Corona virus fear grips Kolkatans, as government announces preventive measures

Doctors, professionals and entrepreneurs face the pinch of coronavirus or COVID19, business takes a hit in Kolkata and eastern India

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Kolkata: The novel Coronavirus pandemic, which was till now grabbing headlines in other states of India, has come closer to affect people in West Bengal, more so in its capital Kolkata.

The virus, which has already affected 1,52,000 people globally and claimed two lives in India, till Sunday evening, is now a real scare after Bengal government created isolation wards and announced closure of all educational institutions, parks, museums, swimming pools.

Grappling with the unforeseen situation, all are keeping their fingers crossed as they go about their daily work. Entrepreneurs and businessmen, uncertain of the future, are already staring at losses.

Doctors and nurses and hospital staff who are at very high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 in the course of work also share this scare as they work without enough masks and grapple with acute shortage of hand sanitisers.

Swastika Sen (name changed), MD at RG Kar Hospital in Kolkata, is one of them, who is working in trying conditions. Though the state has not reported any +ve case till now, the fear is real among doctors at government hospitals.

“Just the other day a child was referred to our hospital from sub-divisional hospital in Basirhat as a Coronavirus case. But in reality the patient was suffering from dysentery. We found out the patient from a poor family had no travel history or any outside exposure. We referred the case to Infectious Diseases & Beliaghata General Hospital,” said the doctor.

Elaborating on the perils the doctors have to go through, Sen said, “We do not have proper set-up yet to deal with novel Coronavirus patients. We have not been provided with N95 masks yet. Instead, we are using surgical masks. We are using handwash most often but there is also shortage of hand sanitisers though we are handling 400-500 patients daily in the Out-Patient Department. Medical students are also at high risk as their classes are still on.”

The doctor though, is hopeful that the virus will die on its own as the temperatures rise further as it cannot survive beyond 26-28 degrees Centigrade.

Business hit  

SMD Technologies, a partner of National Skill Development Corporation and with a little over 100 staff, working in 10 states, is affected as the virus has hit at during the financial year-end. Director of the firm, Ujjwal Chakraborty, said: “We are being hugely impacted as we work closely with the government, which has announced that there will be no further training of teachers. This leaves our work incomplete.

“There is a procedure for batch approval from the government. We cannot get the approvals unless training of teachers is complete from our end. As a result, students are missing out on government benefits. This is a big jolt to us. This has happened at a crucial time, when the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana-2 (PMKVY) scheme is about to end on March 31 and the new PMKVY-3 is to be launched next.

“The training centres we run will incur huge losses if the batches are not being completed on time. It is a huge financial burden to keep these centres running, which includes 40-50k rent and staff salaries. If the PMKVY-3 order comes after 4 months, we have to bear the operational costs without any income or pay from the government for that duration. The loss for each month for a centre would be close to Rs 1-1.5 lakh. We can’t even shut the centres as in case we have to start again, we will have to invest fresh capital again.”

Samarjit Bose (name changed), sales in-charge for eastern India in a Japanese multinational electronics brand too is feeling the pinch. The sales manager said that his raw materials from China have stopped arriving and they have to look for alternate sources. “This will affect business. The real hit will only be visible after April,” said Bose.

Show must go on

A Go Air official, who looks after flight maintenance at the Kolkata airport spoke of precautions they are taking against the virus. “Biometric attendance has been stopped and the office is planning to issue masks. Soap solutions have been provided. We know we are at risk, but it can’t be helped. We have asked our management to postpone a scheduled training in New Delhi,” the official said.

Mainak Datta, director of a private firm in the composite sector said that his business hasn’t been affected yet but feels the fear gripping his staff. “We are travelling only in absolute necessity. We are providing masks and sanitisers to them. The only issue is that masks, which used to sell for Rs 28 are now selling for Rs 150 or more,” said Datta.

“Don’t panic, be practical”

Sheena Misra Ghosh, psychologist, AMRI hospital, Salt Lake, felt there is unnecessary panic among people. Someone, who just returned from Bhubaneswar by air said there had been no compulsory screening at Kolkata airport for passengers.

“Passengers are wearing masks but there is no compulsory check-up. There was just an announcement before disembarking that if anyone has been to any of the countries where the travel ban is on or have come in contact with an affected person, they should inform the health staff on the ground. Last week too, when I travelled to Israel, there had been no screening,” said the psychologist.

She debunks the fear among people. “If you follow the protocols there is no need to worry. What the government is doing is precautionary measures. But people are assuming a lot more. We need realistically understand the nature of the virus and its spread. Do not panic. Be patient,” advises Misra Ghosh.

Retail chain sends SMS

Future Group, CEO Kishore Biyani sent SMSes to its customers explaining steps the company is taking to keep nCov away. “We have increased focus on cleaning high-touch, high traffic areas. We have temporarily stopped food sampling in our stores.” Spencer’s has kept hand sanitisers ready for customers at its stores and is also taking precautionary measures.

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