Italy is said to be the eightth largest economy in the world, with a population of six crores, and boasting of a great civilisation and cultural heritage. That has now become like a house of ghosts, as reports from there indicate. City squares that are known for huge crowds are vacant strips now. Tourist centres including busy streets and shopping malls, that attract tourists from around the globe look virtually empty.
The basalicas of Rome, usually thronged by pilgrims, have no human movement now. Churches, restaurants, airports, railway stations, schools all have become centres of shocking silence. Anyone going out becomes stunned and scared. A whole country looks like a large prison. There are those who recall that even during the Second World War the country was not like this. It was on Friday evening that prime minister Giuseppe Conte made a call to the people not to leave their homes except for unavoidablle needs. That was when the government probably came to grips with the fact that the spread of Covid-19 had gone out of hand.
It was an unusual infection and spread of Covid-19 that landed Italy in this plight. At the time of writing this, over 10,000 people have tested positive with the corona virus. 465 people have died by now. It was in end-February that the presence of coronavirus was confirmed in Italy, and it was inferred that the virus crept into the country through a few who came from abroad. But within a few days, it spread far and wide in an incredibly swift manner.
The problem in Italy is not lack of health care of preventive machinery. It is a country with one of the best and modern medical facilities. But the issue that arose there was the slight laxity that occurred at an hour when high level of vigilance was called for. They fell short of taking effective preventive steps immedialy on confirmation of the virus infection. The most effective way to arrest the spread of virus is to eliminate possibilities for contact with the virus carriers. But before any serious step in that direction was taken , thousands had become carriers of the virus.
It would take only minutes for the virus to move from these thousands to another tens of thousands of people. That was how the prime minister himself had to come out on the TV screen and ask people to stay at home without moving out. But by that time the vehicle of tragedy had moved far ahead. That has plunged the country into a crisis from which it is difficult for Italy to recover. And the damage of the contagion on Italian economy is yet to be assessed.
It is in the background of Italy that one should view the precautionary steps taken in Kerala to stop the spread of Covid-19. The state government was seen promptly moving to the unusual steps of closing institutions right from anganvadis to professional colleges. There is a section of population that wonders whether this extent of preventive measures is required. But those initiaves should rather been seen as measures to minimise mingling of people.
As the chief minister said at the press meet, it is part of a major alertness to prevent serious tragedies from happening. Everyone is obliged to take without hesitation the precautionary measures prescribed by the Government and health workers. The steps taken by Kerala in defending against 'Nipah' virus had won worldwide accolades. We should be prepared to face the new challenge also with the same sense of unity and will power.
It would be petty to bring politics into the preventive and defensive actions against Covid-19 virus. On close watch, the debates in the Assembly on Wednesday do contain some unpleasant hints. The Opposition has an obligation to extent unstinted support to the government's steps. And it doesn't befit the ruling side to treat any questions or doubts in this regard with intolerance, the moment moment the Opposition raises them. The only choice before us is to survive in unity.