Dr. Piyush Ranjan Rout

Exactly six months ago on this day World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. At that time, there were 118,000 cases in 114 countries, with more than 90% of those infections reported in just four countries. As of Friday, there were more than 28 million cases in 214 countries. With more than 4.5 million cases, India is the world’s second-worst impacted country after the US. But its reported mortality rate calculated by the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases is surprisingly low compared to other countries with high infection rates. India set another global record for the highest number of new coronavirus infections reported in a single country in a day.

India with 1.3 billion people added 96,551 new cases on Friday. So do its economy has shrunk faster than that of any other major nation. As many as 200 million people could slip back into poverty. Lets go back to where it all began to understand why India's COVID19 Dashboard disrupted even though it has one of the world's stringent nation wide Lockdown that witnessed many issues from livelihood to migration to poverty to fall in GDP.

Yes I have been following an unknown virus acting deadly in China since last November, followed to it in February 2020, even though there were no Lockdown nor travel restriction yet cancelled all professional trip during first half of the year schedule for China, South Korea, Germany, Spain and Sweden between March to August with an assumption that this virus may not vanish so early. Then came the ultimate from World Health Organisation that declared COVID19 a pandemic, so do world followed Chinese city Wuhan model of putting city state nation under Lockdown in democratic world except few nations to contain the spread of infection.

Since then there are three world emerged out of COVID19 Pandemic, first who acted before it ruin them, second who suffered but realised their responsibility & bounce back, the third one knowing everything seems didn’t act scientifically to suppress the infection in lockdown than kept hanging for a miracle or arrival of Vaccine or therapy are now leaders in COVID19 dashboard with USA, Brazil and India all democratic nation. So do never ever imagined when Italy, Spain, France, UK, USA use to report deaths in thousand per day that one day be a news of India. But now five month’s after stringent Lockdown of the World, India now reporting around 95000 infection and 1000 death due to COVID19 is shocking. But being a nation with high demographic graph these figures don’t bothers much at the national level but yes it do matters at the Local Level.

Well anyone takes responsibility of these figure? Does anyone read’s those statistics nowadays ? Obviously no one accountable nor anyone now bothers reading those statistics, rather people themselves found way out to beat their fear syndrome are now on the street as national government put a halt on continuity of Lockdown & Shutdown by state or local government without approval of Govt. of India.

Similarly Bhubaneswar was Lockdown when infection was <10, then during Lockdown 3.0 the city opened up without any plan but depended more on weekend Shutdown, yet active case now >4000 and every other neighbourhood now having some active case in Home Isolation or Quarntine post recovery. Even nowadays 15% are getting new infection out of total number tested, which is very much higher side when it comes to contain the infection level to open city for public life. Technically according to World Health Organisation the infection rate should remain within 5% of the number of people being tested for some days constantly to assume that curve is flattening. Thats why the focus to contain COVID19 is around 4T Trace Test Treat Track.

However, off late after repeated Lockdown & Weekend Shutdown which didn't contain the infection as was assumed now it seems from top most administration that Bhubaneswar geared up more testing facilities but its other three items in 4T is still very much missing. The result after staying in home for such a long period people have added new gears into family items a thermometer to test temperature, oximeter for testing oxygen level apart from usual hand wash, face cover, social distancing and disinfection gadgets etc. Perhaps Bhubaneswar now behaves like Sweden which remained open despite rise in infection without formally using tools of lockdown.

Despite so much odds baring the number of infection person is quite a large compare to first Lockdown and people are using face cover Bhubaneswar city is now very much split wide open as if nothing much happened in last five months in terms of behaviour on the street. Question arises how the fear vanished out of people’s mind despite rise in infection. The simple answer was sinking of cash to survive Life without Livelihood in Lockdown. Someone rightly said in one part of the city street that Neither Government, Nor Media, Nor those Intellectuals dealing with subject will feed us rather since March every month is a crucial for dealing pandemic is what their answer and every media debate or press briefing only targeted towards fear syndrome that as if you step out side your home then one may get infected but today every neighbourhood experienced infection, so do the administration suddenly Livelihood is more priority than lockdown, a change in COVID19 management some how surprised the city.

So how do the fear syndrome trickle down into collapsing local economy of India's one of the poorest state Odisha. Perhaps in the initial days of Pandemic influenced by administration press briefing, media in their mode, intellectual on self publicity often feed by numerical examples of what’s happening in America, Britain, Spain, Italy, France etc. But no one seriously look for examples from South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand etc. In fact nowadays no one even discussing about how Italy, Spain, France, Britain return to normalcy with boosting of major activities including sport’s event like Tour De France, US Open etc.

Hope at least now onwards time to deal with invisible infection administration will take a Scientific evidence based approach to suppress the pandemic at low than fighting it as war. Which actually forced people realise it’s better to deal the virus scientifically than living like a prisoners life of home arrest. Perhaps the steps that people are taking could have been the tool of dealing with COVID19 at the begining rather than focussing on stringent Lockdown or Shutdown. Interestingly these tools were known to us and are being practiced for dealing pandemic globally must have been activated before arrival of any further wave.

Such as first Social Distancing of 3mtr, 2mtr, 1.5mtr, 1mtr like that was not really on ground should now be a reality of living. A three meter social distancing would have reduced infection level by 90%, so do saving life. Second, face cover from day one. Third hand wash and avoid touching mouth nose ear unnecessarily without sanitised and no spiting in public spaces. Fourth crowd gathering beyond 3–5 person not more than 10 or 15mints. Fifth Trace-Test-Treat-Track with effective Isolation and Quarantine. Finally we should have or now ensure city work in stagger manner rather than 24/7 by giving priority to Cycling during Pandemic, which was completely ignored in Bhubaneswar even though a lot of people do it for mobility, essential services, physical exercise etc.

Well these are not something one would expect this year’s Nobel Prize but this is what most of the nation did in suppressing COVID19, may be a way out moving towards a discipline society. But one should not get surprise if this year Nobel Peace Prize goes to leaders for suppressing infection as well as saving human life and livelihood. It’s time to show more maturity than inviting another Lockdown or Shutdown in COVID19 management to suppress infection.

Urban Planner by education, Facilitates Innovations in City Management; writes column on emerging cities issues. My views, not my clients. RTs not endorsements.