Nipun Saxena

| @nipun_saxena | March 15,2020

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have come across many people questioning the Government’s move to contain Coronavirus (Covid-19) and most of these criticisms centrally revolve around the idea that this pandemic has a lesser mortality/fatality rate than other pandemic diseases.

Conservative estimates have pegged it between 2% to 3%. The higher mortality rate is prominent with people who have pre-existing medical condition, people with compromised immunity and the elderly and infants who are at a natural risk.

What has been missed out in the entire narrative is that the rate of exposure of this disease is massive. When a disease is declared to be “pandemic”, what is seen is the rate of exposure and not merely the mortality rate. Which is to say the faster it spreads, the more likely it is to cripple down our health care system.

 

 

Staying indoor

 

If our hopelessly inadequate healthcare system is further burdened by an onslaught of new cases every day, because the Government failed to take enough preventive measures, it will result in more deaths, and therefore a sporadic and steep increase in the mortality rate within days. India will then become the largest contributor to this steep increase.

 

 

By staying indoors, you are contributing to society. You are no longer a “carrier” of the disease. We have already witnessed how one man from Agra was the carrier of this infection to a hotel, and to his family, each of who had to be quarantined.

We simply do not have enough quarantine chambers, isolation wards, or even oxygen cylinders if this disease is not contained.

 

‘Sanitizers’ and ‘Masks’ are an essential commodity

 

I welcome the move of the Government to have declared masks and sanitizers as Essential Commodity to stop hoarding and black marketing of these vital preventive measures. Under the Essential Commodities Act, 1952.

The Central Government has amended the Schedule to include “sanitizers” and “masks including surgical masks and N 95 masks” and declared them to be essential commodities until June 20, 2020.

Furthermore, the acts of hoarding, or selling at an amount over and above the amount fixed under the Order shall be construed to be an offence and will entail penalty not only under the provision of the Essential Commodities Act, 1952 which carries with itself a punishment extending to seven years of imprisonment but also invite prosecution under the provisions of the Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (PBMMSEC Act).

 

Preventive measures

 

Various state machinery including our Supreme Court has taken urgent remedial preventive steps to ensure that the menace could be contained well before the situation spirals to unprecedented measures.

Given the structural composition of most of the courtrooms in the Supreme Court compound, and with the frequent double queues of lawyers and litigants on regular days and especially on Miscellaneous Days, it would have been extremely difficult to contain the infection, if it were to spread.

This also calls for serious introspection on the design and architectural requirements of old buildings and the need to equip them with changing needs and new threats.

 

 

The central government is cognizant of the ground reality has also cancelled all the Visas for those travelling into India up to April 15, 2020, thereby effectively reducing the number of foreign entrants into the Indian soil. This is in supersession of the previous order in terms whereof, only a few countries were designated.

 

The subject of ‘Health’

 

Since “health” is a State subject, the Delhi Government has also issued various advisories and have proceeded to lay down regulations shutting down schools, colleges, shopping malls by framing appropriate regulations under the provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

Most of the State Government have replicated these regulations to prescribe for urgent preventive solutions.

One of these regulations also echoes yet another very crucial sentiment, i.e. there is a crucial distinction between taking preventive measures and panicking. The regulations expressly proscribe every citizen or manufacturer of any goods and service to spread false information about the Corona Virus or selling unverified unapproved drugs on the basis of false marketing and false claims to have somehow found the “cure” to the Covid-19.

This is, of course, in addition to the provisions of the Magic Remedies Act and the Drug and Cosmetics Act which provide for other severe penalties and punishments including forfeiture of these products.

 

 

Non-compliance of these regulations would entail a penalty under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The oft-quoted adage: Prevention is better than Cure cannot be more relevant in the present times. Let us all be responsible citizens and take this as seriously before it takes us all down. Let us not, in our misplaced vanity, allow our callousness to dictate our rationality.

I am certain that the population in general and I, in particular, am not going to be a guinea pig to see and wait whether we fall under the 2% mortality or the 98% people who survive.

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