“Sir, you’ve been advised 14 days under quarantine.”
These are the most nerve-racking words an individual can listen to amidst this pandemic. This is not just because of the fear of the virus, but also because of what follows next. In our country, we have a wide multiplicity of people. With a literacy rate of 74.04%, we are still not ‘well educated’. There is a large section of the population that is literate but not educated.
On the one hand, we have individuals who support the front-line workers, appreciate them, applaud them, and thank them. On the other, we have people who are a blot on humanity. I have been a witness to this. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers were denied entry to their own residence. Why? Because they have been working in the hospitals and have been in the front line to combat one of the biggest enemies of mankind – COVID-19.
Health workers across the globe have been treated like gods but in certain parts of the country, they are looked at through the glasses of scepticism. Disgusted looks, isolation from the society, changing the path crossing their house, hesitating to talk to them even on the phone, and of course looking down at the family who lives in a different village or town are customary in the village. These are not just confined to the villages, bigger districts, and cities with a greater number of ‘educated people’ also face similar problems.
This behaviour is also thrown at individuals who are in isolation for suspected positive cases. Not only people in isolation but people who cough on the phone or in public even with masks on are looked at like it is the most heinous crime to cough in public.
People who work during this time – the sanitation workers, ambulance drivers, pharmacy store owners, and police, no one is spared from this scepticism. These are the times when we should be proud of them, appreciate them. A greater sect is thankful to them, but we cannot deny the fact that there is a part of the society that bullies them.
The need to spread awareness among the population regarding COVID 19 is now crucial. Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Being a public health specialist, I strongly believe there is a need to address the stigma around COVID for the social and mental wellbeing of an individual. The attitude and outlook of the people should be modified. The holistic concept of public health recognizes the strength of social, economic, political, and environmental influences on health.
And the stigma should be dealt with, from all these aspects. Analogous to the stigma around HIV, and several other health conditions, this too should be addressed. The onus should not be on the government only, it should be an amalgamation of efforts by the general public and the government. Now is the time for both government and non-government organizations to determine its policies with respect to addressing the taint surrounding COVID 19.
The task at hand is huge and strenuous. Every able member should oil the wheels of this heavy task, regardless of the profession. We are all praying for the good old days, and this too shall pass! Stay safe and remember to fight this battle within you.