That would be the normal retort if we knew which pig to blame for the flu. As cities start to panic and people start to believe anything they hear, the government is starting to make some knee-jerk decisions. Take Pune, for example, where the outbreak seems to be the worst.
As of Tuesday morning, Pune had reported 5 H1N1 deaths of the total 8 in India in addition to over 300 other confirmed cases. While this hasn’t come about overnight, it is a typically lazy response to what now seems like a pandemic.
So what one saw on the streets of Pune this morning was a Sunday-like but only eerie silence. There was a heaviness about and one could really gauge what was being thought. As everyone adorned the “bandit queen” look, the ridiculousness of the entire situation was overwhelming. Despite repeated reports that the masks are to be used for just a day and not all masks are useful, people continue to buy them en masse. A report claims that almost 250,000 were sold across the city on Monday! Good business!
The solutions by the powers that be? One of the first things that the authorities have done is stay away. Pune’s two ‘powerful and influential’ ministers — Suresh Kalmadi (Congress I) and Ajit Pawar (NCP) have been conspicuously absent. Except for Mr Kalmadi’s face on posters welcoming Digvijay Singh to Pune, the city hasn’t heard so much as a peep out of him. And Mr Pawar responded to a newspaper report about his absence by making some nonsensical statement. Ignore, please. Then, remotely, they have administered the shutdown to the city. For those who aren’t aware, all schools, colleges, malls and movie halls are to remain closed for 3-7 days starting Tuesday. When some people were asking for this action about a week ago, there was ridicule that we should not bow down to it.
It is one thing to show such solidarity and strength in the face of let’s say, terrorism. But in the face of a virus? Just plain stupid. Perhaps some lives that were and will be lost may have been saved. The number of deaths that is sure to rise in the coming days can still be brought down if only the government opens up the testing and treatment to more private hospitals. At present, only 8 private hospitals in addition to 4 government hospitals can administer treatment and test for H1N1.
As the situation remains grim, there seems to be movement in the right direction finally to contain further spread. Now we need to ensure that those affected have easy access to treatment and quarantine. In the meantime, the deserted city roads come as an awkward reminder and bring fear along of what currently threatens us.