We will get by. We will survive.

Ringo Pebam *

 Dr. Nicola Sgarbi, of Modena, Italy  Cao Shan
(L) Dr. Nicola Sgarbi, of Modena, Italy, who often works 12-hour shifts while wearing protective equipment to treat Covid-19 patients
(R) The marks of a mask are seen on the face of nurse Cao Shan after working in the isolation ward in Jinyintan Hospital, designated for Covid-19 patients, in Wuhan, China.
(Pictures Courtesy: CNN)

As we sit tight at our homes to protect ourselves from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on a 'Janata Curfew Day’ today, or any other day during the last one week, let us also remember those brave women and men here in India and across the globe, who are treating the people infected with COVID-19.

Few among the many of them:

Dr. Nicola Sgarbi, who works in the ICU of the civil hospital of Baggiovara in Modena, Italy, often works 12-hour shifts to treat COVID-19 patients.

Nurse Cao Shan and her husband, a doctor also working at a hospital designated for COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China, had slept in the vehicle for 23 nights to avoid bringing viral hazards around, save commuting time, and give their assigned nearby hotel room to colleagues.

Friday night, I saw on BBC, about a retired nurse in UK who volunteered to go back to work to help COVID-19 patients. Secretary of State for Health of the United Kingdom, Matt Hancock, tweeted on Saturday night: "Delighted that 4,000 nurses and 500 doctors have signed up to return to the NHS (National Health Service) in the first 48 hours of our call."

There must be many like them too here in hospitals in Manipur. They are all brave souls.

I read about the Chinese doctor Dr. Li Wenliang, some weeks back. His story needs to be highlighted.

Dr. Li Wenliang on 30 Dec 2019 warned fellow colleagues about a possible outbreak of an illness, later acknowledged as COVID-19. He became a whistleblower and on 3 Jan 2020, Wuhan police summoned and admonished him for “spreading rumours”. Dr. Li returned to work, later contracted COVID-19 from a patient and died from the disease on 7 Feb 2020, at age 33.

Just days before his death, Dr. Li said “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency”.

Rising doctors and nurses should remember Dr. Li's name for doing the right and brave thing for his community and the world, and should be encouraged to do the same if they are ever in a moment to make that kind of difference in the world” said Tom Inglesby, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, USA.

Italy is becoming the epicentre of this shifting pandemic of late. On Saturday, officials reported 793 additional deaths, by far the largest single-day increase so far.

The highest concentration of cases is in the north of Italy, where the dead are being stacked up to be buried as funeral services are strictly prohibited. But the living are stacked up too, with COVID-19 patients being treated in field hospitals and lined up in corridors inside the bursting public hospitals. Doctors and nurses are being infected, due to a lack of adequate protection.

But tracing the record of the Italian government’s actions shows missed opportunities and critical missteps. In the critical early days of the outbreak, top officials sought to down play the threat, creating confusion and a false sense of security that allowed the virus to spread. They failed to communicate the threat powerfully enough to persuade Italians to abide by the rules.

Coming closer home, how well prepared is Manipur?

Our Chief Minister, Shri Biren Nongthombam, personally visiting Ima Keithels to sensitize on COVID-19 day before yesterday, and his surprise visit to JNIMS and RIMS yesterday to check the preparedness of tackling COVID-19 are held in high regard.

State Government's many unprecedented steps of lockdown of Ima Keithels from March 21 to March 25, closure of public places, limitation of gatherings to 30 people, closure of inter-State entry gates to all passenger vehicles, identification of quarantine/ isolation facilities in Imphal West district etc are appreciated.

But still, one question from the Opposition Party leader Shri Okram Ibobi lingers, " COVID-19 when it enters human body shows no symptoms for around 10 to 14 days and thus those with no symptom have the possibility of showing symptom of the disease after 14 days. Each and every person coming from outside the state and even those Manipuris who returned should be quarantined at least for this stage. Has the government taken up any such measures?"

The editorial of The Sangai Express of yesterday (21st March, 2020) also asked few questions:
o ‘The virus is yet to land in Manipur’, is the official statement, but how many people have been checked?
o A few days back, the State Government announced that the Inner Line Permit System would no longer be issued to non-locals who want to enter Manipur, but how strictly has this been enforced?
o How well equipped are the different quarantine centres notified by the Government?
o How effectively are the visitors coming to Manipur being screened?

Hope our state machinery is working at their best.

UK’s Mirror reported about an anonymous open letter to the world by a British nurse few days ago who is on the front line of the UK's COVID-19 crisis. Below is an excerpt of her letter which gave an emotional account of what it's like to treat patients battling COVID-19, and how proud is she to treat and look after them:

"There’s little doubt that COVID-19 is instilling fear. Everybody has heard about it. Everywhere you look there is news, some of it real news, a lot of it fake news and sadly, little of it good news. However, if you look around you will always find a rainbow in the storm. Acts of kindness, messages of hope. [...] When the human race pulls together and supports each other the results are unbelievable. Old bonds will become stronger, new bonds will be made. [...] Yes we have difficult times ahead but in many ways we are the lucky ones. [...] we get to care for people when they’re at their weakest and most vulnerable. Let me tell you, and I know I speak for all nurses, this is one of the biggest honours there is. [...] I waved goodbye to my mum this week knowing that I may well not see her for a few months. As we said goodbye I felt my mum was packing me off for war. This is a war. And it’s a war I’m ready to fight in. Come at us COVID-19, you won’t be met with doctors and nurses, instead you will be met by warriors ready to fight you until the bitter end. [...] The phrase of the year ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind’ is now more important than ever. Look out for each other, care for each other, check in on each other. Just know that us nurses are doing everything we can and we appreciate the support shown to us."

We all stand in solidarity with those who are dying from COVID-19 across the world. Be it in Italy, or in Iran or China or US, or in India, we, as humanity, as one, are fighting against COVID-19. Manipur could have been Wuhan or Lombardy, who knows? And salute to those who are helping to fight against the virus in one way or the other – nurses, doctors, army, police, grocery sellers, medical shops, municipal workers etc etc. The indomitable human spirit says, “WE WILL GET BY, WE WILL SURVIVE.”

Let me conclude with some lines from Ramanan Laxminarayan from his column in The Hindu, a few days back, "In a time of crisis, it is easy to blame government or China or someone else. But this is really a time to stand together, keep an eye on our neighbours, friends, families, co-workers and indeed anyone who has less than we do. That includes your household help, security guards, vendors and indeed anyone who touches your life. It is a time to see how we show the best of our human values while facing a crisis of a proportion none of us has ever witnessed in our lifetime. Things are about to get a lot worse. Let us hope that this brings out the best in us, and not the worst. Whether we know this or not, these events are just a dress rehearsal for the more challenging events such as climate change that are likely to be with us this century. And if we take care of each other, we will survive both these challenges with our humanity intact."

* Ringo Pebam wrote this article for
The writer can be reached at ringo(DOT)p(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 23, 2020

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