COVID-19: The Naga perspective
Passengers undergo a thermal screening test in the wake of novel coronavirus scare at Dimapur airport in Nagaland. File Photo: PTI
Rebecca K Kits
Dimapur | March 26
Owing to the global pandemic COVID-19, many are concerned about the impact of the pandemic and its subsequent shutdown. Some have been taking proactive measures by self isolating and maintaining social distance as much as possible while some are yet to come to grips with the situation. While the government is working round the clock to monitor the situation in the state, The Morung Express spoke to some individuals.
Social events have stopped since the lockdown, and even before the directive, many had started to adopt new ways to greet each other.
At Ato’s engagement party in Dimapur held before the shutdown, the meet and greet was restricted to a friendly nod with a smile. “I’ll do a Namaste instead, no handshakes!” joked Ato, as he greeted the guests. “Since we couldn’t postpone the date, we figured that the least we could do to minimize the risk was to restrict the number of guests,” he said.
According to an official at Dimapur Airport however, there are many who are yet to understand and follow social distancing. “People come to receive their family members. On arrival, they shake hands and greet each other with hugs, totally ignoring the risks,” he observed.
“Our traditional social setup may be one of the reasons the Nagas are finding it hard to practice social distancing,” he stated. “Our strong family values stop us from practicing social distancing. But the government cannot direct every family. It is up to each one of us to understand the gravity of the situation and follow guidelines,” he added.
The Church debate
When her colony church announced that elderly people and children were to stay away from attending the service, for 65 year old Honili, it was a step she found hard to understand.
“Corona or what was it called?” she asked with a confused look. After talking about how disappointed she was, she ended her tirade saying that it was for her safety and for all others so she agreed to stay home.
Churches stopping usual devotional services and barring the entry of the elderly and children has received a lot of mixed responses.
An official in one of the Churches in Dimapur made the point: “God helps those who help themselves. We should practice faith with wisdom. Situations like these require our action as much as our prayers. The church building is open for all, but we are regulating the number of people so as to ensure maximum safety.”
Are we prepared?
Public cooperation of guidelines alongwith proper communication from the government and increases efforts to ramp up testing and health infrastructure is a common appeal.
“We have seen how the infection spiked within a short span of time in those countries where it was reported. I doubt if our state machinery can handle such numbers in case of an outbreak,” Dr Ithika said, adding that this is where our role as responsible citizens comes into play. “It will go a long way for us if we follow laid down protocols,” he said.
“Those in the government know what is going on. But laymen like us rely on the communication and reassurances of the government. Instead of numbers and statistics, public need simple and easy to understand language to let us know the ground realities,” opined one individual.
A businessman from Kohima meanwhile shared his concern on how to pay his bills, take care of his staff and commercial rents in the coming days. “There will be no income, only expenses,” he shared.
Misinformation and its impact
With Coronavirus making a global impact, there has been a surge in fake news and forwarded messages.
Aien from Dimapur said she was thinking of taking a break from WhatsApp, as the group chats were filled with forwarded news and messages on COVID-19. “Most of them are unauthenticated, and yet people end up believing them,” she said.
Hinoto P Awomi, President of the Naga Students Union Delhi told The Morung Express that Nagas outside the state should be more careful than others, as they face the risk of racial discrimination along with the disease. “We are being casually called Coronavirus,” he said, highlighting incidents of racial discrimination, verbal assaults and hate comments on Nagas in other citie. He opined that the state government should look into the matter, with special emphasis on Naga students outside the state.
Relo T Aye, ACP (Crime), Dimapur, warned against spreading wrong information and fake news. He also sought public cooperation, stating that, “Ultimately these measures are for public safety, otherwise the community in general may have to pay a heavy price because of your careless and complacent attitude,” he said.
On a brighter note
But some are also taking a positive approach to the situation.
“COVID-19 break gives me the opportunity to learn something new,” wrote Alice as she shared a photo of the cake she learnt to bake recently.
“I am going to be with my family full-time for days. It is a good time to rest, to be with family and God,” Colo Mero said.