Battling the second wave The Excelsior 12 May 2021 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Battling the second wave

Battling the second wave The Excelsior 12 May 2021

          The nation is in the midst of an unprecedented second wave of the China Virus. Casualties mount, medical resources are stretched, and the national public suffers untold misery. There is almost no household which has not been impacted by the virus. Events like recently concluded elections, religious festivals and nonadherence to laid down protocols only enhanced its spread. Many of us have lost close family members in this battle, while large numbers have recovered. Governments in states and centre are working overtime, against all odds, to coordinate resources to fight the pandemic.

          When nations faced shortfalls, India supplied equipment and medicines. India supported far beyond its weight. In return, the global community is now pitching in to support India in its battle. Medical equipment, which is in short supply is being rushed from all friendly nations. The world also realizes that the current strain of the virus must be stopped before it spreads globally.

There is no doubt that our healthcare systems were poorly funded for decades. In developed nations too, including those claiming ideal health care facilities, the rush of cases overwhelmed existing medical support systems. No nation was prepared when hit by severe waves. The US, EU and currently Canada face similar pressure on medical facilities. Globally, hospitals were compelled to segregate and admit cases based on varying parameters. Considering the global scenario, India should have prepared for a second wave, which was largely ignored. Such severity of the wave was never anticipated.

Currently, medical facilities across the country, including armed forces, are overwhelmed. Simultaneously medical personnel are falling to this strain of the virus, reducing their ability to effectively handle the deluge. Hospitals, in many cases, are operating with 50% medical staff. New facilities are being created at a breakneck pace. Turning away patients is resorted to as a last resort, however, for those who have faced it, their anger is justified.

It is difficult to have confidence in a system when family members lose lives, and the public is forced to run from pillar to post seeking beds, oxygen and life support medicines. Efforts to make up shortfalls have been launched on a war footing, but the damage has been done. For many Indians, the government failed to provide relief at the critical moment.

The induction of the armed forces in this battle is recognition of grievousness of the situation. The armed forces are establishing additional facilities across the country and beefing up staff in existing facilities. Air force and naval assets are being pushed to limits for movement of supplies and equipment, including from abroad. Recently retired armed forces medical staff are being roped in to join those already on frontlines. Many armed forces medical resources are being placed in a common pool. The battle has been joined by the last bastion of the nation.

India has a history of never retreating in battle. It will not retreat in this too. The armed forces mantra of not leaving an individual behind is what we, as a nation, need to implement. Amongst the frontline soldiers, no doctor has left the field, those infected with the virus, return after recovery. No hospital has closed down. This displays the Indian fighting spirit and a determination to succeed.

The need of the hour is that we Indians must stand united, setting aside differences in ideology, beliefs and political leanings. Political blame games will get us nowhere. These can commence once we have won the battle. Currently, the nation needs unity as it unites when threatened by war. This is a war. The aim must be to save our people rather than shifting blame. The government must take the first step and reach out to all political parties. This is no time for political bickering and one upmanship. 

The media plays a major role in clearing perceptions, displaying positivity and projecting reality, rather than despair and hopelessness. Media personnel dishonouring the deceased by displaying photographs of burning pyres in crematoriums project failure when they should be building hope. Claiming these are being done to create awareness is irrational as the government and public, nationally and globally, are aware of the gravity of the situation.

National morale must be built rather than crushed. A nation only wins a war when its soldiers morale is high, and they trust those at the helm. The soldier fights when he knows that those responsible are ensuring he has the resources to continue the battle and would not let him down. Obtaining resources is the job of the government while the soldier is the medical fraternity fighting the virus daily.

Individually, each of us has a role to play. Adhering to norms, following government guidelines and acting responsibly is essential. The common Indian is going out of the way to help and support strangers in need. Requests on social media are being acted upon with unprecedented speed. Those who can help are moving heaven and earth to provide succour, medical supplies and oxygen to those in need.

Many are contributing in different ways including by establishing facilities to meet critical shortfalls. There are millions of unsung heroes and heroines in this war. Corporates, which were criticized by few political parties are establishing temporary hospitals to boost scarce resources. This national unity, only witnessed in times of war and calamity, will be the story behind our success. Yet, there remain few unscrupulous amongst us, exploiting this pandemic to fleece the suffering. These are our traitors and must be punished.

The Spanish Flu claimed around 12 million lives in India between 1918-20. Despite rudimentary health care, the battle was won using masks and social distancing. We are far better prepared today and hence will defeat the Chinese virus. However, we need to do our share and have hope.

We also need to salute, apart from the medical fraternity of doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians, ward boys, ambulance drivers, cremation ground workers, security personnel and millions of common Indians, who risk their lives daily to ensure our loved ones are cared for and respected. By standing together and supporting one another, we will win. My request to all political parties, let us unite in this fight and not divide ourselves on beliefs, ideologies and political leanings.