As COVID-19 infection spread beyond the confinements of quarantine centres across Manipur, the fear of the disease seems to have been replaced by the problem of social stigma. Words of COVID stigma is doing the rounds in every nook and corner of different parts of the state. Now, the stigma is not stuck to the patients or their family members alone, it has been smeared on the healthcare and frontline workers as well. Expressing concern over it, authorities in the health sector have urged the government and the public both to stop COVID stigma.
Condemning the social stigma and discrimination shown by the people to the frontline warriors particularly the truck drivers, the Joint Committee for Public Awareness on COVID-19 on Tuesday warned the locals or clubs that action will be taken against them for not allowing the drivers to enter their localities.
A release issued by the committee on Tuesday stated that health workers and drivers are playing a significant role in fighting against COVID-19, but instead of supporting morally, people are discriminating and stigmatising them.
It further said that people of the state are tagging the frontline warriors as virus carriers. To combat the present pandemic successfully, there is a need to change the kind of mindset that people have, it added.
“It is very unfortunate to learn that most people in their respective localities have kept makeshift gates to not allow outsiders to enter as precautionary measures. Such a step would never help in fighting COVID-19 rather it gives more trouble to other people,” stated the committee in the release.
“Manipur being a dependent state, most of the essential items are brought in by truck drivers even during this pandemic. But despite appreciating their supreme sacrifice, people are treating them in a harsh manner by tagging them as virus carrier,” it added.
As the sufferings have reached beyond the limit, the drivers have even resolved to stop their service from August 18, and people of the state should not take their decision very lightly, said the release.
In the release, the committee has requested the All Manipur Road Transport Drivers and Motor Workers' Union to withdraw their decision and also assured the union that it will also extend support and cooperation to the drivers whenever they face any challenges.
The committee urged the government to make provisions for the drivers to test themselves for COVID-19, for the locality’s peace of mind. The committee appealed to the government to look into the matter and take up necessary steps to ease their worry.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the authorities of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal has expressed concern over the social stigma faced by its health professionals and frontline workers fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RIMS authority stated in the release on Monday that in the last few months, doctors, nursing officials, paramedics and other frontline workers of RIMS, Imphal have been facing social stigma related to coronavirus from their localities.
"We are deeply anguished to see reports that doctors, nursing officials, paramedics and other frontline workers are being ostracised from their localities,” the RIMS authority said.
They have been serving the nation as warriors fighting the battle against coronavirus and it is high time they are appreciated in this difficult time, stated a release signed by RIMS media advisor, N Philip Singh.
"Just because they are working with patients does not mean they are infected... We should not break the morale of our corona warriors but salute them instead for the work they are doing," the RIMS authority stated.
The authority urged the public not to create an atmosphere of discrimination and fear psychosis.