Hats off to all frontline warriors

[Pisi Zauing]

The national lockdown from 24 March imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) has a larger interpretation. Since 24 March, the lives of all sections of people across the country have changed, some for good, some for bad, and some for the worst. In just four months, the positive Covid-19 cases in the country crossed the one million mark.

Citizens across the nation are still confined at homes because of the lockdown and practically doing nothing productive except household chores. But some sections of people don’t have the luxury of staying safely with family members at home. They are the frontline warriors, busy working round the clock ever since the virus crossed our political borders.

The workforce of the healthcare sector – doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys and girls, sanitation staff, pharmacists, ambulance drivers, etc, have been at the forefront in this ongoing war against the deadly virus. They have been serving the cause of humanity by risking their own lives, and least bothering about their families and personal wellbeing. Since they handle Covid-19 cases, these bravehearts stay away from their homes for weeks and months to minimize the risk of getting their family members and neighbours infected.

The administrative officers, departmental officers, police, milkmen, the forest and wildlife department, the local youths, and those engaged in transportation of essential foodgrains and medicines continue to play a significant role in containing community spread of the virus. They have been in the battle zone since March.

There are people indirectly combating the virus by strengthening the hands of those on the forefront. They are the petroleum and power sector workers, the public health engineering and telecom people, those running the post offices, banks, and of course the LPG cylinder delivery boys and litter collectors of the urban development department. Without their sincere contributions, the war against a pandemic of such magnitude cannot be fought.

A vital segment of our society, which has been silently serving with unflinching dedication when most others are spending time together with their families, is the police force. In Changlang district, the police force under the command of SP Mihin Gambo has been engaged in tough battles on three fronts since the outbreak of the pandemic. While fighting their traditional foe, the insurgents, the police are also dealing with cases of drug peddling. Several insurgents and drug peddlers have been captured since March. The police continue to man check gates and all pockets of the district, so that antisocial elements don’t exploit the pandemic to their advantage.

With Covid-19 cases growing rapidly in Arunachal, taking its tally to 949, with 632 active cases and the Itanagar capital region registering the highest with 378 positive cases, the overburdened administrators, doctors, police, nurses, paramedics, and others on the frontline are facing immense heat.

While fighting against the deadly virus, they are continuously encountering predicaments of varied magnitudes, affecting their mental health while they are continuously battling it out at the check gates and quarantine facilities, as well as at Covid care centres (CCC). They attend to almost every distress call and possible threat of spread.

But it is disheartening to see people, for whom the warriors are taking so much risk to ensure their health and safety, failing them. There are numerous instances of people in the state not cooperating with the warriors. From working long, gruelling shifts without adequate protective gear, the mental strain that our medical professionals are going through is immense. By operating under severe resource constraints, they are bearing the brunt of a hostile and uncertain environment. All of them are undoubtedly going through severe anxiety.

Considering the enormity of what the frontline warriors are going through, the only solace we can deliver at this critical juncture is by showering our love, respect and good wishes for their wellbeing, as well for as their family members.

It becomes a mandatory responsibility of the government and those safe at home to feel and assess the seriousness of the growing stigma that the healthcare workers are encountering with each passing day. There are reports of health workers developing symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress while working with Covid-19 patients, the reason being that the risk of infection, especially if it is asymptomatic, instills fear of spreading the virus to their patients and families.

Here the government has shown compassion by promulgating the ordinance for Amendment of Epidemic Act, 1897, with very stringent provisions, in view of the urgent need for addressing the issues of stigma faced by frontline warriors. But certainly there appear a few questions that disturb you…

As evidenced by some confirmed cases of healthcare workers stricken with the virus, the hospitals/CCCs themselves have become amplification points for the spread of the virus, which is very scary. If doctors, nurses and first responders are working without equipment such as respirators, gloves, eye protection and disposable suits, what is in store for the general public? And if hospitals become places where the coronavirus is spread more than contained, will the public not panic? The government has to address this issue maturely.

In a very real sense, what happens to our healthcare workers will be the metric of how we respond to this unfolding crisis. If the government fails to deliver the complete protective kits, the possibility of workers quickly transitioning from providers to patients, further stressing the already overburdened facilities, cannot be ruled out. This is scary too.

However, if we are to have any real impact on this emerging crisis, we ought to safeguard the healthcare workers who put their lives on the line to give new lease of life to patients.

They are our frontline warriors and, as a state, let us not only respect their contributions but also ensure that their safety and dignity are protected too. Of all our endless wars, the most protracted one is our war against dangerous microbes, of which Covid-19 is the latest example. Just as we honour our fallen warriors on the battlefields, we should honour all those associated in this world war with Covid-19.

All frontline warriors deserve love, respect, praise and good wishes from all sections of people stuck at home. Let us shower our deep gratitude to all frontline warriors working relentlessly to contain the coronavirus. Let us clap for all the doctors, nurses, health and sanitation workers, administrations, policemen, department people and those providing basic necessities as partners to knock down the Covid-19 pandemic.