The modus operandi is rather strikingly similar: a likely COVID19 patient is called a ‘suspect’; on that suspicion s/he is put under quarantine which can be similar to ‘house arrest’; investigations begin to trace the source of his/her ‘infection’ (crime?) and to collate the information about all his/her ‘contacts’ or the persons s/he was last seen with; if a patient is found in a larger society building the whole building is immediately ‘sealed’ meaning no person can either leave or enter the premises. Let the similarity end there. The essential point worldwide is that the authorities have no other alternative to effectively control the virus, and so nothing in that should imply a crime of any sort. People know and understand this, but act differently when it happens near or threatens to happen near him/her.
Since it is a human-to-human virus suspicions build up too quickly: if someone coughs or sneezes nearby or even in the next house people get fearful lest the virus attack them crossing all barriers; if a patient is confirmed in the same building or in the colony neighbours immediately blame the person as if s/he had done it deliberately; if a few idiotic members of a community violate the rules and get infected people jump to blame the whole community; elderly persons with some health conditions are unceremoniously advised to acts which might be totally unnecessary. Besides, social distancing is one most required path to follow which can eventually contribute towards further alienation.
Such a mental outlook or approach can make the situation explosive. We have already heard about an incident in India when a fellow playmate in a family game was shot at just because he had a sudden bout of coughing. Now, it is perfectly normal to have a few coughs or sneezes daily, and the very act does in no way signify that the person could be susceptible to Coronavirus. In fact, some real criminals are taking full advantage of this mental bias to blackmail people: like that case of a guy who rings the door-bell of a house, says he is Corona positive, demands money and if refused he threatens to go on a spitting spree everywhere.
Humankind has never faced a crisis of such dimensions. We gasp in dismay and sorrow looking at the virus’s murderous onslaught in countries like USA, Italy, France, Spain, England where even the most advanced health infrastructure has failed to check this predator, even now with deaths raging; in some countries the initial effective control had checked the spread, but the virus has threatened to come back in its second wave: India has enforced a lockdown much in advance and even after the extension cases are still rising steadily and death figures mounting worryingly. The most frightening part of the whole scenario is that the world still does not know much about the killer virus and any possible vaccine is at least one year away.
Therefore at this crucial juncture we all humans must come together. Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing and so we must all reduce the emotional distance, globally. And of course, we must all consider COVID19 as just a disease, and never as some sort of deliberate or a criminal act or a stigma. Instead, we have to be compassionate towards all patients-be it in the family or in the neighborhood or in the city or in the country or in the world, and take great solace in the fact that only 5% of the total infected face serious complications, as per the present data. Lastly, mistakes are always human; we must not blame a full community for the mistakes of a few members; and guard against spreading any kind of hatred.
If we stand united, the killer virus will be a thing of the past very soon.
Chinmay Chakravarty is a professional specialized in the creative field with over two decades of experience in journalistic writing, media co-ordination, film script writing, film dubbing, film & video making, management of international film festivals and editing of books & journals. Proficient in providing professional services in these related fields. Was an officer of Indian Information Service and superannuated from the post of Director, Press Information Bureau, Kolkata in November, 2019. Published his first solo book ‘Laugh and Let Laugh’ in 2017.