The Great Lockdown

The biggest lock-down in the world began in India from 00:00 hours of March 25th 2020. It is expected to last for a full 21 days. The lock-down includes the majority of people staying at home while the most essential workers including doctors, nurses and paramedical personnel; police and paramilitary go to work, all the while taking care to try and keep each other at more than an arm’s length.

On television, there are images of people being assaulted by the police, because they could not give an adequate explanation of why they were outside. I myself thought to go out for some essentials even as the PM spoke. It was 8:30 pm and it appeared a good idea to pick up some milk in tetra paks, the kind that will not go bad for some time.

Going towards the Big Bazaar, I noticed that the ring road was largely deserted except for a police vehicle at the edge of the road. I decided to use the service lane and as I passed I noticed that a group of perhaps 15 people sat down at the side of the road, near where the police vehicle was parked. They had children with them and looked tired as they sat, while the officer spoke on his phone. Further down the road I saw another group sitting all alone on the isolated road.

The Big Bazaar was closed so I decided to look elsewhere. At a small local market, the grocery store was tightly packed with people and I was careful enough not to enter. At an Amul Milk parlor, there was a queue of 20 people that was going very slow. The first time I had seen a queue at that shop. At several other shops that were open, there were people milling about, without any thought of maintaining a social distance.

Someone brushed me as they went past and I turned and realized that it was someone I know. He hadn’t even noticed that he had touched me and quickly went towards the store selling groceries, where I noticed that another acquaintance was picking up a heavy bag as he elbowed his way out of the store. I left immediately without buying milk.

Migrant workers throughout India are suddenly without jobs due to the shut-down to prevent spread of the virus borne disease. Workers are returning from the larger cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and as the public transport including trains are halted, the workers are hitch-hiking their way home to their villages through out rural India, but often UP, Bihar and Rajasthan.

The government has just announced a 1.7 lakh crore stimulus package to help the poor during the tough time.

A positive impact of the lock-down, in terms of preventing the spread of SARS-COV-2 is dependent on us keeping our distance from each other.

Wash It Off

Viruses have weaknesses, so do humans.

Viruses are strands of RNA or DNA enveloped and packaged inside a coat of protein which may be further protected by an envelope of fatty substance. Viruses, by themselves, cannot reproduce or even metabolize food into energy. They can do these things when they are latched onto host cells, like human or animal cells.

When we (a) touch a surface on which virus particles were sitting, these virus particles easily transfer onto the hand. and when we (b) touch our nose or mouth with the same hand, the virus can enter the body. Between steps (a) and (b), if we wash our hands well with soap we can effectively destroy the fatty casing of the virus and destroy the genetic code that the virus hoped to unleash within our bodies.

It may not always be possible to prevent a virus infection. In this case, the antibodies present inside the infected person rush to destroy the virus and possibly rid the body of the virus; though there may be flu like symptoms for a few days. Here is a reported case study of a patient who caught SAR-COV-2 in Wuhan, China but recovered soon after returning to Australia. The case study was published in the journal Nature Medicine by researchers from the University of Melbourne at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia.

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