By now it is common knowledge about the origin of the coronavirus, started from a now-notorious wet market of Wuhan city, China in late 2019. A few months later, it was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is believed that SARS-CoV-2 is an animal virus that got transmitted to humans through a pangolin.
Medical experts around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine for the virus, but currently, the world is still reeling from the shock of it all.
On May 23rd 2020, Sikkim reported its first COVID-19 positive case, a resident of south Sikkim with a travel history in Delhi, one of the hard-hit areas in India. Soon, from one positive case, the state had to mourn many deaths since its entry. The state government has set up flu testing Centre at major hospitals such as STNM.
Sikkim has reported 3863 COVID-19 cases, with 262 active cases and 65 deaths. Globally, over 44 million people have been infected, with more than 1.17 million deaths.
“Nowadays I see people have started neglecting COVID-19 virus, people buying glossaries without masks and without proper social distancing,” said Dr Pempa T. Bhutia, Director-General cum Health Secretary at the Department of Health and Family Welfare Government of Sikkim.
"This is not the end of COVID-19, we should take precautions at an individual level and try to avoid social gatherings. Even if borders are open and people are free to move around, it doesn’t mean that coronavirus is over we should still follow COVID-19 protocols".
While the fight against COVID-19 is not over yet, the state government has had to lift the ban on movement for economic and social reasons.
The arrivals of festivals also may be one of the factors in rising of coronavirus “during social gathering people should maintain social distance, wear masks. However, it’s for sure that there will be negative impact and COVID19, cases will increase in future”
While asking Dr Pempa about going outside at fitness centres for building immunity and strength he replied “while going out to such places people have to be extra cautious, they should try to avoid physical contact with each other, sanitization of surrounding should be done regularly ”
He states “the state government has done what had to be done, now it totally depends on each individual to keep themselves safe”
70% of Sikkim's population is rural. Bermiok Tokal, a village in South Sikkim, has one Public Healthcare Center, covering almost 15 wards. The Medical Officer at this PHC, Dr Rinzing Ongmu says, “As a PHC, we are doing as much as we can. We advise all the people who visit us (on COVID-19 prevention) and make them aware of stigmatization. As people here are very humble and simple, they are afraid to visit the hospital as they fear the virus. However, through awareness we make them understand the reality of our situation”.
“Washing of hands, wearing masks, proper hand sanitizing, maintaining social distance, avoiding touching eyes mouth and nose are the main things by which one can save themselves from avoiding the coronavirus” she adds.
Dichen Ongmu Bhutia, a reporter at Sikkim Express talks on the change in people's perception of COVID-19. “People are coming out as life is beyond corona, they are trying to move on but people have to understand that it’s not the end and follow the COVID-19 protocol strictly ”
She adds “The importance of going out for fitness is necessary, as I am also an athlete and understand it's importance. One has to go outdoors to build stamina. For instance, a footballer needs an outdoor playground to play so in this case, they should play during morning time when there are fewer people around."
A local, Sonam Palzor, states that he follows the COVID-19 protocols strictly because it isn't for anyone but himself. He believes that self-preservation should be a priority right now.
Srijana Rai, a student, stresses on the importance of staying in. "We should remain indoors as much as possible, eat nutritious food and build our immunity because that’s only the way to fight Corona Virus”
“It’s not a problem if we skip Dussehra and other festivals this year, because at this point people should be wiser about their choices and make sure they survive this pandemic first,” she adds.
War is always won through careful strategy and strong defences. Sikkimese citizens need to utilize the health department's advice and put prevention before cure unless they want to be on the losing side.