If there had already been such residential neighborhoods on or near campuses, a lot of public money spent on hotels could have been saved.
The lack of manpower can only explain the cancellation of the post-deployment quarantine; it does not explain the outright denial of quarantine quarters during the COVID deployment period itself.
It’s hard to ignore the abrupt and suspicious timing of this decision which coincides with nationwide protests from doctors. The hospital-hotel quarantine model has always been expensive, but it quickly became unsustainable when doctors began to protest. Dissent is always expensive.
This outbreak has laid bare the neglect of public healthcare by successive governments, their lack of respect for healthcare workers and their utter disregard for their lives, whether they are working in the Anganwadis or at the apex medical centres.
One would have hoped that the desperation, desperation and dead bodies of 5 lakh Indians including those of 1200 doctors, 120 registered nurses and 150 ASHAs would cause our political establishment to reevaluate its priorities, but alas, the lives of Indian citizens, including including those we call rescuers, continue to be one of the cheapest in the free world.
Who needs Wuhan when we have Lutyens? The point source of this endemic indifference in India has existed since long before COVID-19.
Perhaps after decades of deaths from malnutrition, we have passed the point where 5 lakh dead Indians would have been a matter of national security or where the safety of the families of our COVID warriors would have been a national priority.
Quarantine rooms were our barracks and bunkers in this war. They not only protected our families from getting infected from us, but also saved us from catching COVID from our family.
Maintaining a working population of healthy doctors and nurses is exactly what this policy fails to do, leaving everyone vulnerable. It’s a security flaw.
Our society is one in which housing for our living heroes is deemed too expensive, but palaces for dead gods are not.
In a civilized society, no healthcare worker should be denied the provision of quarantine quarters for the duration of the COVID deployment. This is more a question of decency and ethics than of epidemiology. Non-COVID patients should not catch COVID in hospitals.
In a rational society, the isolation period should be reduced to 7 days from 5. Medical personnel who have completed their seven-day isolation should test negative for the antigen for two consecutive days. RAT testing before joining is the bare minimum to ensure the safety of our patients.
Any solution to the current crisis must consider the biology of this contagious pathogen and the safety of patients and the staff caring for them. Politicians should not be devoid of science and empathy. The families of young doctors should not be punished. Choosing the life of a healer is their crime and their only.
I hope that when another virus brings another pandemic on our unprepared infrastructure, it is just another wave and not a tsunami like the one we witnessed in the summer of 2021.
(The author is general secretary of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum. Opinions are personal)