Prevention is better than cure, goes the maxim. It is on this count that allopathic doctors as well as Baba Ramdev, both appear to have failed during the peak of corona virus. They are quarrelling over the mode of treatment, but not on the role prevention plays in such a situation.
If more than a year after COVID-19 first struck India and following the death of lakhs of people, doctors are now calling upon the common masses to strictly avoid centralised air-conditioners, live and work in well ventilated houses and offices, use exhaust fans and not to travel on AC trains, then one can say that it was sheer negligence on their part. The big question is why these facts were not told more forcefully to the common folk throughout these months when the doctors specialising in this field were very well aware of the significance of these precautions.
How ACs Wreaked Havoc
In contrast they kept harping on wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and using sanitizer, when the above preventions were more important. A very pointed question arises: Why hundreds of IAS, IPS, IRS and other first-class officers perished in the last one year of the pandemic when they rarely mix up with the population and in general maintain social distancing.
The time has come to tell loudly and clearly that they, along with over 1,100 allopathic doctors associated with the Indian Medical Association might have died simply because they lived and worked throughout the day and night in the enclosed and centrally air-conditioned atmosphere. It needs to be mentioned that the actual figure of allopathic doctors in India is four times more than the number of IMA members. Thus, many more allopathic doctors might have succumbed to COVID-19.
It is because of this life-style and living habit that the middle and upper middle-class people died in disproportionately high number at least in the initial days.
The Virus Spread From The Top
Normally a disease or virus spreads from the poor hamlets of villages and urban slums to other class of people. The story of COVID-19 is totally different. It first took a huge toll of lives at the top and in the urban pockets before spreading to the villages.
This correspondent does not feel shy in stating that he is not even familiar with the A, B, C of medical science, yet he has, as a common citizen, right to ask as to how many doctors have in the last one year re-structured their hospitals or clinics? They look more like plush centrally air-conditioned hotels than hospitals. Their very construction is faulty and are poorly ventilated. What are these air-conditioned cells called Intensive Care Units? Why no provision is made for fresh air in them.
Were they not aware of the directive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta and a study done in Wuhan that had warned against the use of ACs months ago. Here one does not need to highlight the name of a famous virologist and drag him into controversy but he had in April 2020 strongly cautioned the people against the use of ACs even during quarantine, when the person is kept alone.
Contrary to this today we take corona virus patient to hospital in air-conditioned ambulance. By doing so we not only risk the life of the patient, but also of the attendant and the driver. Who is responsible for this general ignorance?
Normally, one can use stand-alone AC, but it should be switched off if any other person comes in the room.
Media’s Intriguing Silence
When the COVID-19 started spreading last year some of the anchors started giving their programmes from their homes rather than air-conditioned enclosed studios. Instead of calling various experts and political leaders to their respective studios a practice was introduced to take their views on line. But never were common masses told as to why this sudden mode of discussion changed.
There is no problem in emphasising on masks and sanitisers, but why no panel discussion was held in television channels before the advent of the second wave that ACs are the super-spreader of corona virus. Why no discussion was held that the need of the hour is to restructure not only our hospitals and hotels, but also malls, marts, multiplexes, banks, offices, class-rooms, banquet halls, theatres, restaurants etc.
Sorry this debate was not allowed to take place simply because the whole capitalists’ lobby did not want any such discussion. It is only when the things went out of control after the second wave that some of the doctors came out openly against centralised ACs and in favour of open and ventilated living conditions. If this correspondent has, while quoting different experts, wrote about half a dozen times in the last about a year about the negative impact of centralised ACs why doctors and journalists, not to speak of the political establishment, remained silent over it.
Either they thought that there would be no second wave or the whole exercise of dismantling the centralised ACs is a complicated job. In comparison it is easy to keep insisting just on wearing masks and using sanitizers.
Any Pathy Can Fail
The truth is that one cannot immediately find cure for all the diseases or come up with vaccines within no time, but there is absolutely no room for war between different pathies at this hour of crisis. People may pardon doctors of any pathy if they cannot cure them, but would not forgive them if they were not made aware about the prevention.
Not to speak of corona virus, even other diseases spread fast in cold countries of the northern hemisphere during winter because they are compelled to live and work in a centralised-heat to keep themselves warm. That’s why, COVID-19 spread faster during winter there and during summer in tropical countries. For us in the latter category of countries, the use of centralised ACs is not so necessary. After all, till a quarter century back only a handful of offices, work-places etc. had ACs.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views are personal)