Gangtok, March 20: Social Distancing is at the top in the list of preventive measures suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the COVID-19. It has been described by America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as – “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
The WHO has advised people to keep at least 3 feet or 1-meter distance between yourself and from people who are sneezing or coughing.
Since most public places like schools, gyms, clubs, casinos etc., remain closed due to the shutdown order by the state government, people seem sceptical about the effectiveness of social distancing and self-quarantine. Countries such as China, Italy, El Salvador, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland and Spain, some of the biggest democracies in the world, have implemented the world’s largest and most restrictive mass quarantines.
Wuhan, China where the virus originated has been on lockdown for more than six weeks and the country implemented the largest quarantine in human history in an effort to contain the virus, locking down at least 16 cities by the end of January. France’s lockdown could be the second largest in the world and the European Union has also shut down all non-essential travel.
While nationally the Government has put strict restrictions on inbound travel. In Kerala, at least 1,116 are under observation – 149 in isolation wards of various hospitals and 967 under home quarantine.
On Thursday, the State Government imposed Section 144 Cr.Pc 1973 in all districts to avert danger to human life, health and safety they believe that there is an imminent threat of the outbreak in Sikkim as well.
Section 144 Cr.Pc of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 197 dictates:
● Any assembly of five or more persons shall be prohibited in public places. However social gatherings like weddings are exempted.
● If there is any sufficient reason or information to suspect a person could be infected or may have come in contact with an infected person they shall be bound to immediately cooperate. Any person refusing to tale the measures shall be persecuted under u/s 270 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
● All owners/in-charge of any premises shall immediately report to the nearest health facility or telephonically to 104 and 03593-284444 regarding any person residing in the premises and suspected to have COVID-19.
Last night, the Prime Minister warned the public against hoarding and panic buying of supplies and to be sensitive to the need of others, assuring that there would be no shortage of essentials. He also urged citizen to observe a “Janta curfew” on March 22 from 7 am to 9 pm as a test run for social distancing and quarantine over the next few days to fight the spread of the virus. It is in his belief that the one-day exercise will help people get used to self-isolating.
Currently, a Facebook post by an Italian that warns the rest of the world to take quarantine seriously because Italy’s mistake of not following precautions led to the country exceeding China in COVID-19 deaths.
Due to the lack of cases in Sikkim, the general public did not seem to understand the magnitude of the situation despite repeated advice and notice from the Health Department. As per the officials at Melli check-post, along with thermal screening, the officials have also started quarantine stamps for better precaution and tracking.
People roamed freely around town even when it was advised by the State Government to restrict movement to our houses unless it’s unavoidable. Shops and restaurants still remain open in the capital.
At the moment, India stands at 171 COVID-19 cases. Closer to home, DC East Raj Yadav informed that 25 patients have been quarantined at home in Sikkim and 1 patient in isolation at Socheygang Hospital awaiting confirmation of results.
Whether it be the carelessness of people in terms of not getting tested or moving freely with the least regard for others when the risk of infection is high, it is clear that Sikkim has become a new statistic in the list of areas with people who are suspected to be infected by the life-threatening virus.