A Chemist Shop Owner in Moradabad

‘We Haven’t Learnt Our Lessons From Covid Waves’

Yogendra Chaudhary, 30, a chemist shop owner in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), is scared of the looming third wave and urges people for Covid-appropriate behaviour in public places

I am a pharmacist and opened a medicine shop about the same time when the dread of Covid-19 was setting in. In a matter of a few months, the number of people visiting our pharmacy increased by nearly 50% which meant coming in contact with more and more strangers with every passing hour and day. Moreover, we had no idea about the immunity levels of these individuals that we were coming in contact with.

Needless to say, I caught the dreaded virus around April 2020, when everyone was just flailing around for solutions. Even though mine was a mild case and I escaped with only a mild fever, the uncertainty about when the infection might flare up, can leave people agonised. I resumed work after the required quarantine period and only after I ensured I had tested negative. One may recover from Covid, but the immunity isn’t as robust as before.

Back then, there was not even a murmur of vaccines being developed. Apart from the usual masks, gloves and sanitizers we had no protection at all. Even when all other services were halted amid strict lockdown, ours was the most essential service of it all, which meant we have been open throughout the pandemic. Day in and day out. There might have been days where hospitals and chemists must have been the only ones functioning. It’s an eerie feeling to be the only businesses open when everything else is shut down.

While people were scared when the first wave struck, the fear vanished as the cases began to subside. The Covid-appropriate behaviour went for a toss and quite a few of them would come to our pharmacy without masks. Then there were people who were following the protocols for the sake of it. If you ask me, what I feared the most was every time people would take out their phones (to make or receive calls) in between the purchases and after that directly take out cash to pay us. Phones are anyway considered dirty as few take the time to clean them properly.

Online transactions were cool though, but in small towns not everyone does online transactions. If you remember, Moradabad was declared a hotspot during the first wave, with so many people even refusing to get tested.

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Indeed, it did not take long for the second wave to knock in. And what a wave it turned out to be. No hospital beds, no oxygen, dead bodies flowing in the Ganga. But yet, we haven’t learnt our lessons. The tragedies are all but forgotten, and we are back to our Covid-inappropriate selves. Experts say the third wave is upon us, sooner or later. And being in the middle of it all being a chemist, I am scared. But if you look around, the public behaviour seems as if we care a hoot.

Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to the coronavirus. When people don’t take precautions, it is frontline workers like us chemists and our families who are at a major risk of infection and reinfection. I had never expected the pandemic to go on for so long and I wish I seen the end of it for good. The spectre of ill-health looming over people day in and day out is too much. The second wave was so heart-breaking as well as scary. The mutated virus was even more deadly, and to think it can be kept at bay (mostly) using the simple measures of masks, sanitisers and social distancing.

Vaccines have come as a much-needed relief but people still need to be careful. We should do everything in our might to keep the third wave at bay and we can’t fully be at rest until the virus is defeated altogether. After all our own lives and that of our loved ones are at stake.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘ A State Healthcare Counsellor

‘Not Just Doctors, All Frontline Workers Face Violence, Abuses’

Madhu Sagar, 38, a state healthcare counsellor from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, recounts the hardships faced by her team in their line of Covid-19 duty

You would think that after a year of the pandemic, things would be better for both frontline as well as other healthcare workers, but the public still needs to be sensitised properly about how they treat us. Doctors and healthcare workers try their best to provide the best of services and still if for any reason something goes wrong with the patients, then we are treated badly. Takleef hoti hai dekh kar (I feel bad many a times at the way healthcare workers are treated).

I have been in the medical line for over five years now and have been on Covid duty since October. And in the past six months we have seen the ugly side of people. With the pandemic’s second wave many people were caught off-guard and many of them are feeling stressed and angry. I am in the testing team. We are a team of five-six people including doctors and lab technicians etc. (I do the registering of patients), and every day we attend numerous house calls.

Even before the patients go to the hospitals for treatment, we go to test them and more often than not they take out their anger on us. We are the first line of people who face their anger. If we get late by any chance they say we are not doing our work properly. Galiyan bhi padti hain (we often face abusive people). There have been times when angry people chased our vehicle just because one of their relatives tested positive. As if we were to blame for their infection.

Healthcare counsellor Sagar (in yellow suit) with her team

If two people call us and we test the person who first falls on our way rather than the person who called first, then also there are issues. We are trying our best to do our job, the pandemic and the virus’ behaviour is new for everyone, doctors, healthcare workers and patient alike.

If you remember, last year our district (Moradabad) was at the centre of a row when a healthcare team that had gone for testing people were pelted with stones and was made to run from the area. Thankfully the situation this year isn’t as bad as that. Most of the times it is verbal unleashing of anger which more or less we have learnt to take in our stride. People have begun to understand the pandemic better but I believe it can be understood even better. Since I am a counsellor in my regular duty, I try to soothe people who have tested positive or their family members who have caught the virus.

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I myself got infected by the virus on April 14, and then my brother, father, kids, husband, everyone contracted it. As soon as I was in the clear, I joined duty. When people tell us we don’t understand them I want to tell them many healthcare workers have caught the virus too, we understand how people feel. The vaccination process in Moradabad has been going quite well and we have very few positive cases currently.

I hope the pandemic gets over soon, we have working non-stop since October (since we were put on Covid duty). We haven’t got a Sunday off or even a day off to attend family functions. People should understand that we are giving the fight against Covid all we have got. We are all in this together. We understand each other.