The Indian citizenry has been stressed and distressed over the alarming spread of the Covid-19 contagion that made its entry into the country towards the end of January. As on Thursday, 26th March, over 600 people are reported to have been infected by the virus that has taken a toll of 11 lives. Even as some of us would want to intone the lines from J. H. Newman’s poem “Lead Kindly Light amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on”, as if to seek divine intervention in the present crisis, Prime Minister Modi announced a lockdown of the entire nation for a whopping 21-day period starting from 25th March as a means to stop the virus in its tracks. All Indians stand behind the PM in his endeavour to battle the malady. The best brains in India seem to have recommended social distancing as the ideal tool to restrain the pandemic from going wild. The PM appears convinced that preventing the spread is a dire need for India which, unlike developed western countries, lacks the wherewithal needed for treating millions of patients in the event of the epidemic going out of control.
With the complete stoppage of entry of people into India by sealing all airports in the country, we are now to combat only the virus that has already intruded into our midst. By treating the infected persons in secluded hospital wards and isolating (quarantining) those suspected to have been exposed to the virus through personal contact or proximity, it is possible to contain the spread of the disease. However, there is a hitch. The outer limit of the latter group is rather undefined to the extent that some of those exposed to the virus would have already merged unrecognisably into the society. For this reason, quarantining a handful of identified “suspects” may not alone bring sure success in curbing the spread of the virus. It is in this situation that the social distancing concept becomes relevant. In this concept, all citizens are seen as “suspects” and all are to be isolated from one another for a period of 14 days equivalent to the incubation period of the virus. (Of course, here a family has to be treated as a single entity since it is impossible to segregate/isolate individual family members). Those who develop symptoms during the lockdown will be identified and treated while the others who show no symptoms till the end of this period will be presumed to have no further chance to contract the disease. The nation is hoping to see everyone in the latter group.
During the lockdown period, we must take the utmost care to avoid exposure to the virus likely to be present in our vicinity. The following anti-virus protocol, according to the author, will be beneficial: (1) Avoid going out, except for buying things that cannot be home-delivered through on-line orders. (2) In case outdoor shopping is inevitable, ensure a safe distance from all others. (3) Dip all plastic food packages such as those of milk, curd, oils, etc., in soap water for 20 seconds and wash them in freshwater. (It is well known that soap dissolves away the lipid shield of the Covid virus and kills it). (4) Food packages not in sealed plastic bags, such as bread, biscuits, etc. must be wiped with a cloth soaked in liquid sanitizer, or be emptied into household containers. (5) Vegetables with hard skin, which anyway will be removed, can be given a soap wash for 20 seconds and be rinsed with water. (6) Thin-skinned vegetables and fruits may be given a hot water wash to reduce the virus load. (7) Uncooked vegetables like salads may be avoided altogether. (8) Outer garments worn while going out must be washed with soap on return. (9) Use credit cards and minimise cash payments. (10) In case you handle rupee notes, soap-wash hands on return. Happy lockdown days to all!