Corona Threat: Few suggestions for JK admin
Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
Disease and illnesses have plagued humanity since the earliest days. However, it was not until the marked shift to agrarian communities that the scale and spread of these diseases increased dramatically. The widespread trade also created new opportunities for human interactions that sped up epidemics. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox, and others first appeared during these early years. As humans spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. Even in this modern era, outbreaks occur, though every disease was not up to such an extent as the Coronavirus outbreak that has now reached the pandemic level.
News and information related to coronavirus started being spread across social media platforms and news media in late February. This month saw huge government quarantines as well as for instructions not to gather in large groups as the number of global infections crossed one lac mark. Peoples’ concerns about coronavirus have also been evident in their search history. Google searches of Coronavirus in the world saw their first major rise relative to all search traffic toward the end of February as the number of people diagnosed with the Coronavirus increased with each passing day. In recent days, Coronavirus has seen its highest level of search traffic as the appetite for information about an illness or pandemic has never been higher than the current Coronavirus scare.
The online platform has been actively trying to root out misinformation about coronavirus. YouTube has been particularly hit hard with hoaxes suggesting ways to prevent the virus and ads seeking to capitalize on it. This month so far, most of the rising searches being an indication of what is on peoples’ minds and how worried they are as the virus has hit their backyards.
The Jammu and Kashmir along with Ladakh are no exception to this disease as both the union territories are also witnessing the outbreak of Coronavirus although the number of cases tested positive is very low so far but there are hundreds under observation with symptoms of coronavirus. Much information is available regarding this disease and a number of articles are appearing on both print and electronic media wherein medicos, media persons and other stakeholders are suggesting a number of precautionary measures like the closing of schools, colleges, universities public parks, hotels, restaurants, and other social gatherings. However, there are still few areas that are overlooked and need due attention on part of the state government as a precautionary measure against the outbreak of Coronavirus. Here I would like to suggest a few suggestions that may be taken as precautionary measures in Jammu Kashmir before it turns ugly. The first and foremost I would suggest that as part of Digital India initiative by Government of India, an online registration system portal www.ors.gov.in run by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and supported by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India is in place to facilitate the outdoor patients to get their hassle-free online appointments in almost all public as well as private hospitals across India. However, it is ironic that most of the hospitals have not been put on the online portal by the Jammu and Kashmir government which could help patients avoid the long queues and rushes in the hospitals prevalent in the current situation when Coronavirus has created havoc across the globe. Presently there are only four hospitals registered on the web portal like GP Panth Hospital Srinagar, SMHS Srinagar, District Hospital Bandipora and Government Hospital Gandhi Nagar, Jammu. However, even all departments of the above hospitals are not registered on the web portal. People are also unaware of such facilities available in almost all the states of India. It is therefore suggested that all the government, as well as the private hospitals including district and sub-district hospitals and more particularly SKIMS Srinagar, should immediately register all departments on the web portal. This will help patients and their attendants break away from the traditional method of getting appointments and ease the burden of hospital administration to contain workload and long queues of patients. This online mechanism will help all the stakeholders in the health sector in streamlining the existing system and simultaneously after doing so, awareness must be launched in both print and electronic media for the use of online appointment facility. Besides, no person should be allowed in public places and more particularly in hospital premises without the use of masks. This process should be initiated on a war footing basis for the public good.
Apart from hospitals, the most crowded places happen to be banks and ATMs and to do away with these crowds, all banks should be asked to provide mobile banking and net banking option for customers immediately. Amid Coronavirus scare in the Ladakh as many people have been tested positive therefore before the reopening of the highway government should set up screening centers on Srinagar-Leh national highway to ensure that every passenger entering into the Valley from Ladakh is properly tested. The government should also focus on the screening of outsiders at Jawahar tunnel and Banihal railway stations which as of now has remained unnoticed. All the outsiders before entering the valley must be screened. Besides these two points, special measures should be taken at tourist places. There must be a record of tourists who are still in the state to ensure the three-tier checking to prevent the outbreak of Coronavirus.
As the new coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe and people take to their homes to avoid getting and spreading the contagion, it makes sense that much of the conversation about it is taking place online. People are using the internet to share information, air their anxieties, and bade time while in quarantine. As a precautionary measure People can prevent Coronavirus and avoid market congestion may use online shopping.
As we know that all the above precautionary measures are not possible without the internet facility as the valley has witnessed continuous internet shutdowns in past and more particularly post 5 August 2019 following the abrogation of article 370 by New Delhi. The restoration of high-speed mobile internet will go in a long way in easing the situation not only for the home confined students but for the business community and those working in the private sector. The tourism sector has also taken a big hit in absence of high-speed mobile internet services while businesses including tour and travel operators, chartered accounts, call centers and entrepreneurs have also suffered hugely, and the restoration of high-speed internet services has become the imperative in the present scenario without any further delay to contain coronavirus.
High-speed Internet is a valuable component of emergency preparedness. The Internet has been used in networking on a daily basis in making available resources to the community. In some states, networks connect local governments with state emergency operation centers. The task requires preparation and planning for how critical information is handled before, during, and after an emergency situation, and the Internet, social media is not a threat but it creates a public opinion and provides feedback to the masses as well as the government and it plays a vital role in the information management as long as it is used genuinely for the public good. For this task, social media reigned as it became the only reliable source of accurate, on-the-spot information and means of large scale communication among the people. In this way, misinformation is simultaneously being thwarted and people confirm or deny emergency information. Here I will conclude with the quotation that “There is no harm in hoping for the best as long as you are prepared for the worst.” (Stephen Hawking).
Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie has done Ph.D. from Pondicherry Central University