People across the globe are living through an experience that is unprecedented. The situation came upon us with a suddenness that did not allow much time for preparation. The coronavirus pandemic led many governments across the globe to impose lockdown in order to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
India has been under lockdown since March 24, which was recently eased by PM Modi. But, certain states, as a precautionary measure, are continuing with the lockdown. In Maharashtra, the lockdown has been extended till June 30. But, the state government recently eased lockdown restrictions from June 8 as part of 'Mission Begin Again', which is a phase-wise reopening of economic and public activities across the state, including coronavirus hotspots like Mumbai.
And, the return of traffic jams, confusion over government’s new lockdown guidelines and changes in long-established work habits marked day one of ‘Mission Begin Again’ in Mumbai on June 8. There were serpentine queues at bus stops and traffic jams on the eastern and western highways during morning and evening office hours, as the city began to settle back into its old rhythms.
With offices and several public activities reopening again, wearing mask, using hand sanitizer, apart from following social distancing is a must—something that Mumbaikar are failing to follow!
Dr Indraneel Raut, Additional Director Critical Care Medicine at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, said, “Apart from wearing masks and using hand sanitizer, social distancing has to be maintained everywhere — in offices, while shopping, or even while travelling. Avoid touching face, eyes, nose and mouth as far as possible.”
But it’s not just the physical part of it, Dr Behram Pardiwala, Internal medicine expert, Wockhardt Hospital, said there also has to be mental unlocking. After all, it's been a two-month long lockdown, and many would feel anxious and tensed while stepping out of the house. The point is too stay calm and take it as it comes. If, your anxiety starts affecting your daily routine, best would be to seek counselling, Dr Pardiwala advises.
“If you are travelling in your own car there is absolutely no problem, but if one is using public transport it would be problematic especially in the queues. In these few days we have seen people queuing up and Mumbaikars not understanding the concept of social distancing, that is where the infection rate can go up. When you get in the bus, try and avoid holding the railings and if you want to hold them, make sure you use hand sanitizer. Once you sit make sure you clean the railing in front you with sanitiser. Second, when you get off, make sure you use hand sanitiser again,” Dr Pardiwala said.
While the government has asked offices to function with minimal staff (10%) so that social distancing can be maintained, employers need to ensure that it is followed to the T.
“When you are using common areas like lifts, staircases, cafeterias, coffee machines, sanitise everything that you use. When you using toilets make sure you use sanitiser on the toilet seats as well. If you are using taps use soap first and then touch the tap. While in cafeteria make sure you disposable dishes and cutleries. Sanitise the table you sit on, if you want to make it a little more extreme carry your own cutlery,” he added.
All this apart, the question is, won't this lead to a rise in cases and was easing lockdown restrictions in a city like Mumbai a good idea? Given that, even when the lockdown was in effect, coronavirus cases kept on increasing. In fact, they are still on the rise in Mumbai. And, Dr Raut agrees that easing of restrictions might lead to an inflation in coronavirus cases.
While seconding Dr Raut, a doctor from a renowned Mumbai hospital on the condition of anonymity adds, “Mumbai has to get back on its feet, for matter any city will have to get back on its feet. Economic activity has to start again. But, I think it (reopening of activities in the city) could have been done differently, more humanly and with a lot planning.” He also feels people will have to step up and be responsible by following hygiene and social distancing norms.
Adding to this Dr Raut said, “It’s not just about Mumbai. Relaxation during a phase when we are about to have a peak in the number of cases should have been avoided.”
But, then should Mumbaikars step out of their homes at all? “Yes we can step out of our homes, but only for essential services. People are unnecessarily stepping out for shopping, jogging, meeting friends, etc., which should be avoided. Many services are available online including video consults with doctors and should be availed,” Dr Raut concluded.