Lessons learnt and yet learning
The rapidly rising demand for cleaning products, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizers, not only in the healthcare sector but in the public as well as private enterprises, has created some grave situations which should be pondered upon.
Prices skyrocketed even for a simple mask, PPE went out of stock, supplies got a hit with lockdown and so on. The advice to use masks and PPE judicially pressed the panic button that led to people scheming to get their stock at any cost. Among the products, lack of PPE has been the most worrisome, with no stock, as production was at a standstill and no supply of existing stock was possible, since logistics were curtailed due to lockdown.
Speaking of cleaning products, where is the supply of cleaning chemicals, cleaning machines or cleaning tools? With the existing supplies depleting, especially in healthcare, and production halted for cleaning products, it has led either to a compromise in cleaning standards, or hoarding from wherever stocks were available, and at high prices too.
Now, even if the cleaning products have been obtained, where is the manpower to operate them? Mostly, contract workers from the lower socio-economic strata went missing with no permissions. Even getting khadabadli staff is difficult, and then additional shift duties to run the system is challenging. Also, there is no back up if the frontline workers fall sick due to the virus itself or some other diseases due to stress, exertion and extra hours of work, especially since there are three shifts including night duties.
Most of these workers commute through public transport and come from far-flung suburban regions. With local transportation being shut, corporates having to provide travel services is a costly affair.
The future scenario is totally unpredictable. There are multiple challenges facing us that need to be addressed on priority. Yes, as and when we come through Covid-19 and the pandemic is over, we can probably make plans to address want-based issues. In this outbreak situation, the demand is now need-based.
This outbreak has taught us many lessons, especially about our preparedness to deal with such situations. Firstly, it is a virus. Secondly, the primary mode of infection spreading is through contact and droplets. Thirdly, even asymptomatic people shed the virus and infect the community. Fourthly, until now, definitive treatment is not available and lastly, it is widely communicable. So, breaking the chain of this infection becomes important through social distancing, wearing a mask and keeping hands clean.
It is ironic that since the historic time Semmelweis discovered hand hygiene, we are still teaching basic hand hygiene and cough etiquette to our society.