People wearing masks wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad.
People wearing masks wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Image Credit: AP

Does anyone in your house have COVID-19 symptoms? Is everyone in your family vaccinated? These were questions from a maintenance company, following my request for some repairs at home. I was only happy to answer their queries since it showed how vigilant people in the UAE are and how companies go the extra mile to keep us safe.

This is precisely why I feel safe while going out, despite the global pandemic. All the safety campaigns seemed to have had the desired effect. People generally follow the protocol; you are unlikely to find anyone without a mask, some even use double masks.

Contrast this with the news coming from India. Much of the country is in some form of lockdown; some places have eased COVID restrictions after the rate of infections slowed down. That’s indeed very encouraging.

Careless people, reckless behaviour

There’s been some disturbing news as well. I have heard from friends instances of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 venturing out for shopping. Worse, they would have a plumber or electrician come home to do repairs. This is irresponsible. You don’t take chances with the coronavirus.

These people say they have only mild symptoms. What they don’t realise is that even an asymptomatic person can pass on the coronavirus. It’s said that one COVID-19 patient can infect 3.5 persons. Although most people survive a coronavirus attack, it can be lethal for some. Let’s say a patient, through reckless behaviour, passes the virus to another who dies from it. Won’t that be tantamount to culpable homicide? I wonder.

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The callousness of these people, some well-educated, is shocking. For more than 18 months, medical experts and media outlets have been advising people on how to guard against a coronavirus infection. So to throw caution into the winds is reprehensible.

Why do these people put others in danger? Part of the problem is a refusal to admit that they have been infected. Even when they test positive, some people wouldn’t want others to know. It’s like a stigma. So they go about life as usual: going to markets on public transport besides meeting people at home. They pass the virus around, potentially putting lives in jeopardy.

Trust is key to quarantine

Imagine the havoc. It makes contact tracing difficult. When India is ravaged by the delta variant, people have to be responsible to prevent the spread of the virus. And that means staying at home even if people are healthy. If they are infected, or anyone in the family is infected, quarantine is the only solution unless it’s bad enough to warrant hospitalisation.

Trust is key to quarantine. Because there’s no monitoring. The onus is on each person to observe the rules of quarantine. It’s challenging but not impossible. Thousands have fought off the coronavirus through self-isolation at home. India needs all citizens to be responsible for their health and the health of others. Only then can the country come out of the second wave of infections.

The UAE’s efforts to combat the virus offers a fine example. Sanitisers are found at all public places, social distancing is strictly enforced in restaurants and parks, and wearing masks while stepping out is mandatory. Besides awareness campaigns, hefty penalties help ensure that people adhere to safety protocols. The vaccination programme too has been running smoothly.

All these have helped the UAE to embrace the new normal. A normal with some restrictions. Life’s close to normal. Office and schools are functioning, and public facilities are open. All residents are expected to work to keep the country safe. And they do.

Masked we may be, but it will help us reach a future without masks.

Mask up, please.