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Hysteria and corona: Two viruses killing Delhi

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Politicians won’t miss an opportunity to play dirty even during national crisis. It is an undeniable fact and no party is untouched by this. It is hence advised not to let the news channel debates, social media mudslinging, and news bytes cloud one’s judgement. We would often expect an opposition to accuse and criticize the government irrespective of the ground reality. We would also expect the government to defend, counter-blame, and deceive citizens despite its failures. This is from our years of experience of living in India. Not just India, it is true everywhere in the world. So we now know better not to lose senses over whatever is published and broadcast about the prevailing corona virus disaster in Delhi. Be cautious and safe should be the mantra.

However, it is for the first time that politicians are relatively quiet but common citizens are flooding the social media space with harrowing tales of their experiences in Delhi. Numerous first hand reports have emerged depicting how the ground reality of Delhi healthcare infrastructure is collapsing and failing the helpless citizens. It is for the first time that we are unable to pass off an alarm as a political innuendo. Our neighbors, relatives, and friends are telling us how they struggled to get tested for the virus, how they were turned back by the hospitals citing multiple excuses, how their parents were kept hungry in the hospitals, how they lost their loved ones, and how they could not even get them dignified last rites. These are real stories with real characters and not just fancy blog articles. We are lucky that, unlike Maharashtra, Delhi hasn’t yet imposed gag orders on citizens and medical staff.

Facebook user narrates the harrowing tale of his struggle to get tested for Coronavirus in Delhi
(Image source:

Corona virus is not yet curable nor is it easy to prevent transmission in a developing nation with a dense population. We have seen cases and deaths from asymptomatic infection as well; ergo, it becomes hard to discard the possibility of infection within our homes leading to doubt and anxiety. All this coupled with information asymmetry between the government, doctors, and citizens adds to the chaos. Contrasting statements from the CM on almost daily basis and silence of the rest of the ministers and MLAs has mounted confusion and misinformation. The protocols for testing and admission have become a joke. Citizens trusted a government which prides itself on its public health reforms to utilize the lockdown period effectively and prepare for the worse. As it turns out, we didn’t prepare at all.

There are clear issues of mis-coordination between the government and private labs and hospitals, availability of testing kits, facilities for respectful and timely post-mortem customs, transparency about beds and ventilators, etc. Ideally, all these shouldn’t happen despite allocation of tremendous funds, resources, and time for preparation. Energy spent on advertisements could certainly be better spent elsewhere. Blaming private hospitals, doctors, or leaders who aren’t in the government is helping either. The much hyped ‘Delhi Corona’ app launched with fanfare is changing numbers overnight to exactly match the numbers recited in next day’s rosy talk show by the CM. It doesn’t help either. It wipes the remaining traces of trust and confidence in the health infrastructure of the revolutionarily transformed national capital. However, who are we to blame governments? A dying person doesn’t want to be branded a bhakt, IT cell member, or chamcha.

Panic spreads faster than viruses in a community which loses trust in the administration. People are frantically digging out contacts for approach and recommendations. Once again hoarding of essentials has started. People are rushing to doctors and labs for minor cough, sneezes, and fever. Some are even organizing their finances and assets for liquidity in case they need to bribe for a hospital bed. And, they aren’t wrong to do so. Concern for safety of self and family surpasses any other logic. 

An adverse side effect of the prevalent situation is disturbance to community mental health. Stress, tension, and fear can be seen in the eyes on masked faces, worry can be sensed in voices, and another level of anguish can be surmised from social media trends. People are looking for answers, sadly there are none. Incidents of depression, home-sickness, rage, and hopelessness are on rise. Not too far when all this would take away the remaining sanity of the society.

When there is no solution, what can we do about this? Foremost, calm down. Don’t look for symptoms. Don’t go out to doctors and hospitals when there is no dire need to do so. Even if you are mildly infected, chances are minimal that the government or even private hospitals would cater you. If something is beyond our control, then it is beyond our control. Take chances of stepping into crowded hospitals only when conditions are in concerning stages. Remember, even getting a hospital bed doesn’t get you a ventilator on standby which is the only additional aid a hospital has to offer and is not needed unless you have respiratory symptoms. Stop watching the TV news channels. There is no bigger catalyst to mass hysteria than Indian news channels. Their reporting is anyways devoid of facts and full of bias. Everything is a breaking news – without any component worthy of being called a news, which ends up breaking public morale, if at all anything it does.

Many of us are drowning ourselves in social media viral trends and debates, forgetting how staying cooped up in a 5-inch screen the whole day is another form of lockdown. And, this one is far too dangerous than being trapped in a house. Keep yourselves busy with office work, some hobbies, or games. In this era of texting and tagging, take some time to call your friends and family. Talk to your them about anything but Corona. Those who wanted to switch their jobs, take this time to prepare yourself for the market whenever economic conditions get back on track. Those who wanted to become entrepreneurs, refine your business ideas and pitch presentations.

When government is helpless, has practically shrugged of its responsibility, and is using every diversion tactic to shift the blame and the medical professionals are clueless, let us not torture ourselves by stressing about something which is now out of our hands. When there’s no remedy, then precaution, hope, and life have to survive in unison. Dilli needs to live ‘dil se’!

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