The pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems, and the world of work. Early evidence indicates that the health and economic impacts of the virus are being borne disproportionately by poor people.
By Gurumayum Lunleima
It is said that if health is gone, everything is gone. Health is wealth, and nothing is superior to where our health stands at the present moment. So, health should always be our number one priority, and we must take utmost care of it. Covid-19 is an infectious disease that originated in the city of Wuhan, China. It was known to the world in December 2019, and it started to affect globally from January 2020. Later, the World Health Organization declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Covid-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The long-form of Covid-19 is Coronavirus Disease 2019. A person affected by this virus may suffer from headaches, fever, loose motion, cold, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, etc. Some patients may have aches, pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. This Covid-19 outbreak affects all and is particularly detrimental to members of those social groups in the most vulnerable situations. It continues to affect populations, including people living in poverty situations, older people, persons with disabilities, youth, indigenous people, and, most notably, the student community. Early evidence indicates that the health and economic impacts of the virus are being borne disproportionately by poor people. Moreover, it is a fact that the life of students, who are often described as the pillars of the nation, is badly hit by this pandemic and is becoming a matter of great concern today. This pandemic has made a significant impact on students’ mental health, education, and daily routine.
What is Covid-19 pandemic and how does it spread in Manipur?
The word “pandemic” is defined as an epidemic occurring worldwide or over an extensive area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting many people. Covid-19 has affected a large number of people across many countries. So, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic on March 11, 2020. From that moment onwards, it came to be known as the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Manipur and other places, this virus spreads from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols. It spreads mainly between people in close contact with each other, typically within 1m (short-range). It is also infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. It is also spread in poorly ventilated or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods. It is also infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus when touching their eyes, nose, or mouth without cleaning their hands. With new virus variants getting detected in various countries over time, they are mostly reported to be more contagious and potentially more dangerous.
How does it affect the people?
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many people, no matter how healthy or weak and how rich or poor. It has not spared anyone. People from all walks of life, including healthcare workers, daily wage earners, students, older people, children, people with underlying health conditions, etc., have been affected by this pandemic. It has affected people of all ages physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. Millions of agricultural workers— waged and self-employed— regularly face high levels of working poverty, malnutrition, and poor health. It has also affected farmers from accessing markets, including buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops. It has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk. As breadwinners lose jobs, fall ill and die, the food security and nutrition of millions of men, women, and children are under threat. Migrant workers have also been affected by the pandemic as it has led to the loss of jobs and their livelihoods. Consequently, many of them are seen moving back to their hometowns amidst the imposition of lockdown and other restrictions in many states, and this all speaks a lot of their state of misery.
The pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems, and the world of work. Daily wage earners also suffer a lot as they could not earn their living. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty while many people have lost their means of survival and livelihood. The student community is one of the worst affected when it comes to their mental health, education, and prospects of their future in general. The health workers also suffer from physical tiredness. Although they are the frontline workers who have sacrificed a lot to save lives, sadly, many of them have also succumbed to the deadly virus and have lost their lives. It has affected many people tremendously, and many of them are struggling for very basic needs like food. The Covid-19 pandemic has severe implications on mental health, resulting in psychological problems, including stress, frustration, and depression. In short, people are losing their livelihoods, losing their near and dear ones, their mental well-being, and constantly being in a state of gloom and despair during these challenging times.
How are the responses by the government and others to the pandemic?
The government has been trying its level best to curb the spread of covid-19. Lockdown has been imposed across all places, restricting people from going out of their homes. All schools, gyms, malls, clubs, hotels, community halls, etc., were shut. It has issued many guidelines and SOPs (standard operating procedures) to be followed by the people. It has encouraged people to wear masks, maintain social distancing, sanitize properly, wash hands regularly, etc. It has also established many quarantine centers to isolate the people suffering from Covid-19 from the common people. The government has also carried out mass vaccination programs to control the spread of this disease. Moreover, fines and penalties have been imposed on people who unnecessarily come out of their houses and don’t follow other Covid-19 protocols. The health officials have strictly monitored people staying in home isolation. The government has announced many welfare schemes to help people in the fight against the pandemic. Even mass testing has started to identify those suffering from covid-19 and isolate them as fast as possible. Oxygen tanks and cylinders have been brought from outside Manipur to ensure adequate oxygen supply in hospitals. To curb the growing panic and distribute viable information, the government provides authentic information on the virus, its spread, preventions, guidelines, etc. Many websites and apps have been opened up by the government to facilitate people buying vegetables, online doctor consultation, giving awareness, booking slots for vaccines, etc. Besides the government, NGOs and many people from each locality have been offering help to those living in isolation by distributing foods, pulses, oil, etc. Task forces have been set up in almost every locality to stop people from crowding. Checking whether people come out of their home isolation has also been looked after by them.
How does it affect the students of Manipur?
The covid-19 pandemic has affected the students of Manipur in many ways— mentally, physically, and emotionally. The closure of educational institutions has a significant effect on students’ education, social life, and mental health. The students from less privileged backgrounds have experienced more significant adverse impacts due to the covid-19 outbreak. Reduction in family income, limited access to digital resources, and the high cost of internet connectivity have disrupted the students’ academic life. Moreover, changes in daily routine, including lack of outdoor activity, disturbed sleeping patterns, social distancing, have affected the mental well-being of the students. With the introduction of online education, students at first were excited and happy with the new method of teachings. But as time goes by, its negative impact has been felt by students. Causing harm to the eyes, addiction to phones, social media, games, disturbing the sleeping pattern, etc., are bad effects. But the saddest part is that students from poor backgrounds cannot join even the online classes due to a lack of phones and basic amenities. Not even having enough food to eat, they are pretty helpless.
Many students suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. Social participation is lacking among all the students, which is very important in developing their personalities. Moreover, interaction with friends and teachers face-to-face has also gone. Notably, students from poor backgrounds have suffered a lot. A more general problem among the student community is the lack of physical activities, leading to obesity, laziness, boredom, etc. On the other hand, many schools and colleges do not conduct online classes properly, which hampers students’ academic life a lot. There need to be rectifications and new policies as to how knowledge can be imparted and classes can be conducted most effectively for at least a time until the pandemic subsides and things begin to become normal again.
What needs to be done by and for the students?
During this challenging time, students must listen to the advice given by teachers, elders, and parents. They must make a routine so that no excess time is given on anything. Doing physical exercise to stay fit should be the main motive. They should help their parents in household work and even can help their juniors. Proper study time must be given, and in their free time, they can practice their hobby which can be singing, dancing, painting, etc. Family interaction must be done to stay happy and in a joyful mood. Even for the diet, one must make sure that he/she eats healthy and nutritious food to boost the immune system. Making the immune system strong must be our priority. Taking care of our mental health is also a must-do for all of us during these challenging times. Indulging in healthy things that make us a little happy and restores our peace of mind will deem a lot helpful.
Awareness and counseling should be given by parents and teachers to students so that they will be able to stay motivated. Parents must make sure that maximum time is not given to mobiles and other electronic gadgets. They can also teach them many things like gardening, cooking, etc., during the pandemic. Advice must be given to them. Family time should be spent well, and each one should try to take care of the other. Opportunities must be given to students to express their feelings. Elders, parents, and teachers must show care for the students. Only love and affection can bind all these things together. They should be taken care with love and also try to talk to them calmly.
We are facing a tough time. We should all follow the guidelines laid down by the government appropriately. It is a time to learn from and reflect and think carefully at the present moment. As a student, we must help older people to register in the Cowin website for vaccination. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and getting vaccination should be our main priorities. During these challenging times, we should help each other as much as possible and give emotional support to friends and juniors. We must always remember that collective work will be the only means to fight against covid-19. People need to understand, and starting from each individual, that strictly following the SOPs alone can make us successful in the fight against it. Instead of criticizing someone or the other, let’s try to appreciate the work done by the frontline workers, social workers, and the government. We are all in a war-like situation.” Unity is strength” should be our driving force now. We should be conscious and understanding and be kind to our fellow individuals who are covid infected and families who have lost their near and dear ones. We should always remember that we are all together in this fight against the virus. Sense of oneness will help us combat the virus. So, let’s all join together to fight against this pandemic, and one day for sure, we will overcome it. Be well, be strong, be safe, be positive, and as always, we should take care of ourselves and others too.
(Gurumayum Lunleima, daughter of G. Gajendra Sharma and G. (O) Ajita Devi, of Lairikyengbam Makha Leikai, Imphal East, is a student of Class X, the Don Bosco School, Chingmeirong, Imphal. This essay won the first prize in the competition organised by the Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur) with the support of KanglaOnline, Yaol Publishing (London), journal Beyond the Horizon, and Gateway Trading Academy Imphal.)