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Major television news channels have a question and answer session with senior medical professionals from different parts of the country almost every day since Covid-19 hit us. These medical experts who are experienced in their respective fields for a long time answer queries from the public who raise questions through the news channels. This is a very informative platform and it is what we need to know about a virus that is as enigmatic as it is contagious. In Meghalaya there is no such platform. The format is that the Deputy Chief Minister/Health Minister/DHS brief the media every evening on a prescribed agenda. Media persons are not expected to be intrusive and to ferret out information on behalf of the public. It is assumed that whatever Government considers as adequately tailored information, is enough.
But this is not how it should be. Firstly, Meghalaya is the only State where you don’t see any medical specialist (not necessarily a Government doctor), giving out any information on Covid 19 in a question-answer format. It’s almost as if they are afraid to speak up and inform the public. Does Meghalaya not have epidemiologists, virologists, microbiologists, medical specialists, pulmonologists, public health experts, cardiologists, endocrinologists et al? Why do we hear only one voice – that of the Government! The reason why we have a state-owned Doordarshan is to allow an interface between the audience and the doctors at this critical time when we are faced with an unknown factor – Covid-19.
Let’s face it, Covid-19 is a disease – with far reaching consequences and even now scientists and health experts are still finding out which drugs will help allay the various infections caused by the virus internally. Because of the ignorance surrounding the disease, the reaction of communities beyond Shillong is often hyper-ventilated. People are not allowed to attend to their work because one person tested positive in their locality. This propensity to turn an entire locality of several hundred households into a containment zone reeks of a needless overdrive. But fear has turned people irrational and unwilling to take chances without considering the economic consequences of such an action.
This is the time we need to hear the voices of doctors to assuage our fears but also to list down and reiterate important behavioural changes that we need to adapt to, to combat Covid-19. The Government is just one of the stakeholders in our fight against the virus. People are confused about the different tests they are subjected to. They wonder why they test positive one day and negative the next day. This fear is compounded by the fact that a city hospital put out a notification that a certain doctor who works in the hospital tested positive one day and negative the next day. The Hospital certifies that the doctor ‘recovered in a day.’ What is this supposed to mean? It is precisely to counter such misinformation that doctors need to come forward and inform the public. But why are doctors afraid to speak?