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How well is India equipped to handle a post Pandemic world? Are we prepared enough to handle another viral outbreak?

Many in the scientific community believe that Covid -19 may just be the firsts of the many Pandemic that may hit countries and regions of the world at different times. 

Today’s world has never been so connected; we are in a day and age where our lives are so closely woven together even if we may not be aware of it. It does not matter today, which part of the world we belong to or what is our country of origin; in today’s context, globalization has acquired its true meaning.

Yes, Wuhan in China was the origin of the Covid -19 pandemic, but it spread quickly and fast to the other parts of the regions, country by country until the entire world was in the grip of this virus.

It has been debated, and several countries were quick to lay the blame on China for not sharing the facts early enough or that it let travel and exports open without giving a thought that the virus could be transported and may hit shores beyond China.

It is debatable and may have a certain basis, but the fact is it is a virus and not a bacteria. The fundamental difference between a virus and a bacteria is that, unlike a bacteria, a virus needs a host; it cannot survive without a host. They can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells. While they do that, they reprogram the cells to make new viruses until the cell burst and die. In other cases, they turn normal cells into malignant or cancerous cells. 

The viruses are tinier than bacteria; the fact is that the largest virus is smaller than the smallest bacteria.

The spread of coronavirus is not a surprise; both population growth and increased mobility, whether related to business or pleasure, is a constant and an unavoidable part of our lives now.

Is it possible for us to completely reinvent the wheel? 

Everything in today’s world is so intricately knit together that to pull out the start, or the end of the string is a complex and challenging task.

However, it has become increasingly clear that viral pandemics may be here to stay, and we have been witnessing deadly viral outbreaks almost every year.

 

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With Covid -19 outbreak, it highlighted two very essential points – How well are we prepared to handle outbreaks of viral pandemics?

It outlined and clearly taught us that we are nowhere prepared to handle such an event; no country in the world had managed to contain the outbreak effectively. Even rich countries like the US and UK struggled with the health care sector’s infrastructure for the first couple of months.

 

The second is Public health – an outbreak anywhere can spread fast and rapidly to other areas.

Hence if this is the ‘new normal,’ then we must be prepared for any future viral outbreaks.

Back home in India, we were a lot better than most countries because of the implementation of a lockdown, which surprisingly was well followed and honored by the citizens of the country; however, the cost of the same turned out to be phenomenal as all activities essential for any economy came to a standstill.

We are still coming out of technical recession. Numerous people in this entire situation lost their jobs. Some jobs have simply become redundant in this “new phase” of life.

But herein is the dilemma, we are still not free of coronavirus even as reports of a mutation in the virus have been reported in European countries, Canada, China, and India( the returnees from the UK).

 

India is currently under the grip of Bird Flu; hence it can only be stressed that viral infections have not passed yet and may very well be here to stay for years to come.

If this is the way forward, how well are we prepared both globally and in India when it comes to this fact?

  1. It is extremely critical that we accept that life may have indeed changed from what we knew and how we operated.
  2. A successful management of an outbreak requires a dedicated, focused, and mission-oriented team, a health organization whose people in the forefront are credible experience in this field.
  3. We need to learn to move fast and quickly – with active measures which may include central isolation as was the case and proved successful in Wuhan 
  4. In Asian countries, it was observed that the test – isolate – trace worked very well, as it did in India too.

 

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India and Indian Cities in a Pandemic or Post – Pandemic world?

We are predominantly a country where Planning takes the back seat.

Urban Planning and improving urban governance is a critical key here. 

The example that can be cited here is that India avoided the spread of coronavirus to villages with the lockdown and restrictions in mobility from the cities.

Moreover, cities have the potential to become the hub of first – hit pandemics as space and expansion management are negligible when it comes to planning our cities.

Another critical aspect is the density of the population; poor housing and lack of space can be the easiest way in which a virus can spread.

So far, public transport was curbed and has only just been opened in most cities, but this is an essential and critical issue since both public transport and social distancing are still needed; one is vital for the low-income group’s mobility and the other critical to individual health and transmission.

 

What can be done?

First and foremost, India needs to dedicate and spend more on its health care infrastructure. This is an essential foundation and critical on which other important parameters can be based.

If our Healthcare system is not adequate and cannot take the pressures of an outbreak, then all Planning and policies laid down will fail.

Public Health – to adequately and improve the supply of healthcare services, communication, transparency, and technology such that important information is available in real-time. 

The government will have to increase its spending on the infrastructure and governance of the healthcare sector; it is the most critical resource in the current times.

Another important aspect here is again pertaining to cities, where the highest concentration of population reside in close quarters, use public transport and the majority living in the cities do not have the luxury of space. 

The government will have to improve hygiene in informal settlements and provide basic amenities like reliable water supply, amongst other things.

The world may just have to come to terms with the changes that the coronavirus outbreak has brought on in our lives. Though we would like to move on and reinvent our lives, the fact remains that virus outbreaks are an inevitable part of our lives. 

It is prudent to be prepared and adequately geared to handle such outbreaks in the future, or the costs both in terms of human life and in terms of resources could be very high indeed.

 

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