To: The Honourable President of India,
Subject: Request for taking effective steps to contain COVID-19 infections in India
We are writing to request your urgent intervention to prevent an impending public health emergency in the country. India is currently in ‘Stage 2’ of a COVID-19 pandemic where cases are being reported in those with travel history and those who have been in contact with them. The government must heed the advice of health experts the world over, who tell us that progression to ‘Stage 3’, community transmission, should be avoided at all costs.
This requires urgent action by the Central and State governments, working together, in the following directions.
- The foreign nationals and Indians returning from the affected countries need to be mandatorily tested and, if any suspicion arises, should be quarantined.
- Since this has not been done effectively over the past two months, it is highly likely that many infected individuals are out in the open, mixing with the public and passing on the infection to others. Detection and containment is the only way to control the outbreak. This requires a far larger number of testing facilities than is available at present.
- The government should rapidly enhance the facilities for treating large numbers of patients, set up large number of critical care facilities equipped with life-supporting equipment like ventilators. Isolation wards should be created in all government hospitals at the state, district, and subdivision levels.
- Private and corporate hospitals should be requisitioned to give service to the public at this hour of crisis.
- The government should ensure availability of masks, hand sanitizers, medicines, etc., free of cost to prevent exploitation of people by unscrupulous profiteers, who should be severely dealt with.
- The government should take effective measures to provide essential commodities to people who are not able to earn their livelihood because of the situation created by Covid-19.
- Most importantly, effective steps must be taken to impose social distancing by avoiding gatherings of large number of people for religious occasions, marriage parties, and other social events. In this regard we would like to bring to your notice that the Ram Navami celebrations being planned by the UP government in Ayodhya and other places from 25 March to 2 April will be a certain recipe for disaster. Lakhs of people are expected to congregate in various places. Such large gatherings, which can hasten the uncontrolled spread of the epidemic, must be banned to prevent the potential pandemic.
Finally, we are dismayed that the AYUSH Ministry, without any supportingevidence and clinical trials, has prescribed a homeopathic drug Arsenicum album 30 and an array of Ayurvedic and Unani drugs as preventive medicines against the Coronavirus infection. Such unscientific and misleading advisories should immediately be withdrawn. In addition, the superstitious practices of drinking gomutra and dunking in cow-dung, claiming them as cures for COVID-19, should be banned as these animal waste productsare harmful for health.
We are hopeful that you will take the much-needed steps to ensure proper handling and management of the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus.
Prof. Dhrubajyoti Mukhopadhyay Prof. Soumitro Banerjee
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