What impact will Cyclone Amphan have during COVID-19 times?

As Cyclone Amphan hits Indian states primarily West Bengal and Odisha, there are going to be some huge challenges that the authorities will have in front of them at this time of COVID-19. One such is the challenge of maintaining social distancing in case there is a need to displace people.

Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), Co-founder, Anshu Sharma, said, “While the usual space the requirement for housing disaster-impacted families is at the rate of is 3.5 square metres per person, in the COVID-19 context it has risen to 5 square metres to ensure the required social distancing. When accounted for a million-plus people, this space requirement becomes huge.”

While Cyclone Amphan is anticipated to graze Odisha, it will hit West Bengal harder. Sharma added, “Not only is it the first storm of the 2020 cyclone season, but is also a first-ever we are facing in the midst of a pandemic.”

Sharma and her organisation is working with concerned authorities and are in constant engagement with the communities to ensure that required safety measures in the process of evacuations and sheltering during the cyclone. But space will be a challenge. She stressed, “While India has almost perfected the art of cyclone evacuations, we need to rise to the occasion and ensure that we can do it successfully in these extraordinarily challenging conditions too.”

Usually, hygiene and healthcare measures are taken backseat in these shelters. There will be a need to maintain extra hygiene and healthcare measures in the places where living provisions have been made for displaced people. “Needless to say, there are existing quarantine centres and isolation facilities in the path of the cyclone, and protection measures need to be taken to keep them safe during the cyclone as well as to ensure that the disease does not spread during this time.”

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