Hyderabad: Experts from diverse sectors in Hyderabad have called for a concerted effort from all sections of the society in response to the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a webinar on ‘Covid-19: The New Reality’ organised by ‘Telangana Today’ on Thursday, domain specialists said that a coordinated multi-sectoral approach to improve the present state of industries that were impacted during the lockdown, influence the behaviour of the community through Covid-19 risk communication and sharpen the State’s public health response in managing the surge of new infections were critical for Telangana to flatten the pandemic curve.
Senior orthopaedic surgeon and CMD of Sunshine Hospitals Dr AV Gurava Reddy felt that a two-week lockdown in Hyderabad was necessary for Telangana to refocus and fine-tune its pandemic response.
Professor and Director of Centre for Health Care Management, ASCI, Dr Subodh Kandamuthan felt that a temporary lockdown in Hyderabad should be used for capacity building, creating more awareness, counselling community on home quarantine and helping hospital staff in dealing with the pressure that comes with a large influx of patients.
President of the Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTCCI) Karunendra S Jasti warned that another lockdown had the potential to impact industries which were yet to recover from the first phase of the lockdown. TMI Group chairman T Muralidharan pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic and the media coverage around it had instilled a sense of fear among the public.
Senior journalist and former chief of bureau, The Hindu Business Line, M Somasekhar said that lessons could be learnt from the past communication strategies like the noted ‘Puliraja’ campaign that was effectively used in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Senior vice-president of FTCCI Ramakant Inani pointed out that during the lockdown, the chain of supermarkets across Hyderabad and even the Kirana shop owners managed to maintain the supply of FMCG goods, which made life easy for general public. Former FTCCI president Shekhar Agrawal also urged the State government to draw best practices employed by States such as Madhya Pradesh and Kerala in containing the pandemic.
Another lockdown will deepen financial crisis
In an internal survey conducted among our members recently, most were against the implementation of another lockdown. Besides affecting the economy, the lockdown will result in more financial crisis. The first lockdown was needed for capacity building, setting infrastructure and preparing public to face Covid-19. Even after the lockdown restrictions were eased, industries have been operating only in a limited way following the prescribed guidelines.
I personally have been operating my essential commodities unit since April and not a single Covid-19 case has been reported till date. We have been paying salaries to employees without any deductions and paying taxes to the government as well. In the current context, rather than opting for lockdown again, the government needs to focus on measures to ensure Covid-19 infections are limited and also increase testing.
Economic crisis due to second lockdown will create social unrest, which will be much more dangerous. Emphasis should be on teaching people on taking precautionary measures and extensive use of pulse oxymeters to check oxygen levels among critical patients. Special centres should be set up to provide emergency oxygen supply for moderate and critical patients, besides setting up data centres for information dissemination.
Karunendra S Jasti, president, Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Lessons can be learnt from past campaigns
It is not wise to blame media for its narrative. Media reports incidents and developments after speaking to experts or based on the information shared by the government. In the current times, especially with the corona related developments, there was no information dissemination.
In January, an international conference was conducted in Hyderabad and experts from all over the globe had participated. An eminent speaker had warned that corona was going to be lethal, that it will spread fast and mortality rate will be higher. However, there was not much of coverage considering there were no cases in the country back then. Initially, the approach towards corona from both people and the government was negligent. It was more of dismissive in nature, low testing approach and suddenly it went into an overdrive with many tests being conducted.
Lessons can be learnt from the past in handling the current situation. ‘Puliraja’ special campaign was conducted for creating awareness on HIV/AIDS, similar campaigns are required now. Cocktail of drugs can be prepared to effectively treat the patients and Indian Medical Association needs to be more proactive and engaged with media for information dissemination, keeping the different organisational deadlines in view.
Government should give media houses access to persons, who were cured and let them share their experiences and the ways adopted for their treatment. This goes a long way in boosting the confidence of people.
M Somashekar, Senior journalist, former CoB, The Hindu Business Line
Private players must chip in: ASCI Director
In the last few years, Telangana health sector has done considerably well. During the last 10 years, flagship programmes were focused on primary health sector while Arogyasri was focused on tertiary care. Regarding Covid-19 pandemic, there was too much of reliance on government for testing and trials. Private hospitals should pitch in and compliment the government in handling the corona crisis. I welcome the government’s move to fix packages for corona treatment in private hospitals.
Now is the time to enforce another lockdown for capacity building, creating more awareness and helping hospital staff on how to deal with patients as there is extra pressure on health workers. Data sharing should be encouraged for information dissemination to dispel apprehensions among people.
Government can also learn from innovative ways in dealing with Covid-19 introduced by other countries, which will eventually help in containing the pandemic and extending quality and effective treatment.
Dr Subodh Kandamuthan, Professor and Director, Centre for Health Care Management, ASCI
Lockdown necessary in Hyderabad for at least two weeks
Lockdown is necessary in Hyderabad for a minimum of two weeks so that the State government can get a hold of the situation and stop Covid-19 cases from spiralling out of control. During these 15 days of the lockdown, the government should launch a robust think tank that will monitor the State’s response for the next 60 days on a war footing.
Also, establishing a structured programme is necessary with proper plans that include setting up helplines, taking up extensive testing, tracing, monitoring and counselling, and having a triage methodology in Telangana. People must be counselled that there is no point in running to hospitals if they test positive.
The government should have a real-time dashboard where private and government hospitals will provide real-time details of the availability of beds and ventilators. For this to happen, the government needs time and combined effort from the IT Department, doctors and cooperation from general public.
At present, all hospitals, including that of government, are full. With patient load increasing, the State government should have a centralised triage system where there will be a minimum 100 phone lines with an ability to take 10,000 phone calls a day. These calls must be properly channelled so that correct information on what patients must do to fight Covid-19 is delivered.
The problem with SARS-CoV-2 is its transmissibility, which is higher compared to other diseases. If you compare it with HIV, which gets transferred by unsafe sex or blood transfusion, Covid-19 transmits just by speaking, sneezing, coughing and through droplets. Aerosol transmission too is possible. So the transmissibility of Covid-19 is dangerous.
Another important factor with Covid-19 is the cytokine storm. Cytokines are immune system proteins that are meant for body defence mechanism. However, in some Covid-19 patients, the immune response results in a cytokine storm where the body starts to attack its own cells instead of fighting the virus. Once the cytokine storms set in, I have seen even young people with no co-morbidities dying within 24 hours. There is no way that we can brush away Covid-19 as another common cold, although the symptoms are similar. Its lethality is much worse and that’s why there is understandable panic and concern globally.
I feel for a country like India, if the lockdown was not there, we would have struggled. New York and Italy have gone the same way of employing lockdown despite having far better healthcare resources. Even now, there is nothing to panic about because the death rate in India is much lower than any other country.
AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopaedic Surgeon, Founder and CMD of Sunshine Hospitals)
Media narrative ended up creating fear psychosis
The narrative of the media on issues related to Covid-19 has ended up creating a fear psychosis among the public. Lockdowns are very expensive, and there are estimates that suggested that we lost Rs 18,000 crore per day during the lockdown while some even put the loss at close to Rs 30,000 crore.
It impacted those at the bottom of the pyramid like street vendors, small traders and daily wagers.
The key to understand Covid is to understand how the data is presented to us, which helps in determining the seriousness of the disease. A lot of people are talking about the death rate.
The mortality rate in highly advanced countries like France is 14 per cent. It is 14.45 per cent in Italy and 13.97 per cent in UK. The average world fatality rate is 4.9 per cent while in India it is 2.97 per cent. Compared to advanced countries, despite the poor hospital care and late detection due to low testing, the death rate in India is just 2.97 per cent. India bears 32 per cent global burden of respiratory diseases.
The global burden of disease study says that about 33.6 per cent could be attributed to ambient air pollution, 25.8 per cent to household air pollution and 21 per cent to smoking. Daily fatalities due to respiratory diseases are 2, 834 per day, which is 6.5 times Covid-19 deaths. Despite such a huge burden, we did not shut down India for pollution.
T Muralidharan, Chairman, FICCI Telangana State Council, and Chairman, TMI group
Businesses will survive only if people are healthy
Business and industry have their own challenges and at the same time, livelihood and life are also very important. While lockdowns can impact industries, the fact also remains that only if people are healthy, the business and the industry will survive. These are unprecedented days, as we keep receiving news of losing friends and acquaintances. The rush of patients at present is such that corporate hospitals are unable to provide their services properly. Similar is the case in government hospitals. Doctors are rejecting patients, which could result in the death of patients.
I request Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and IT Minister KT Rama Rao to take up the challenge of handling the situation. Non-availability of beds is a big challenge, and we must ensure that every deserving patient receives a bed.
There are reports of the extreme shortage of oxygen cylinders, and authorities must ensure enough supply of oxygen is available for all patients. We can take inspiration from States like Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, where a lot of good practices have been introduced.
Shekhar Agarwal, FTCCI past president
Shortage of ready-to-eat items
For the past few months, I have been visiting a number of large chain supermarkets in Hyderabad and found that supplies of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) products were adequately available in all of them. What we found was that ready-to-eat items like mixtures, even in big supermarkets and kirana stores, were not available. Due to the lockdown, manufacturing of such products was not taken up.
Coming to kirana stores, almost all of them had a very well-built supply chain. They got specially benefitted from Metro, which is dealing with wholesale sale of FMCG products. A majority of kirana owners got products at cheaper rates from Metro. I did not see a major shortfall in the kirana stores.
Ramakant Inani, senior VP, FTCCI
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