Lockdowns: Need for some realism

There should not be any extension of the lockdown if we Stay Home, Stay Safe

By Dr R. Neerunjun Gopee

As we enter the second week of the second lockdown – after the three-month long one of last year – the question that is uppermost in people’s minds is whether there will be an extension after the 25th March. To say that there is genuine apprehension about it is to put things mildly. In fact, shortly after the lockdown was announced on last Tuesday night by the Prime Minister in his short address, rumours started circulating about extension.

Whether this happens or not depends on two factors: (1) The effectiveness of the measures being implemented by government, among others contact tracing/testing/isolation, restriction of movement of the population with a call to stay safe at home and not to go out except if absolutely necessary, control of access to the red zones and to outlets providing essential services such as supermarkets and health facilities, expansion of the vaccination campaign, and (2) How far the public is complying with these measures and the sanitary precautions that have been advised from the very beginning of the pandemic last year.

On Saturday last, that is on the fourth day of the lockdown, I had to review a patient at the clinic. She came from the south of the island, either Souillac or Chemin Grenier, and I asked her how things were out there. ‘Aio’, she replied, ‘dimoune pe faire coma dire tout normal. Pe vane legumes lor la rue, pe aller vini et banne la police pas pe dire narien’ – ‘people are going about as if everything is normal, selling vegetables in the streets, moving about and police are not doing anything.’ She also mentioned that she saw people without masks.

And that is the worrying thing. It has been the same story all over the world, in all countries: whatever governments do is never enough, for complex reasons having to do with both politics and politicking. Given this stark fact, the greatest responsibility lies therefore in the hands of the individual person. To this day, a large number of people refuse to realise and understand that ‘If I protect myself, others too and the country will be protected’ – and this applies to all including VIPs who must set the example, as has been repeated ad nauseam.

Unfortunately, people tend to think that disease or misfortune only affects others – until they are themselves hit, and then it is too late. On the other hand, shouldn’t we be responsible enough to take care of our own health and safety – or do we want or need to have the police on our backs 24/7? After all, there are only so many police officers to go around, and they are also human. Besides, all the personnel who are involved in running the essential services are on overdrive at the moment, many perhaps doing overtime duty. Shouldn’t we have some consideration and sympathy for them also? They too have families whom they leave for long hours, whom they miss and who miss them as well.

So while the lockdown is undoubtedly a traumatic experience that we perforce have to endure, we have to find ways to enjoy the forced break that is being imposed – different from the holidays that we seek and plan for in normal times.

Technology allows for the education of children to continue online, occupying a significant portion of children’s time. Except that they cannot participate in outdoor activities with family and friends, and so innovative ways must be found to keep them busy when they are done with their zoom classes. This is especially the case for those living in flats, and for them there are a variety of indoor games that parents can offer them – and even participate in why not (carom, snakes and ladders for example – and also educate them about the origin of the latter why not?), as a way of fostering that togetherness and quality time that we all complain has been fast eroding.

But of course they must also be given their own space as well for part of the time, and be encouraged to pursue any hobby or interest which they show inclination for. The older ones might take to preparing favourite meals, and that would give working-at-home mums a break and later savour the experimental pizza, cookie or banana and cinnamon cake.

I know some who have resumed their zumba or yoga classes online, with guides from as far as Canada leading them – another opportunity to connect, but also to keep healthy. My only caveat is that this must not end with the end of the lockdown! So there must be a way forward plan on a long term basis to continue availing of the benefit triggered during lockdown.

Others I know have got down to do the decluttering that kept being postponed and in the process discovering little gems when a second look was taken before final disposal of paraphernalia. One such treasure was a thin pocket-size booklet containing advice to young children from the Mother of Pondicherry. And a positive outcome was that a whole carton of books was prepared for donating to a shelter for children.

As far as I can see, there are endless ways of occupying one’s time fruitfully. I deliberately use the term ‘fruitfully’ rather than the more common ‘productively’ which sounds slave-driven and utilitarian, with an industrial aftertaste that is a far cry from what one is looking for: to enjoy the self-chosen activity.

And oh, did I mention books? Those bought and flipped through, and then put away for later –when there is time? Well, that time could just be now isn’t it?

No, there should not be any extension of the lockdown if we Stay Home, Stay Safe by keeping the family fruitfully engaged and becoming enriched with both new knowledge and skills in fun ways.

Cheers.


* Published in print edition on 16 March 2021

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