OPINION | COVID-19: A rich man’s disease; a poor man’s nightmare


SHILLONG | JULY 17, 2020: 

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie and Christopher Gatphoh

COVID-19: A term that exudes a sense of displeasure, annoyance and fear among citizens of the world. "What's making headlines today? Answer: COVID-19 cases. The surge in the number of coronavirus cases no longer surprises us. It is a new REALITY!

Like Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma had stated, time and again, that "one needs to learn how to live with this virus and how to adapt to the behavioural changes."

I agree. Coronavirus is here to stay, whether you like it or not! Until a cure for the virus is found, we can't help but learn to adapt to the changes in this COVID-era.

Over the past few weeks and months, we have seen how COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people across the world. World's economy has gone for a toss even as countries struggle to turn the tide and face the challenge head-on.

While countries like New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Taiwan and others have managed to curtail the crisis to some extent, the virus is further cementing its foothold in other nations like India, the US, Brazil and China.  There is a leadership crisis which the world is witnessing at the moment and while the battle is won in some nations, the war against COVID-19 is far from over.

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True, lockdown is needed to contain the spread of the virus. Reports had earlier stated that unlike other countries, India was quick to react to the arrival and spread of COVID-19 by imposing lockdown. But sadly, despite all the efforts, there seems to be no end to the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country.

How did this virus even reach India? Dr Ali S. Khan, author of the book 'The Next Pandemic' rightly mentioned that SARS does spread through air travel. According to media reports, months ago, a family from Kerala returned home from a coronavirus-affected country but failed to report to the government on their arrival and acted like nothing was wrong. It was only later when a member of that family tested positive for the virus that contact tracing and random testing were done, but it was too late. The virus had already spread. Irresponsible returnees, of course!

That is only one such example. There were other similar instances where people (mostly the rich) hid their travel history for fear of having to go through all the "hassles" of getting themselves tested multiple times and quarantined.

Those were the initial months when the virus had just entered the country with returnees from abroad as carriers.

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And months later, the virus has found its way to every nook and corner of the country; Not overlooking the fact that the situation has gone from bad to worse, the complacent and "I don't care" attitude of a few has landed the state (s) in trouble.

In Meghalaya, the recent Greenwood Resort wedding case has shaken the entire city of Shillong even as there seems to be no end to the blame-game. The efforts of the state government during the lockdown period was highly commendable but was wasted in just a mistake. While the government has blamed the families of the bride and groom for flouting the protocols, on the other hand, questions were raised on the lapses in the functioning of the government machinery. Who gave the permission? Why were the wedding attendees allowed to return to Shillong with a one-way transit pass? Why were they not stopped and checked at the Integrated check posts? All these burning questions tickle the minds of the citizens as they hold both the government and the wedding organisers/attendees responsible for the mess Shillong is in right now.

The July 13 and 14 total lockdown was expected and public angst over the irresponsible behaviour of a few is obvious.

"A fault of one has landed all of us in trouble. We did not cross the border; we did not attend any gathering; so, why must we face such uncertainty?" asked an agitated daily wage-earner in Shillong.

"The last lockdown had cost us dearly. Our income has dropped. While the lockdown may not impact the lives of the high and mighty, but it can drive us (the poor) to the edge of a breakdown," said an owner of a small tea stall in Shillong.

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A doctor, on condition of anonymity, has stated that we could have contained the spread of the virus in the city. But no thanks to the undisciplined and irresponsible few, uncertainty prevails. She was of the view that though the virus has found its way into the BSF camps, but the spread is restricted to the camps.

But in the wedding case, the blatant violation of the health protocols has upped the level of anxiety and alertness, not to mention, added an extra burden on the health and front-line workers.

From a common man's perspective, COVID-19 is nothing but a 'rich and educated man's disease' because it all started with them.

We cannot change the past; there are lessons to learn and seriously amend those, but for now, staying vigilant, strictly adhering to all the health protocols and advisories issued by the government, from time to time, is highly advisable.

(DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writers alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.)