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Opinion: While Lockdown Is Crucial, Testing Is The Key To Defeating Coronavirus

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.
NAGAON,INDIA-MARCH 22,2020: A Doctor use thermal screening devices on youth who return from Kerela state in the wake of deadly coronavirus at Civil Hospital in Nagaon district of Assam,India – PHOTOGRAPH BY Anuwar Ali Hazarika / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Modi in his recent address to the public, where he announced an extension of lockdown, discussed a number of efforts by the Central Government to contain the deadly virus. He stated how his government took swift decisions, such as making people returning from abroad to live in quarantine for 14 days and imposing pan-India lockdown when there were only few hundreds coronavirus positive cases in the nation. Although he compared India’s present situation with several other first-world nations hard hit by the the pandemic in terms of number of positive cases, and declared India’s position to be far better, he missed an essential criteria of comparison—testing. 

Testing Is The Key

Imposition of pan-India lockdown at an early stage is appreciable, but that is only a very basic step that the governments must take to contain the virus. Another essential yardstick to gauge the transmission of the Covid-19—testing—is clearly undermined by the authorities in India. When compared to other nations such as Italy, UK and South Korea, India is conducting far lower number of coronavirus tests. As per the recent data available, India conducted almost 161 tests per million people while Italy did 17,333 per million, South Korea 10,053, and UK 5,537. 

The Flawed Presumption

Until India announced the lockdown, authorities presumed that there was no community spread and the virus is only contained by the people coming from abroad. However, this flawed presumption had direct consequences on the spreading of the epidemic. What followed the announcement of the pandemic was the mass migration of the labourers from the metro cities, which now have become the hotspot of the COVID-19 cases. Although there are no official reports present, but this would have resulted in the unintentional transmission of the virus to the peripheries from the core. 

Inefficient Healthcare Infrastructure 

It is well known that India’s healthcare system has witnessed decades of low public investment that has denied majority of the people access to quality healthcare. The mobilisation of the migrant workers and limited testing has exposed areas to the spread of the virus where health infrastructure is miserable. Even if the Central Government supplies required number of testing kits to the states, the bitter truth is that there are not enough government laboratories to conduct the test at the required numbers. It is important to note that people can get tested for COVID-19 by private laboratories at their own costs, if they are not hospitalised. The cost price is ₹4500 per test which is far too expensive for the majority of India. 

Kerala built walk-in testing centres.||Credits: BBC

How Kerala ‘Flattened The Curve’ 

By virtue of having one of the best healthcare infrastructure in India, following the recommendations of WHO, Kerala conducted aggressive testing. As soon as the state traced its first COVID-19 case, it vigorously deployed rapid testing kits to contain the virus. Interestingly, it became the first state to report a coronavirus positive case in India, but because of the robust response by the state government, it has successfully ‘flattened the curve’. The state has recorded 388 coronavirus cases with three deaths, as on the date of writing. It would be good if other states could learn the methodologies that Kerala deployed to tackle the virus, but replicating the Kerala model in any other state would be difficult because of the ill healthcare infrastructure.

The Bitter Truth

This isn’t a good time to spread bitterness; but in the case of India, truth is bitter, and truth must be spoken at any cost. The truth is, we are caught unprepared, and in a situation when we are incapable of testing people at the required rate, lockdown remains the ‘only’ option available to contain the virus. Having said that, India has proved herself as a capable nation every time it faced adverse situations. We have played an important role in eradicating smallpox from the face of the earth and we can do it again. It would be interesting to witness what role India plays to eliminate the deadly virus. 

You must be to comment.
  1. Jasmine Kharbanda

    A very interesting read. Pretty bluntly stated facts. 👍

    1. Ankit Raghav

      Thanks Jasmine for your reply. I am glad you liked it. 🙂

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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