On 23rd March 2020,Government of Manipur announced one day lockdown there was public uneasiness, eerie calmness kind of situation. I had a field that day and was anxious due to frequent hand washing, sanitising & maintaining social distance by the end of the day I was completely mentally stressed out of not knowing what would happen tomorrow. Until then COVID-19 felt distant, at least a false sense of mental security exist that COVID-19 has not reached Northeast & with lockdown we hoped it never does. It was a naive thought because early next day all sense of tranquility was shattered, panic struck us, and the very fear came true Manipur recorded it’s 1st confirmed positive COVID-19 case on 24th March,2020.
Social media journalism( Facebook,instagrammer, watsapp) public circulated patients photos( fb profile), family details, shaming entire family and a fake videos showing patient having difficulty in breathing with an orgasmic sound effect.
There were debate regarding patient travel history, routes she had taken to reach Manipur ( to avoid isolation instead of boarding a flight she took bus from Guwhati to Impha,her irresponsive social behaviour i.e. she attended numerous social ceremonies, meeting & greetings with her friends & relatives. Panic stricken immediately I called up to find out if that person had attended the wedding of someone with whom I worked on Monday. To my relief she had attended and also importantly all these were cooked up incomplete information about the patient. Truth was revealed patient being educated, aware and socially responsible and had self undergone home isolation, after she landed by air to Imphal. Once COVID-19 symptoms started showing she had sought medical attention by calling up the helpline number seeking medical support from the frontline.
For now there is heightened community panic/stress/anxiety and anger toward the patient/family. There is need for transparency & accountability in dealing with the situation along with equipped resources for the frontline team, otherwise this may led to violence.
This incident highlights ‘systematic failure in dealing with such emergency/crisis situation’ because initially there was absence of national urgency, hence national level preparedness against COVID-19 was inadequate with delayed facilitation of SOP from central to states. Reluctancy in conducting mass testing/strict screening for foreign travellers without proper isolation facilities without adequate medical equipments & resources to frontline workers resulted in COVID-19 entry to Northeast or let say in India.
This pandemic illustrates instead of fighting for religion/caste/class we must fight for better healthcare infrastructures and educational institutes.Frontline team is the most important resources for community well being. Taking care for neighbours is equally important & similar as caring for oneself. To have food, shelter, water is not only basic requirement but a privilege. This crisis also stresses us to see persisting inequality for people at the bottom of the pyramid. Any socio/political/natural calamity/pandemic occurs they are the first one to bear the hardest brunt.
This is not an individual fight/religious fight/political fight but its a fight for human for its own existence.Instead of panic we need financial/non financial resource mobilisation, adequate medical equipments, professional attitude, empathy, adopt strict social distancing to break the chain.For some its an opportunity to experience slow life, but for some it’s more difficulty as they are grappling to provide meals for their families. Some are re-charging ones thought/soul/ unwinding or getting torn apart, jolted, shaken but we are definitely forced to re think ones choices , purpose in life, and dream an egalitarian world. Thankfully, for me it has put a much needed brake to my consumerism lifestyle & social pressures of conducting/attending irrelevant social ceremonies.
Next day, I din’t follow social media or news just enjoyed a daily life of Mou ( daughter in law), wore a kajal, read a book, played with my daughter and lived.