A week after communal riots ravaged parts of northeast Delhi, scalping 47 lives, scare caused by coronavirus is spreading panic across the National Capital Region.
Face masks, hand sanitizers and basic flu medicine including paracetamol are flying off the shelves after it was revealed that a resident of East Delhi was tested positive for COVID-19 and cases of suspected infection are being reported from various places including Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Jaipur in Rajasthan.
A face mask that was earlier sold for less than ₹150, after the coronavirus outbreak is now priced at ₹350 and there is no dearth of buyers.
Supplies are available only because exports were restricted, said a pharmacy owner in Central Delhi adding that many people are buying masks and hand sanitizers as a preventive measure.
No wonder the discounts available on hand sanitizers are far gone and people are more than willing to buy at the printed MRP.
At various pharmacies in the national capital and even on some online shopping portals, particular types of hand sanitizers are out of stock.
Face masks with “Protection from Corona Virus” signage have appeared in large numbers and unknown brands are selling at high prices.
With no government price control in place for these items, it is expected to work as due to the panic situation, manufacturers and sellers of these masks are raking in huge profits.
At the ground level, two schools in Noida have been virtually locked down and fumigation is underway as it has been reported that some students were present at a birthday bash attended by the East Delhi man who has subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Family of the infected person, now under treatment at a prominent Government Hospital’s isolation ward, has been quarantined in Delhi.
Meanwhile, other families and students who attended the birthday celebration have been quarantined at various places including Noida. Also since the infected person has flown by an Air India flight from Vienna to Delhi, passengers of that flight have been advised by the airline to report for tests and quarantine according to Health Ministry guidelines. Similarly, the hotel where the party took place has also provided masks for its staff besides sanitising the restaurant concerned.
Since the infection fear involves students who were at the party and have subsequently interacted with other students, parents, as well as teachers, are worried. With CBSE Board exams going on for class 10 and 12 students, various suggestions are being discussed to insulate students from the deadly virus.
While regular classes can be cancelled, it is not possible to postpone board exams at this juncture, say teachers. However, panic among parents is so high that in addition to the school attended by the infected person’s kid, a neighbouring school in Noida was also besieged with queries and many parents even sought to take their wards home mid-way through school hours on Tuesday.
While medical department officials of Noida have emphasised that there is no need to panic, the Uttar Pradesh Government has advised its hospital to keep hundreds of beds in special wards that can be isolated, ready so that suspected cases could be treated and quarantined without risking infection to other patients.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for discussion on various issues including coronavirus and the subsequent discussions by Delhi government point to the gravity of the situation.
Hospitals in NCR and the isolation facility at ITBP campus in Haryana are being kept in readiness to meet any eventuality and Prime Minister himself has taken to Twitter to douse panic, after consultations at the highest level of the Union Government.
Visa restrictions have now been widened to foreign nationals who have travelled to any COVID-19 affected countries in the recent past, and screening at airports have now become mandatory for those traveling through these countries even if they are not directly flying into India.
Indian citizens have also been asked to avoid travel to a whole host of countries like Iran, South Korea, Singapore, and Italy, apart from China. Despite all the measures, panic situation prevails in view of the fear that could wreak havoc if it spreads in India especially in the densely-populated cities, known for crowded markets, public transport and hospitals.