Governments across the world will have to lift shutdowns and re-open their economies in a well-planned manner or else the deadly coronavirus will return and the damage will be even worse, the president of an Indian-origin US physicians’ organisation has said.
American Physicians of Indian-Origin (AAPI) President Dr Suresh Reddy, applauding the hundreds of thousands of Indian-origin medical personnel bravely fighting against the virus, said that "every 7th doctor in the US is an Indian and they are at the frontlines, working as soldiers and fighting the virus".
“The entire medical fraternity has become the Army right now, fighting the coronavirus," Reddy said.
The fight against the virus will be a long one, Reddy said, adding that COVID-19 is not going to end in a couple of months and could last for 1-2 years until a vaccine or antiviral agent is developed.
“That is the only way we can control it,” he said.
Noting that it is understandable that people are getting anxious, tired and exhausted with the shutdowns and restrictions, Reddy said any re-opening and lifting of lockdowns has to be done in a very careful and gradual manner.
“It will be a very slow process. I don’t think it will be a sudden opening or closing of the gates. If we don’t do it carefully, in a well-planned manner, then the virus will come back and the damage will be even worse,” he said.
Reddy stressed that the battle to defeat the COVID-19 is a three-pronged attack that involved the governments implementing measures to control the outbreak, doctors and the medical fraternity providing essential treatment and the general population by the amount of discipline they show.
“The people are the ones who spread or control the disease. It is within their hands. As long as they follow the rules strictly, I think we will be able to break this disease, kill this ‘Rakshas’ virus and we will have a wonderful Diwali,” Reddy said.
He said that even at some point when the restrictions are relaxed, life will not be what people were used to before the pandemic.
“I don’t think things will ever return to being totally normal. We will be washing hands more often, wearing masks more often in public places. So, it will be a new future, new normal,” he said.
Reddy pointed out that both in India and the US, the shutdown and people wearing masks are some measures through which the situation is being brought under control.
Founded in 1982, the AAPI represents a conglomeration of more than 100,000 practicing physicians in the US.
It has raised USD 100,000 to buy protective equipment for doctors and is also hosting webinars and hotlines to provide assistance to members of the community, including students and parents visiting from India who do not have access to health insurance and cannot get prescription for medicines.
Reddy said that as the US emerges from the pandemic, a lesson that will be learnt is that America will have to set up its own manufacturing bases so that it does not have to depend on China for supplies.
“If we had manufacturing companies in the US making masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for example, we would not have had the problem of scarcity of supplies. Everybody had to run to China to get masks, PPE, ventilators,” Reddy said.
He lauded the efforts of the Indian-origin physicians, saying AAPI is “extremely proud” of the troops on the frontlines.
“We will all prevail,” he said.
The US government officials have appreciated the work of Indian doctors and community members, he said.
“Everybody in the US knows that we are a strong medical community and we are contributing a lot,” Reddy said.
He said AAPI is also working closely with Indian Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and the embassy in helping and reaching out to Indians in distress.
Indian-American Al Mason, an advisor to Global Real Estate Investments Educational Hospitals, said that “due credit” should be given to the Indian embassy under the guidance and leadership of Sandhu, who are doing a “great job, tirelessly reaching out to the Indian American community in this crisis.”
He lauded the efforts of Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty in ensuring assistance to those in need across the state, which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the US.
Overseas Volunteer for a Better India (OVBI), a US-based non-profit organisation, is also mobilising efforts to provide assistance.
So far, it has donated 25,000 meals to New York food banks for the homeless and daily wage earners without a job presently, 4,000 N95 masks to health care professionals and medical equipment to Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.
It is also facilitating collaboration between doctors, technologists and entrepreneurs to provide innovative solutions to help with the COVID-19 crisis in India and a plasma registry that will help save lives of the critically ill.
The United States, which is the worst-hit country, has the highest number of deaths with more than 55,000 fatalities from more than 980,000 cases.