Fighting the Covid Crises Innovatively

People wait for their turn to receive vaccine jabs at Srinagar’s SHMS hospital | KO Photo by Abid Bhat

By Aabid Gulzar & Azhar Mehmood

THE havoc that Covid-19 induced Pandemic caused globally is known to us all. Whether the virus resulted from the lab leak in Wuhan or emerged from natural selection is a debate for specialists, however, what concerns the public is the widespread crises in health infrastructure and the (mis)management of the situation. It is in this context that we propose a few points that would help us mitigate effectively the impact of any possible pandemic in the future and improve the condition of health infrastructure. These concern the use of innovation and technology, improving basic amenities, and democratizing the social fabric of society.

Since the recent past, we have been compelled to anticipate a third wave to come and bring the entire machinery to a halt. However, conversations over the management and questions over efficacy should never stop. Thus, the policy advocates should primarily take note of the management of data and figure out ways to improve it from the current situation. First, better data collecting mechanisms should be established and coherent figures presented with highly sophisticated data-collecting technology. Currently in India, the mortality rate of covid 19 is collected by two major data collecting systems one (CRS) Civil Registration System and second (SRC) Sample Registration System, which collects monthly demise data for all population and sample population respectively. Monthly mortality rates are available in many urban municipal offices where death data is covered through civil registration. The sample registration system of India collects monthly mortality data for urban and rural areas, unfortunately, both the systems do not publish this data monthly. Moreover, annual reports are published only after two or three years of collection. The need is to publish this data either weekly or monthly so that scientific estimates are available for intervention. It is equally necessary to release the data on covid 19 patients collected by the Indian council for medical research (ICMR). In 2020, the ICMR had continuously been collecting hospital-based data. The release of this quality hospital-based data will allow researchers to investigate over covid 19 as well as to study it from a social science perspective.

Interestingly, it has been more than a year since the virus outbreak, yet there has been no effort by the government to improve the data collecting technique. Death estimates based on statistical assumptions are creating confusion. For example, a consumer pyramid household survey based on 2,34,000 households, conducted in May-August 2020 by the center for monitoring the Indian Economy showed the covid toll could be more than twice the official reported figure. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, USA shows the estimated covid deaths in India are around nine lakhs, three times higher than the current report figure. This happens due to the lack of actual reports of covid victims. From this, we have to improve the data collecting strategies and program by developing technology to separate the covid patients as done by England, when covid started spreading there, they legally self-isolated 7 million people in which 5 million people were not infected which were released after testing. Similar efforts were made by many other countries to overcome this unprecedented situation.

The role of technology and innovation in any crisis management is plenty, however, no system can achieve better efficiency if it doesn’t enjoy wider social legitimacy and political support. During the pandemic situation, Stigma associated with the disease and now the vaccine has complicated the process of addressing the crises efficiently. Social Stigma is discrimination against a particular group of people, a place, or a nation in the form of a negative attitude. Public health emergencies (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) are stressful situations for people and communities. Fear and anxiety with a lack of knowledge about the disease can lead to social stigma. The stigma associated with COVID -19 is perceived because of the following factors- It is a new disease for which lots of things are unknown and justly, people are often afraid of the unknown. There is also confusion, anxiety, and fear among the public leading to a negative attitude. However, stigma under pandemic situations can interfere with social coherence contributing to situations that might favour the spread of the disease.

Discriminatory behaviours can negatively affect those with the disease, as well as their caregivers, family, friends, and communities. People who don’t have the disease but share other characteristics with this group may also suffer from stigma. It is in this regard the social stigma can- Prevent people from seeking health care immediately, which can lead to disease spread among the population; drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination; discourage people from adopting healthy behaviours; demotivate frontline personnel from carrying out responsibilities etc. The complicacy doesn’t even end here, groups who experience stigma may also experience discrimination. This discrimination can take the form of either othering people, avoiding or rejecting them, or lead to problems in getting healthcare, education, housing, or employment, and so on.

Suggestions concerning eradicating stigma are aimed at enhancing positive public response. Everyone can help stop the stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts and sharing them with others in their community or share only the authentic information available related to COVID-19 from reliable sources before forwarding any messages on social media.

The way we communicate can affect the attitudes of others, hence choosing words carefully and getting our vocabulary right with respect to the disease, its victims, and the consequences it leads to. Building psychological support and social mechanisms to establish vibrant social structures can help not only deal with the disease efficiently but also garner efforts to fight this collectively.

While appreciating the efforts of people providing essential services and being supportive of them and their families, we need to work together to promote the importance of preventive measures, early screening, testing, and treatment and to help those who are most vulnerable by keeping them safe.

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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