to between one and three transceivers at any time. And there are approximately 860,000 4G and 5G transceivers densely covering the whole country, which would mean that everyone can be tracked. CCTV cameras also enabled authorities to identify people who had been in contact with Covid-19 patients.

The result of tracking is not only used by health authorities but also made public via national and local government websites, free smartphone apps that show the locations of infections, and text message updates about new local cases. This helped citizens avoid hotspots of infections. Though this was an overexposure of private information about people’s movements, it was an effective way for the authorities to gain public trust, which in turn was important in preventing people from panicking. But for the western countries, the level of surveillance and exposure of personal information involved may be quite offending. One thing is certain. The difference between the South Korean approach and that of European countries does not represent the simple cliché of eastern collectivism versus western individualism. In fact, information exposure can prevent the need for a lockdown of individuals’ movements. In short, our government can adopt the best methods used by South Korea in containing the Covid-19.

Yours etc.,

TK Nandanan,

Via email

Quest for populism

Editor

Far from questioning what concrete action is being taken to stop the march of the dreaded virus; why our health infrastructure is in such a mess with allocation being even lesser than 2% of the GDP, why adequate preventive measures were not taken earlier despite outbreak of the menace in just our  next door China and its spread to various parts of the world; the gullible Indians unquestionably marched out in balconies and streets with plates pots pans, bells and what not and made a mockery of “social/human distancing”! Rightly has a reputed journalist quipped we have won the World Championship of Stupidity!

“Stay at home” had been made the mantra of the times! Yes, it is necessary; but is it practically feasible? Where would the homeless go! How can one survive without food and medicines if one is locked in for weeks! Would the concerned authorities ensure supply of such necessities to every door? Or would they starve at home! Yet a deluge of posts have inundated social media almost “criminalising” people going outdoors for procuring basic necessities as if they are instrumental in spreading the virus!  After beating plates, pots and pans in “honour” of the caregivers, now it is time to beat them up with perhaps again plates pots and pans and evict them from homes as “they pose a health risk to other residents”! So selfies and videos taken on March 22 at 5 pm has become a farcical comedy of plates pots and pans with pictures and videos posted on social media and counting of “likes!”

Now let’s beat up the caregivers and evict them from their homes and residential complexes because they are endangering their own lives for the safety security and recovery of us all! There was much applause after giving the “unique” call of lauding the caregivers through beating of kitchen utensils (never mind the lack of protective gears for doctors and inadequate medical infrastructure)! In response to it, the “whole nation” came to the streets or common balconies collectively thereby making a mockery of “social distancing!”  Popularity quotient “proved”! Photo opportunities utilised to boast to posterity “I was also there”! The end!

And then it seems it has become a “sin” to possess Mongoloid features as if their gastronomical habits are responsible for the outbreak of this virus in India! Actually the virus of racism lies deep within the mindset of these “true Indians” which “inspires” them to insult and humiliate our brothers and sisters from North-East India on the slightest pretext! When a society and it’s “role models” turn into a crass crude joke and play to the gallery by appealing to the lowest common denominator this type of crudity, brutality, ignorance, lack of empathy and indifference are most expected.

Yours etc.,

Kajal Chatterjee

Via email

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