Home TRENDING Corona Lockdown- Authorities Take Steps to Minimize Hardship :Dr EAS Sarma

Corona Lockdown- Authorities Take Steps to Minimize Hardship :Dr EAS Sarma

(Dr EAS  Sarma, former secretary, Government of India)
AP has been under lockdown for the last few days and the PM’s announcement yesterday has extended it for another three weeks. In all likelihood, it will get extended further. The State should quickly put in place a response system that will smoothen the lives of the people and minimize the exposure of all those in charge of the implementation of the lockdown. 
While the Corona cases reported in AP to date may be less than those in Kerala and Maharashtra, one should be fully prepared for an explosion of the virus spread in the coming months so that we may not be caught unawares.
In this connection, I have the following concerns/ suggestions.

1. There is a shortage of masks, gloves, test kits and personal protective equipment including footwear for the medical, para-medical, sanitation workers. I have seen sanitation workers, municipal health workers, ward volunteers making house-to-house visits without wearing masks, gloves and going about in Hawaii slippers. Many of them are likely to get exposed soon to the Coronavirus, paving the way to community transmission of the disease, which the government is trying hard to preempt. 

2. The chemicals need for sanitizing the areas vulnerable to Corona transmission should also be stocked in sufficient quantities. Many slums in Vizag stand neglected from this point of sanitization, though the sanitation workers live in those slums and they may stand exposed.

3. As a result of the lockdown, hundreds of people in cities/ towns are rushing to shops to buy and stock basic provisions. The police who are in charge of controlling the crowds have no masks/gloves etc to protect themselves from the virus. We cannot afford the police force to get exposed to the virus.

4. The CM may consider calling the industry associations, allocate responsibilities to them to divert their resources to manufacture masks, gloves, sanitizers, protective footwear etc. to be supplied to all those involved in the anti-Corona campaign. This should be done on a war footing. If there is any corporate social responsibility, this is the moment for it. At this time, the business houses should be encouraged to contribute in kind, rather than in the shape of cash. 

5. In some States, the Jail inmates are being involved in making masks to the prescribed specification. AP should try this out.

6. There is going to be a severe short supply of ventilators, once the Corona cases peak. There are only 30,000 ventilators in the country and the Union Health Ministry has delayed placing orders for additional ventilators. The global ventilator market has come under stress and imports will not be easy. The State should ask the Health Secretary to make a quick assessment of the demand for new ventilators in the worst-case scenario and work towards procuring them. I understand that many industrial units including auto manufacturing units in the USA are being directed to manufacture ventilators. Can AP set a precedent in this direction? If the industry associations are consulted, AP can develop its own sources without having to look to the Centre. 

7. There are migrant workers from Kerala returning to Odisha but have got stranded at intermediate stations in AP. Vizag has such an influx. They may be carriers of Corona and the State should take necessary measures to get them transported to Odisha safely and urgently. Meanwhile, from the humanitarian point of view, they should be provided relief.

10. As a result of the prolonged lockdown, people are rushing to buy provisions. It is the police force that has come under severe stress. It may be worthwhile for the Collectors to draft both PSU and private agencies (Spencer, Reliance, D-Mart etc) to organize mobile provision shops to visit the wards in the cities to provide access to the basic provisions such as food grains, cooking oil, dals, vegetables, soaps etc. If people know in advance that such mobile shops will be available daily, the pressure will reduce.

9. In Maharashtra, the police have adopted innovative ways to enforce social distancing in the case of those crowding milk booths, provision stores and so on, by drawing squares for each person to stand at a distance from the others. AP Police may consider similar innovations.

10. To some extent, home delivery means can be encouraged for commonly required items, in consultation with a few large departmental store companies. To facilitate home deliveries, the delivery personnel need to be given official ID cards.

The lockdown that has come into force is necessary and it may stay beyond three weeks. We should be prepared for it. At the same time, the local authorities should smoothen the people’s lives, at the same time minimizing the workers’ exposure to the virus.
(Contents of the letter Dr EAS Sarma wrote Neelam Sawney, chief secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)