By Mirza Jahanzeb Beg
We are going through the unprecedented times. A few months back, we used to hear about the COVID Crisis in other parts of Jammu and Kashmir and little did we care. Many of us were aware that soon, the pandemic was going to knock at our doors but that didn’t stop us from flocking the market places and famous ‘Dukan Penj” Gossips, after all that’s what we are good at. People kept travelling from Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah when all of these were green zones to Jammu and Srinagar when these were red zones and vice versa under the nose of the Administration. I don’t entirely blame the people responsible for keeping a check on travel but also the people who keep using their Social Status, links and Contacts, Lies and Deception to evade the Monitoring. And Now that the Plague is here, it hurts me to see that we are taking a plague that has killed thousands of people across the globe for a joke. Irresponsible, insensible and insensitive behaviour can be witnessed on multiple levels and I have divided into the following categories:
A) Rumour Mongering: Here is a classic list of unverified information that has come to my knowledge from various sources. You may have heard more than this, but here’s my top 10:
1. “Ye Sarkar ki Chaal hai” – This is a Government Conspiracy.
2. “Ye Zukam Bukhar walu ko bhi Positive Nikaltey hain.” – Common cold is also shown as COVID Positive on Rapid Antigen Test.
3. “Dolo Khaney sey test negative nikalta hai.” – Taking Dolo 650 (acetaminophen 650 mg) makes the Rapid Antigen Test Negative.
4. “Ye Jhoot Mooth ka Positive Nikaltey Hain.” – They will show fake Positive results to increase the count.
5. “Ye Positive Nikal kar Quarantine mai Daal detey hain.”– They will declare you positive falsely and put you in a Quarantine facility.
6. “Covid Positive key liye paisa aata hai isliye yeh jhoot mooth ka positive nikaltey hain.” – The Government releases funds for COVID Positive patients so they test people positive falsely and embezzle the funds.
7. “Yemaw Grestaw te Gamkyaw Fehlow ye Virus, yemai aaye Laddakh paeth pahadaw bon wasith” – Villagers have spread this virus as they came from corona through mountain passes.
8. “Ye Virus-Pirus Chu Abzui, Tawakul gaisi aasun” – This virus thing is a Hoax, One should have Faith.
9. “Testing waley khud bhi confuse hotey hain ki positive hai ya negative” – Officials who are testing are themselves not sure if a person is Positive or NEGATIVE, It’s a Guess work.
10. “Test Mat Karwao, Positive Niklo gey” –Don’t go for testing, they’ll tag you positive.
B) Gossip Gathering and Spying: You’ll see a lot of jobless and low life people roaming around the Testing facilities just to check who is positive so that they’ll spread the word, despite the advisory by the central government that that those affected by COVID or under quarantine, should not be identified, but who cares. If you test Positive, you may not want to tell anyone else because of social stigma attached to it in our backward society and you may peacefully Self Quarantine knowing that you and your family are the only ones to know about your test results but just when you lay down on your bed to finally stomach down the bad news and recover from the mental trauma, your phone starts to ring and you’ll even get the calls from those friends and distant relatives that you haven’t heard from in years, telling you, “Noww, cze drawkha positive”, (Ohh, you tested Positive ?). And others who have themselves been roaming in the market all these months without masks will be like “Rut yeman, yaeli ne byooth aekis jaye” – (Good, they deserved it, They never used to stay indoors).
C) Private Practitioners/Doctors: Private clinics have become a Mecca of Patients with common cold, sore throat, chest infections and fever. Those who are afraid of going through a COVID- Rapid Antigen Test, throng to these private practitioners and pay their hefty consultation fees compared to the government facility, do all the Costly tests, Chest X-rays, Blood Screening and so on and buy medication from the Pharmacies and Diagnostic Centres affiliated with that Private Practitioner. Such doctors also Benefit from spreading of the rumour that the Government people falsely test the Common Cold patient as COVID Positive or helps to spread it, you’ll hear their patient saying ‘Doctor the log wanan yem cze zukam bukharas te wanan positive’ – The doctor also said that they falsely tag a person suffering from Common cold as positive. Then you’ll see No social distancing being observed at these private facilities and many people in the line would be coughing and pushing one another forward in a hurry to meet the doctor. The doctor would give medicines and again when the patient doesn’t benefit from them, they’ll visit again and again and the doctor will keep writing medicines and the pharmacist and diagnostic centre will keep having good sales and the doctor will in turn keep receiving good commission in addition to consultation fees. Only God knows how many of them would be COVID Positive.
D) Non Serious Attitude by Authorities as well as Public: I recently come across a meme by a friend on Facebook who had probably tested COVID Positive and the meme read “When there is no sticker on my gate, Everyone to me – Tu Positive toh hai na (Are you even Positive)”. More than 100 people are coming out to be positive for COVID almost every day but there is no effective mechanism in place to keep a check on whether they are really staying inside as they pose a risk to public life. Due to Social Stigma, many people choose not to have the sticker on their gate that warns the person visiting them to be cautious. Teams have been created to check Oxygen levels of COVOD Positive patients and As per the last press release of DDC Doda, Medical supplies were to be delivered to these patients as well that would Include Immunity Boosters like Vitamin C, Zinc and Antibiotic drugs like Azithromycin but on the ground, situation is different. Many People who have tested positive and are under home quarantine have turned to Social media to complain that they’ve neither received any medical supplies and have not been visited by anyone to check their blood Oxygen level with a Pulse Oximeter. I heard from a dealer that many of the Oximeters in Government supplies are of low quality costing Rs. 500 each and many of them are not working properly. Only God knows the truth.
This may sound surprising to many but it’s true for not just the Chenab Valley region but Entire Jammu and Kashmir and you’ll find many educated people falling for these rumours and conspiracy theories. Let me try to address some of these rumours which pose an imminent threat to public life.
1. If you’ve no symptoms and you’ve tested positive doesn’t mean the test results are false. It simply means you are asymptomatic and you may pose a risk to the lives of others with weak immunity or any other chronic health condition, so please stay inside.
2. If you test positive but you have mild symptoms, you’ll not be sent to a quarantine facility but you’ll be asked to stay under home quarantine and monitor your symptoms.
3. False Positive is still better than false negative; we cannot take chances with people’s lives.
4. Even if someone is embezzling funds, this is no reason to not get tested as you still may possess a risk to someone’s life or your own.
5. Taking DOLO won’t make you negative. Plus why do you want to test negative falsely, if you are positive and you simply get away with it, you’re no less than a murderer.
6. Please don’t blame it on villagers; this is very racist of you. In fact, the people living in towns had been frequent travellers to red zones in their luxury cars and are also responsible for bringing this havoc to our door steps.
7. The Symptoms of COVID are: Fever, dry cough, tiredness, aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes. How do you know it’s a flu or Common Cold and not COVID ? That’s not possible without testing.
8. Rapid Antigen tests take time to show results. It doesn’t mean that those who are testing are confused, they are simply waiting for the results to show up and if they are not patient, they can make a mistake that can lead to elevation in cases. So have patience and let them do their work. They have been trained to do so and they know what they are doing.
9. Asking people not to get tested because they’ll test positive makes no sense. If you’ve COVID and your test is Positive then it has to be so. It cannot be otherwise.
10. Last but not least, if you’re positive, what do you expect the officials to do instead of asking you to remain in quarantine? To take you on a ride in an Ambassador car throughout the city?
At the end, I will appeal the heads of all the Religious Institutions like Masjids, Mandirs, Churches and Gurudwaras and Political Parties and their office bearers and workers to use their platforms to create awareness on COVID and Appeal their followers to not believe in Rumours and go for Testing. Irrespective of whom we are, which religion, community or political party do we belong to, together, we can save our community and our region. It’s time to be united for a common cause, irrespective of our differences. Also, the administration should keep their eyes and ears open to the public grievances and the public feedback in order to improve their response. And those who have made this public health crisis a business fear for your end, you may also end up in a similar situation, life is unpredictable. The public health of thousands of people should not be left at luck or chance. It is the obligation of the government and local administration to protect the public health, safety, morals and general welfare. And I believe that in addition to all the precautions and medical advice that we have, the best buy in public health today must be a combination of regular physical exercise and a healthy diet.
“For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”
– Owen Arthur