Better be Prepared Than be Sorry
There was commotion everywhere when the Covid-19 outbreak began last year; it was compounded by the imposition of sudden nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Panic and confusion gripped the people as the world had little knowledge about the virus. The crisis hit the countries with poor healthcare facilities harder than the others, and that made most nations to enhance their healthcare system. India too was visibly ill-equipped to take on a crisis of such magnitude during the initial stage of the outbreak; the situation was even more perilous in states like Nagaland which had to depend on other states even for testing samples of Covid suspects. Sensing the severity of the situation, the government of India boosted health infrastructure, took special interest in development of vaccine for the virus and managed to normalise the health emergency after implementing various measures, including those that invited the wrath of the people and earned criticism. However, the centre government as well as the citizens appeared to have underestimated the pandemic after cases dropped by the end of last year, for which the country is paying a heavy price today. The citizens were careless to say the least. Medical experts, governments, and the general public have better knowledge of the disease today, at least better than they were last year. By now, everybody is aware that one of the most effective ways to control the disease is by adhering to Covid-appropriate behaviour like keeping cleanliness, staying away from crowd and wearing mask but people grossly flouted these simple safety measures. Complacency gave chance for the pandemic to strike again – harder this time.
Reports of several states facing oxygen shortage as Covid cases surge during the second wave have exposed government’s failure to set up enough oxygen generation plants to meet the needs of the people despite facing the same problem during the first wave. This was substantiated by the Health Ministry’s recent tweet that only 33 oxygen plants out of the 162 facilities approved last year have been installed. India could have been in a better position to fight the pandemic during the second wave had all these oxygen plants were made functional on time. Worse still, Nagaland doesn’t have even a single plant to generate medical oxygen. However, the revelation of the principal director of Health and Family Welfare that the state government is in the process of setting up such facilities in all the 11 district hospitals of the state can be taken as a consolation. The official had said the oxygen plants are expected to be completed by the end of May. It is a welcome move and reassurance but the government should ensure that the projects are completed as soon as possible, before the situation in the state worsens. Both the Centre and state governments should continue to enhance health infrastructure, including installation of oxygen plants, as medical oxygen is critical not only for treating Covid patients but also several other health complications. Better to be prepared than be sorry as the virus is unlikely to be eliminated any time soon.