By Joymala Bagchi
New Delhi [India], May 10 (ANI): With the number of COVID-19 cases continuously increasing in the country, there have been several incidents of name and shame, discrimination, verbal abuse and hostility with patients' families, doctors, and health workers, highlighting the stigma attached to COVID-19.
Speaking to ANI, several doctors have warned against any attempt to attach any kind of stigma to corona patients, which will have serious social repercussions. They also spoke about the impact of home quarantine on COVID-19 patients.
Analysing the stigma attached to COVID-19, Dr Om Prakash, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Delhi, said: "Sad part of this entire pandemic is stigmatisation. Stigma earlier was attached to tuberculosis, leprosy and mental illness."
"It is absolutely unacceptable to attach any kind of stigma to corona patients. We are living in the 21st century. We have journeyed a lot. The government needs to take more steps to check the rot if taking place in any form. The media should be more sensible."
Currently, India is in the third phase of lockdown with 62,939 confirmed COVID-19 cases. It has been noticed recently that India is seeing a surge of asymptomatic cases. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a press briefing recently stated that "we have to learn to live with the virus. For that, we need to introduce certain behavioural changes, to implement social distancing practices to combat this virus."
Dr Rajiv Mehta, vice-chairperson, Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Sir Gangaram Hospital, explains: "From time immemorial infectious disease carries a stigma. Corona is a highly contagious coronavirus."
"Basically actions have to be taken at two places to cope with this kind of stigma. Firstly, the quarantined must not think that he has made a mistake. He has taken the responsibility not to spread the virus. Secondly, the facts have to be known. The government should take more steps to reduce stigma. More thorough education is needed and they should be omitted terms like infection, carriers and many such similar words."
According to the Union Health Ministry's guidelines, the home quarantine period is for 14 days from contact with a confirmed case or earlier if a suspect case (of whom the index person is a contact) turns out negative on laboratory testing.
However, in the name of precaution facts suggest that in India families under home quarantine have faced severe discrimination from the society at large.
Experts are of the opinion that the age of the person quarantine also plays a pivotal factor. Youth, children, or elder age groups have more negative impacts but with a little more tolerant and positive atmosphere the situation becomes more reliable.
The latest bulletin of the Delhi government has stated the total number of COVID-19 positive patients under home isolation is 937.
Talking about home quarantine, Dr Mehta said: "Quarantine itself is negative but home quarantine is more positive than other kinds of quarantine as the person is in a familiar environment. It, however, definitely has a negative impact."
Dr Om Prakash is of the view that under home quarantine, a person becomes more comfortable. "He gets a homely environment. In hospitals or at quarantine facilities, the people do not get that emotional warmth. But a person under home quarantine should ensure that all the guidelines are followed," he added.
The government spokespersons and doctors have repeatedly stressed that the fact that in India 80 per cent COVID-19 positive cases have been treated successfully. 20 per cent require supportive care and only 5 per cent require ventilator support that too mostly with co-morbidity.
As there has been suggestion either from the government or medical experts 'to learn to live with coronavirus' and be obliged to every advised measure to cut the chain of transmission, an empathetic outlook rising above the stigma is what India desperately requires right now. (ANI)