Goa Khabar: Goa-based ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon,Dr. Anushri Mukhopadhyay in her exclusive interview with NIBEDITA SEN chronicles the actual scenario of China. She had taken up a teaching assignment at International Medical School and returned home on a scheduled break in mid-January.
“I came to India on 18th January 2020 on a regular post semester break. All was perfectly ok at that time. The streets were grooming up for their New Year. China dresses up for it’s new Year. The air had a festive feel in it,” she said relaxed.
Dr. Mukhopadhyay teaches regional anatomy, genetics, medical ethics, radio-imaging and biostatistics at the university. Narrating the ground story she said, “When the news of the epidemic in Wuhan broke, I was in constant touch on wechat with my students and colleagues who had stayed back during the holidays. They hail from various cities from Pakistan like Peshawar, Karachi, Hyderabad etc. At first they were pretty at ease because as instructed stayed indoors.I had given my apartment key to one of my students so I got worried about his wellbeing. That’s the reason I got first hand information from him. The students were given free ration from the University side. As far as I remember the administration took good care of their needs.”
“In China abiding the law is very easy because everyone follows. I was told that there was regular health checkup and a pass was issued by which they could leave for groceries and household supplies only once a day. What I gathered was that the lockdown was managed pretty well for 2 months. I received several messages saying the administration is exempting all from paying electricity Bill’s for 2-3 months and they ensured there’ll be uninterrupted supply of water and electricity. Overall ones who stayed back were looked after quite well,” Dr. Mukhopadhyay explained.
She teaches two batches of students, one with 38 students and another with 68. They are drawn from various countries across the world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guyana and South African.
Speaking about her health she said, “I wasn’t alarmed at all because travelling to China always entails a peculiar kind of flu. Even this visit I suffered from a prolonged cold and cough in December in China. No medication would help, I cured it myself with lots of warm water and tea( not green tea but the regular Indian leaf tea ) Even during my last stay in Guangzou I had contracted Bird Flu from Sanya in South China once,it was bad. I somehow recovered again by my own treatment. I cannot trust their hospital , you know the language barrier prevents usual communication so I can’t trust their treatment so I avoid going to hospitals.”
“Pandemic out of a virus is not a new phenomenon.
In March 1918, a person called Albert Gitchell reported to military medics at the US base at Fort Riley, Kansas with a bad cold, was achey and feverish, with a burning throat and bad cough. He was quarantined in a tent for soldiers suffering from infectious diseases. However by lunchtime 107 soldiers were unwell, all complaining of the same symptoms. In a week 522 men were affected. The virus then travelled swiftly to all corners of the globe to become a pandemic. This came to be known as the “Spanish flu” because Spanish press was the first to report. A virus that usually makes people ill for a few days had claimed an estimated 50 million lives. The flu pandemic of 1918 was over in1919, vanishing as quickly as it had arrived,” she elaborated.
“Fast forward to the year 2020, epicenter being Wuhan China. On January 23rd, soldiers wearing black masks deployed along barricades at the train station. In a week stadiums, exhibition halls, and other large venues became quarantine centers; the rows of beds set up inside looked more like military barracks than hospital wards. To contain the largest outbreak in Asia, Chinese health and security officials went door-to-door—checking for people with symptoms. The lockdown was later widened to more than a dozen other cities in Hubei Province, constraining the daily lives of sixty million people. It’s the largest quarantine in human history. All this to contain an RNA particle which is not even a complete cell,” Dr. Mukhopadhyay said.
“Since we live in one world this spread is fast and wide, still it is impossible to predict how the virus will behave in a particular population based on following factors genetuc,economic, social, geographical and political,” she added.
Answering if the pandemic differs from the Spanish flu of 1918 she reverted, ” This time not just the soldiers but even the civilians masquerading as soldiers in a globalized world have been affected directly and are the vehicle of transmission.
It doesn’t stop here…this time it has touched all corners of the globe, has affected all aspects of our lives , besides health – mainly social and economic too.We are relying too much on the investigative kits of COVID 19 and this time the policymakers seem to be the media and politicians instead of the doctors. The exponential growth of technology (alongside the slow and tardy spread of the virus and its effects in India) has given a demonic shape to the pandemic in India particularly.”
“The theory of how a virus affects a human or a population, which is called epidemiology has taken a back seat practically.Although a segment believes that early lockdown in India has helped contain the spread. I am a bit sceptic.The focus on lockdown( which might be ok for the western world) has shifted the frame from the actual situation to economic and social needs. The focus from healthcare and needs of health delivery has become blurred,” Dr. Mukhopadhyay told Sen.
Although she was unable to return back to China, after the unprecedented quarantine and lockdown of the country, yet she continued to teach virtually with the help of various applications. “The college reopened on February 24 as scheduled and I was on the first lecture at 9 a.m. Beijing Time, which was 6.30 a.m. IST,” she said.
“After a few days of unhindered lectures on the app Rain Classroom, I was forced to shift to another app called Zoom due to poor signal in Goa. But Rain Classroom has features like roll calls and setting MCQ (multiple choice questions), which makes the experience worth the effort. I am also using an electronic board to write and draw diagrams, which fills the absence of a blackboard quite conveniently,” she concluded.