By the time this post is published, a lot of action on the COVID pandemic will be underway. However, some things will not go away and we will need to take a hard look at each of the parameters that affected our response to the pandemic.
If you recollect the events of December 26, 2004 and the aftermath, you will remember how unprepared we were in the aftermath of the event. Since then, our NDRF teams have worked tirelessly to address our preparedness before, during and after cyclones and similar events. I am sure they are still updating their manuals every time a cyclone hits as each event is an opportunity to improve our responses for the next event.
Any Disaster response system evaluates, based on a Risk evaluation model, all possible disaster scenarios. These include epidemics as well. While it is conceivable that such a devastation would not have been foreseen, it is almost certain that biological attacks that are localised to cities will have been prepared for. The extrapolation of that scenario to a nationwide pandemic will have been definitely been done when COVID hit us in 2020.
The plans would have envisaged the human tragedy that was to unravel with the crowded hospitals, the strain on the infrastructure, the impact on transport and communications systems, shortage of medical supplies, food supplies, potential looting, Communication plans to stakeholders and the public, etc.. For the purposes of this blog, let us stick to the medical response. The varying severity of the first attack across the country provided a great opportunity for us to evaluate the strain on our infrastructure and how stretched it could get. We knew the breakpoints, too. We had time to use the experience to build an extensive plan to address the next outbreak. If we did, and even if we did not anticipate the ferocity of the current wave, we would be better prepared. I am sure the NDRF is ready.
The question then is, why have we not called this a National Disaster and have the NDRF coordinate the response? Would the coordination for various critical materials and infrastructure not been better? Would we not have a transparent system that captured data accurately and put down demands for resources? Wouldn’t government departments be better utilised to support this response. Wouldn’t our communications to the people and the world be better coordinated?
I would love to hear your views.