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OPEN LETTER TO CM OF MAHARASHTRA
Though it is not yet officially accepted that Corona has reached the third stage, but sudden 10 ten days lockdown in Mumbai and three other cities of Maharashtra is enough indication. But Suggesting people practice social distancing, work from home, and self-quarantine in the event of symptoms is just not possible for 2/3rd of the people living in Mumbai. Moreover, in case of home quarantine patients would require a well-ventilated separate room, a separate toilet, and a bathroom for self. Two third of the people either live in 10’X 10 feet room in slums or chawal with common toilets, for them, self-quarantine is just not practically possible. Forget keeping the safe distance, they live in a sandwiched condition. Moreover, the kind of cleaning and precautions one is required to follow in order to survive the infection is out of bound for them.
In Mumbai government has asked Hotels to create a facility at a lower rate for those who don’t want to be quarantined at a hospital. But there is no such facility for poor’s who can’t pay. Moreover, with increasing restrictions, their earning is going down drastically and they are finding it difficult to manage even two squares meals. Here are a few practical advice and suggestions for them:
1. Quarantine facility: other than hospital must be kept on stand by for people living in slums and chawal. Most of the colleges are closing down, all these colleges and their hostels must be converted into quarantine facility. And, close by slum/Basti and chawal must be attached to these particular colleges/schools/Institutions.
2. Mobilize groups: Group of Students, faculty members of colleges, NSS, local social groups, Mandal, NGO of nearby such quarantine must be roped in and responsible government officer, a local hospital doctors, health workers, ambulance services and other required experts must be attached with them. They must be given all the protective gear and educational material in local languages. They must help the population maintain basic hygiene and in the case of corona infection arrange them to reach nearby quarantine facilities.
3. Takeover vacant buildings: Over and above that, there are many towers and buildings which are unoccupied, all such places must be taken over by the government and converted into an emergency quarantine facility.
4. Doctors in the basti: Local doctors located in these basti must be roped in as they are the first line of defense and trusted in these slums and basti.
5. Crackdown on private testing labs: Many of the flu patients having corona symptoms may be actually suffering from swine flu, and I can say this from my own experience that Private hospitals are minting money out of them. Thus, all the testing labs and private hospitals testing flu patients must be asked to do certain free tests and also be given a rate list by the government. Once charges are brought down substantially, it will help conduct more flu tests and identify and differentiate other flu patients from corona patients.
6. Private hospitals must be roped in: Private Hospital facilities must not be left for affluent ones, but it must be regulated by the government based on the serious condition of the patient.
7. Ration Shops: Public ration shops must be given enough supply of rations and its supply to the poor must also be ensured. These shops have gotten into black marketing of ration.
8. Pension to daily wagers: People living in slum areas are already malnourished and being daily wage workers, they can’t afford to work from home and if denied work will lose their basic food forget the nutritious food in this medical emergency. To tackle this, all the trusts and individual and government agencies must be roped in to help them. The Government must announce some pension for the next few months.
9. Equipment: All the medical equipment like ventilators, CT scans in all the government facilities must be checked for there working conditions. Often, we read the news of their nonfunctioning causing deaths.
10. Medical Staff: Last but not the least, Corona has become a reality in India and people who are in a position to help or responsibility to act are either busy fighting for their own political interests or abandoning people and holding themselves up in their safe houses. With social and mainstream media all day advising people to be safe in their homes, more and more people are likely to lock themselves up. Even doctors, public health professionals have started taking leaves. As I am told about the past swine flu outbreak in 2009, in a big private hospital but for a single doctor all the Nurses, lab technicians had refused to take even patient's swab for testing. In all likelihood the same may happen again with increased Corona cases, to avoid that government must come out with an ordinance.
11. Cleaning/disinfected supply to basti/slums: Soon disinfectant solution will be out of stock; and for most it is unaffordable. Also, corporate must be pushed to distribute soap bars. Most important, people in the field of medical science must come out with videos and leaflets on how to make them at home or at least local dispensary/hospitals can make them and distribute. For example, from simple bleach powder/ liquid, a good surface disinfectant can be made. Second, govt can sprit in bulk and make hand sanitizer out of it. ( I made disinfectant at home with the help of bleach when my wife was down with H1N; she just recovered) I used the link from the net, here some of it is:
12. How to keep space clean/disinfected: Most of the advice is limited to handwash and other personal hygiene, there is hardly on how to keep your home common spaces disinfected. People must be taught how to do that with the help of above disinfectant.
13. To protect the first line of defense: The indiscriminate advice to the general public to be at home is creating panic, soon people in the first line of defense; like Nurses/ brother, ambulance driver, watchman and people giving daily supply at home; like Milk, bread, eggs will either fall sick or panic and abandon their work. They must be protected and taught how to work safely.
14. Ambulance Service: As the scare spreads, the ambulance service will fear to take sic patients. They must be taught how to carry such patients safely and how to disinfect their ambulance after that. Moreover, the government must convert their other government vehicles into an ambulance.
15. Supply of Oxygen: As the number of cases goes up for the serious patients' supply of oxygen will be very crucial, but oxygen supplier may not have enough staff to match the need. We have seen scare of oxygen scarcity in Gorakhpur.
16. Blood Bank: the myth about corona passing through blood transfusion will soon force the blood banks to go dry. Moreover, the blood collection drive will be suspended. One, the effort needs to be made to debunk this myth and second, before it is late blood collection drive must be encouraged. In the USA blood banks have gone dry.
17. Ola/ Uber: They must teach their drivers how to protect themselves and their passengers and disinfect their taxi after each use. They must be supported by their company for that. Everyone may not afford or have a private vehicle to move. Their service will be very crucial.
18. Training to police and other security personnel: Soon, panic will convert into law and order situations and, security personnel will be required to manage many things.
19. Facility with Navy, Military, Railways must be pressed into service: these establishments have resources at their disposal that all must be pressed into service.
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