How Delhi govt is helping break the stigma around Covid-19

The Delhi government's initiative of distributing oximeters to Covid patients and establishing plasma banks is a step forward in overcoming the stigma around Covid-19.

 |  3-minute read |   16-07-2020
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The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the worst in the history of mankind. Not only does the virus cause health issues, the disease also has an alarming mortality rate. The other side is its contagious nature. Every patient knows that they can infect many more and those around the patient also live in the fear of contracting the disease.

Covid-19 comes with its fair share of stigma. While other diseases like AIDS, cholera, smallpox, polio and leprosy also had their share of stigmas associated with them, the ones around Covid-19 affect not only the infected, but also healthcare workers and those battling the disease on the frontline.

Empowering the affected is one way to break any stigma. Covid-19 causes a drop in oxygen levels of the patient. To empower those in home-quarantine, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi led by Arvind Kejriwal has started distributing oximeters to patients at home. This tiny machine is empowering a lot of patients to help overcome the stigma around the disease.

main_oximeter_reuter_071620050529.jpgTo empower those in home-quarantine, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi led by Arvind Kejriwal has started distributing oximeters to the patients at home. (Representative photo: Reuters)

The dip in oxygen levels in the blood — a condition known as hypoxia — is a prime cause of death of Covid patients. Unlike other ailments, where hypoxia is accompanied by breathlessness, in the case of Covid-19 patients, a condition of ‘happy hypoxia’ is observed. This means that the patient may have dangerously low levels of oxygen, but may not even have any idea about it. Monitoring oxygen levels and having an accessible supply of oxygen is crucial to prevent mortality of patients in home-isolation.

The Delhi government purchased 59,600 oximeters, of which 58,974 have been distributed to patients who are in isolation at home. Oxygen concentrators were provided to local dispensaries and these could be immediately taken to the patient’s house if their oxygen levels began to dip. Delhi government has 2,750 oxygen concentrators and most beds in Delhi government hospitals today have access to the facility.

These moves have not only reduced the mortality rate in Delhi, but have also inspired confidence in the affected patients that they will be able to overcome the disease. Covid-19 knows no caste, class or religion and affects everyone from a daily-wage worker to Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The distribution of oximeters to the patients has also provided some measure of relief to the family members.  The worried families are now relieved that the patient can themselves monitor their symptoms.

Oximeters work much like the thermometers. The non-invasive device is attached to the patient’s fingertip and measures the oxygen levels in the system. The patients in Delhi have come out on social media saying how these oximeters are helping them.

main_delhi_first_pla_071620050916.jpgDelhi govt's initiatives like plasma banks break the stigma around the disease as the recovered patient feels empowered by donating plasma and saving the life of another. (Photo: ANI)

Delhi government’s initiative goes beyond the oximeters. They have also established plasma banks and are taking strong measures in treating the patients and containing the pandemic. Of course, no government or authority can fight a pandemic alone, and the participation of the people is the key step forward. However, initiatives like plasma banks break the stigma around the disease as the recovered patient feels empowered by donating plasma and saving the life of another. They are no longer spreaders, but life-savers.

Learning to deal and live with Covid-19 is an ongoing process. However, the Delhi government’s initiative on this line has brought people forward to help others who are infected. The recovered patients feel empowered and only such a strong circle of communication between the administration and the public can help defeat Covid-19.

Also Read: Why India needs a major policy overhaul for the post-Covid period

Writer

Sayantan Ghosh Sayantan Ghosh @sayantan_gh

The author is an associate research fellow with the Delhi Assembly Research Center.

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