It was almost as though the H1N1 virus was waiting for the temperature to fall before packing it bags and catching a flight to India.
It was gentle rumblings that we have been hearing since June- of suspected carriers being quarantined at airports, of people testing positive for swine flu, of Pune being declared a pandemic state. But it was only after a 14-year old girl succumbed to the virus last Monday that we finally took note of swine flu in India.
As the number of confirmed cases mounted, the situation got totally out of hand. Only one government hospital in Bombay had the facilities to test for the virus, and there, confusion reigned (as expected, a skeptic would add). Medical workers and chemists started testing for the virus. People tried pressuring doctors to prescribe Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) as a precautionary measure. The number of casualties shot up from 1 to 12 in less than a week. Black-marketeering of masks began. Schools started sending back children with swine flu like symptoms. Parents couldn’t decide whether to send kids to school or not.
Then, pigs flew…
The government machinery swung into action. More testing centres were opened up. Private hospitals were directed to reserve isolation wards for swine flu patients. Stocks of Tamiflu were released even to non-government bodies, and doctors were advised to start the treatment on suspected cases even before swine flu was confirmed.
All schools were ordered closed for a week. Malls were asked to discourage shoppers by playing down annual sales. Multiplexes were ordered closed. Gyms and swimming pools were advised to shut down. Corporates were asked to cut down on official travel. People were discouraged from taking holidays.
Most importantly, information was made available. People realized that the situation was not yet out of control, and that we could perhaps last it out till the vaccine was made available to all.
Maybe some of the reactions are slightly extreme. But at a time like this, I would rather the government do too much than too little.
And while people would have normally resented having someone tell them to curtail their Ganapathi celebrations, I am sure they would now do so voluntarily since they know the dangers of crowded places. One does, however, feel slightly wistful when one sees the unsold idols of Bombay’s favourite God lining the streets waiting for customers who may never come.