Even as loud calls are repeated by the medical profession, government and media that the corona virus has to be faced without panic but with full vigil, the virus is spreading all over the world at a still alarming rate. As we write this, millions have become sick in more than 145 countries, and over 7,000 unfortunate fellow human beings have lost their lives. India, the second most populous country in the world with 130 crore people, has 15 of its states with reported incidens of Covid infection. Against the size of the population, the number of confirmed Covid cases may seem an insignificant number, but it needs to be noted that calculations may go wrong any moment. In Kerala, with the highest level of preparedness and preventive measures, 24 cases have been confirmed so far. At the same time 12,000 are under constant observation. The state, which has overcome the first phase of the virus infection successfully, has moved to the second phase with some room for anxiety. The number of suspected cases has increased in more districts. If the spread goes unchecked by any chance, a minimum of 2.35 lac ICU beds will have to be prepared, as stated by Indian Medical Association (IMA), Kochi Branch in a public interest letter to the chief justice of Kerala High Court.
In Kerala, a state with better enlightenment, thanks to the effective intervention of the government and in an environment with the doctors, hospital and health workers rising to the occasion, the hope is that Covid-19 will not be allowed to run amok as feared by IMA. This is especially in the background of the state having defended against the fatal disease of 'Nipah' in a highly effective manner. Still, the success in checking the scale and depth of corona infection depends on the level of alertness with which the government, voluntary organisations, private hospitals and the people in general conduct themselves. And in that respect, what happened in the last few days show that some unforgivable lapses have started happening. One was the absurd reception accorded to a star at Nedumbrassery airport. Hundreds gathered there defying prohibitions, on the pretext of giving a welcome. Although the man has been taken into custody under huge popular pressure and cases filed against the persons involved, it is clear that the officials concerned had not taken any precautionary measures to obviate such a situation. The second instance is of a group of pilgrims back from Mecca after Umra, who assembled in a mosque in Ponnani and conducted a fairly large congregation. This display of sentiments would make any one wonder whether the people there were iving in this world and in this age.
Despite warnings given by authorities and experts in treatment through various media, some do not show any hesitation to enter crowded locations, receive and carelessly mingle with those coming from abroad. They fail to understand that all the restrictions being imposed are precautionary measures for the safety of themselves, their family and relatives and as part of enhancing the overall disease-prevention capability of the larger community. Therefore, it needs to be emphasized that what enlightened Kerala needs primarily now is not treatment or medicine, but a basic civic sense. There are some who revel in violating or bypassing regulations and prohibitions even if they realise that they are essential for their own protection and safety of the community. If a section of the population indulge in spitting in public places, making toilets dirty, breaking public water distribution amenities and throwing waste in water sources and public thoroughfares, the less said the better about them. Thus, however boastful we may be about development and progress, we are yet to learn the basic lessons of civic sense. Malayalis are a people who had set a sterling model during the periods of flood twice recently. Now when the pandemic is here, we are constrained to wonder why at least some behave as if they have forgotten all that.
There is also a question why, when all kinds of meetings and mingling have been barred, the unending queues at the counters of Beverages Corporation have not been barred? Is it that the government deems it unfair to deny people the chance to drink when all other events are blocked? Or is it out of the insistence that the crores of rupees in revenue are not to be lost even for some days? If so, has any one worked out the possible financial cost of stopping the spread of corona virus and treatment of cases when they actually get infected? In the least, the Excise ministry should explore whether it would not be better to minimise the chance of virus spreading by diverting the thick crowd lining up before the foreign liquor shops to the bars that lie open everywhere with no let or hindrance.