From cluster transmission to local transmission

Indeed the figures do tell a very sordid and sorry state of affairs as far as the COVID-19 situation goes in the State of Manipur. A total of 3853 positive cases (as on August 10) which is inclusive of 886 cases of local transmission give a succinct picture of the overall scenario. It is also an unmistakable indication that there are some serious lapses and loopholes in the way the State and her people have been handling and dealing with the issue. What is even more worrying is the fact that the positive cases have been surging by three digits every day. If the trend goes on, it would not be long before the State records 10,000 positive cases. In such a scenario, the State will find itself at its wit’s end to tackle the issue. If the situation exacerbates to such a level, all the State’s resources will be stretched to the limits and there would be complete chaos in the society.  Already, many non-COVID patients have been victimised by the pandemic. With many health care workers infected by the virus, newborn babies and expectant mothers have been thrown into the jaws of untimely death. This grim picture must be taken into account while dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. At first, as was the case elsewhere, it was people who came from outside the State who were tested positive for the highly contagious virus. Then came the reports of cluster transmission which multiplied the State’s COVID-19 positive tally rapidly. Still then, the tally was restricted to a few hundreds. Cluster transmissions took place only in quarantine centres which implied that there were serious lapses and loopholes either in the guidelines and the SOP or the way they were implemented in the quarantine centres. Now the contagion has breached the walls of quarantine centres as testified by the ever soaring cases of local transmission. Now the biggest fear of the people and the Government has become an inescapable reality.
There is no denying of the fact that there is local transmission in the State. Now the next obvious and pertinent question is, what if there is community transmission. Once community transmission becomes a reality, the virus will definitely go out of control and the State will be rendered totally helpless. To avoid such a catastrophic situation, the Government and all stakeholders need to do everything and anything to keep the contagion at a manageable level. At the same time, the lockdown which was relaxed and now tightened again cannot go on forever. The State cannot confine the whole population at their homes for a protracted period just because there is a contagion. The State must take care of at least the basic requirements of the population during the lockdown period. With neither vaccine nor drugs available so far to treat COVID-19, the only and best way to protect oneself from the virus is prevention.  In fact, the adage ‘Prevention is better than cure’ has been always true and it is truest in the present context of novel coronavirus. Certainly all possible preventive and precautionary measures should be taken up at individual as well as community level but starvation or death due to denial of health care services is not a better option from any perspective. Death of newborn babies and expectant mothers due to denial of healthcare services is one ugliest aspect of the COVID-19 lockdown which has been tormenting the collective conscience of the society in recent days. Violation of ethics is not restricted to doctors or health care service providers alone. It is a common malaise of all professions and it can be attributed to the all pervasive currents of individualism, consumerism and materialism which are driven by the juggernaut of globalization. Having said these, there is one distinct difference between doctors and other professionals. Service of doctors can never be compared with that of lawyers or architects. Healthcare is a distress good and not a luxury good. In another word, consultation of doctors is never a choice but compulsion. Their service is basically a humanitarian service. So denying healthcare services to people in emergency situation can never be justified whether there is COVID-19 pandemic or war.