A Plea to Well-meaning Resident Welfare Associations To Not Be Mean

First, maybe we should face some facts about the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. We know very little. The top virologists, epidemiologists, and immunologists are at loggerheads.
2. There is no incontrovertible evidence that countries which followed lock-down fared ¬better than countries that did not.
3. Probably, 10% of the population would be eventually infected. On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 20% of the 3,500 passengers were infected. This was before they knew of the pandemic. They were living in close, confined quarters without any precautions. So, now, with some knowledge, and not all living cooped up together, we might not look at more than a 10% infection spread.
4. Which still means, a hundred cases might pop up in our community, irrespective of what we do.
5. In this scenario, the best life-saving measure could be to tackle fear. Which is rampant.
6. Getting an infection is not tantamount to a death-sentence. The case fatality rate in India is not 3% (though one of the lowest in the world). It is way less, because the number of undetected, asymptomatic cases in the world, including India, could be 80 times more. (according Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University who did a random study in Santa
7. Probable chances of death due to Covid infection: “The death rate in a given country depends a lot on the age-structure, who are the people infected, and how they are managed. For people younger than 45, the infection fatality rate is almost 0%. For 45 to 70, it is probably about
0.05-0.3%. For those above 70, it escalates substantially…” Dr.John Ioannidis, one of the most cited epidemiologists.
8. Fear of catching an infection from asymptomatic persons (and demanding tests and quarantines of healthy people just because they are from outside your immediate community): “It was the crowning stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all, or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever. Even if the infectious viruses are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough to be detected. It is likely that a large number of the daily reported infection numbers are purely due to viral debris.”— Dr. Beda M Stadler, an immunologist in Switzerland.
9. You cannot dunk the globe in Dettol for safety. Risk is a part of life. Every time you get into a vehicle, you chance either killing someone or of being killed. Over 400 people a day die on the roads of India. Yet you venture out casually. In the past four months there were 25,000 Covid deaths. In the same period, there could have been 50,000 road deaths. And remember, quite a few of the Covid related deaths also had co-morbidities; none of the roads deaths would be attributed to diabetes.
Now that we have some balanced perspective, what can we do to be reasonably cautious in our community? What measures could help; and what are just knee-jerk reactions that do not help?
1. You lockdown for a week every time a resident tests positive. If, through sheer bad luck, positive cases are detected in 28 (10%) apartments in a sequence, are we to be shut-in for half the year? Is a lockdown even a proven preventive measure?
2. What is achieved by banning maids and drivers? My maid comes to clean my apartment, not contaminate yours. The lifts and common areas are disinfected anyway. And surely you take care of your personal hygiene when punching lift buttons. So where’s the point of contact and the chance of infection?
3. There’s been loose talk of reporting community ‘law-breakers’ to the police. This is something to really fear; remember Tuticorin, where the police monstrously tortured and killed a father and son for keeping their shop open a half-our beyond closing time? Is this the kind of authority-gone-berserk you want to let into the community? And what legal standing do your rules really have?
4. ‘First do no harm’ — the dictum of doctors. People raring to control the community would do well to follow it. By imposing bans on helpers, shutting down the community, you would be causing unseen stress on many residents. And forget, Covid, forget all the infectious disease you know, stress is the biggest killer. You please stay cocooned. Don’t bind every one else. If someone’s behaviour is causing you harm, surely complain.
5. Even in the name of general welfare, blanket restrictive measures have negative outcomes. Noble though the intentions be. But despicably ignoble are some proposals to take photographs of violators and ‘name and shame’ them. Surely, this is a sickness that requires immediate hospitalisation.
6. Draconian measures cannot be taken by majority opinion. To abrogate individual rights, the committee is not the government. To think that one is more intelligent, more caring, and more noble than others and thus has a right to decide everyones needs is fatal conceit.
7. Keeping these cautions in mind, go ahead with constructive, implementable, and above all, non-cussed suggestions of safety. Without caution morphing into paranoia.

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