Matters of Ongoing Concern

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The more I see the havoc that Covid-19 is creating around the world, the more I am beginning to align myself with those who have at some point doubted whether the virus is a natural one, and have thought aloud about the possibility that it could be man-made! No virus known to man to date has shown the kind of wild behaviour that Covid-19 is displaying. Viruses usually affect one specific organ or one type of tissue in the body, but Covid-19 is affecting all organs and all tissues, unlike what other known viruses do. Unfortunately, the mystery may never be solved conclusively, but meanwhile the monster continues on its massive murderous spree across the world, and currently the country that is suffering the most and with relentless rapidity is India.

“Even as the second wave in India is now spreading eastwards, with a peak expected around May 15, a top government expert has said that a third wave is inevitable, what with the even deadlier new variants cropping up. And that the country must absolutely be prepared for that, especially with respect to the supply of medical grade oxygen…”
Pic – Forbes India

Every day for several days now the news coming out of India is about record daily numbers. According to an update (Covid-19 Week 71), ‘Even in Nepal, which shares a long porous border with India, record numbers are being reported (daily new cases 8,605 and daily deaths 58 on Wednesday). According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Nepal is recording 57 times more cases than this time last month, with the towns bordering India “unable to cope with the growing number of people needing medical treatment”. The Himalayan country was forced to suspend its vaccination programme last month in the absence of supplies from India and China.’

Even as the second wave in India is now spreading eastwards, with a peak expected around May 15, a top government expert has said that a third wave is inevitable, what with the even deadlier new variants cropping up. And that the country must absolutely be prepared for that, especially with respect to the supply of medical grade oxygen.

* * *

A real glimmer of hope: global waiver on IP rights

If there is a piece of good news on the vaccination front, it is that the US has finally decided to back the demand for a global waiver on intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines. India, South Africa and other countries had been lobbying at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the waiver. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the US move as a ‘monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19.’ But in reality it ‘would take months before this move translates into action on the ground, as WTO decision-making is based on consensus between its 164 members. Besides, the pharmaceutical industry has expressed its unhappiness over the US decision, saying it would affect its response to the pandemic.’

So all is not won yet, and it remains to be seen whether this is a real glimmer of hope for mankind, or the precursor to another protracted sparring tussle at the WTO while the number of dead keeps increasing.

A major issue in India is the supply of oxygen to hospitals, one where the Centre-State relationship has been strained, with health being a State responsibility that may not have been fully assumed. Be that as it may, the Indian government swung into action and very soon help began to pour in from several countries both as regards oxygen and other needed supplies. Steel companies from both the public and private sectors joined in to support the government efforts to meet the nation’s requirement of liquid medical oxygen (LMO). Further, several NGOs and volunteer organisations are engaged in helping patients and their relatives as well as attendants, providing food and other items, and helping with cremations.

Unfortunately, and very sadly, there are unscrupulous people who are exploiting the situation by raising the prices of items and services such as carrying oxygen cylinders and so on, or charging exorbitantly for medications such as remdesivir.

But equally, there are others who are trying their best to boost morale and to proffer the proper advice about treatment, and they are the ones who should be listened to as in such a situation when panic is inevitable, in desperation people tend to be susceptible to sundry, unreliable advice.

We can only keep doing what is required, and hope for the sake of everyone that this beast is brought under control as soon as possible.

* * *

Deaths of dialysis patients, floods and drug haul

Locally, it is the report of the Fact Finding Committee set up to enquire into the Covid-related deaths of patients at the Souillac Hospital Dialysis Centre that will be awaited with impatience. The hope is that besides shedding light on the chain of events that led from Covid-19 infection to the deaths, the findings will also help us to be better prepared to handle similar situations that are most likely to arise again in future.

As if this were not enough on our plate, comes the haul of the massive amounts of heroin worth billions of rupees. Questions raised by the common man are commonsense ones: who can afford to pay for this large haul of drug? Who are the real importers, and to whom/where was the drug destined? Troubling questions, answers ever elusive.

Among other problems in the people’s mind: that of the proper infrastructure for water drainage of the territory after the scenes that have been witnessed during the recent torrential rains. But also water supply. One cannot prevent the feeling of cynicism that invariably comes up: the reservoirs are full, but wait and see – soon enough, even before summer has fully set in, they will begin to announce water cuts! As the poet lamented: water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink… An update from the authorities on how far they have reached in the replacement of the leaky distribution pipes will definitely be most welcome.

But the list about issues of perennial concern doesn’t stop here…

* Published in print edition on 7 May 2021

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