• In 3rd wave, Kol wary of a known enemy but less scared
    Times of India | 13 January 2022
  • KOLKATA: Kolkata's response to the third wave, alternatively described as more of a tsunami, has been qualitatively different from the city's reaction to the virus's first two waves.

    Bewilderment (the most common response to the first wave) and a debilitating sense of defeat (the commonest second-wave response) have been followed by a sense of anxiety, acceptance and, in some citizens, hope that the high infection and low hospitalisation and fatality rates may finally signal a better future.

    Times ViewExperts are unanimous that this third wave will be different: it will peak very fast with high numbers and then gradually taper down with hospitalisation and fatality rates significantly lower than what we have seen in the first two waves. But that should not be any reason for us to let our guard down. Controlling high infection rates remains important so that they do not put our health system under too much stress. We should keep in mind that Covid-19 has never failed to take us by surprise.

    Psychiatrists say part of the difference lies in the fact that most of the city now knows much more about the virus than it did in 2020 and 2021 and so can handle the avalanche of news much more maturely. With entire families testing positive this time, often with neighbours affected as well, the third wave has seen a collective resilience that was previously missing, they say.

    People have eventually come to terms with the pandemic, said psychiatrist J Ram. "With thousands getting affected, the fear of the virus has diminished. There's now a calm acceptance, largely due to two reasons. First, the infection is mild and people are recovering fast. There's no crisis of hospital beds or a rush for oxygen support seen last May-June. It had a psychological impact, coupled with the fact that we had a lockdown that brought a sense of isolation," said Ram.

    He cited the instance of a woman suffering from chronic depression who was left traumatized during the 2020 lockdown. "She lived with her ailing mother and feared they'd be asked to leave their flat if they had Covid. This time, with a majority testing positive in housing complexes, none is bothered. Rather, everyone has accepted that they will have it sooner or later," added Ram.

    According to psychologist Soumya Mukherjee, over time we have accepted that Covid is just like any other virus. “We now know a lot more about Covid than two years back. The very fact that the disease has struck was often more frightful than the consequences of the disease. This ti- me, since the virus is not staying long, it’s easier to handle. We have understood that precautions, social distancing and good hygiene can keep away Covid. Finally people have realized that Covid doesn’t mean death,” she said.

    Pulmonologist Raja Dhar said that other than the elderly with comorbidities, Covid is not leaving people scared. “It’s now a known enemy. The fear probably remains but with so many having a very mild disease and recovering quickly, the psychological impact has been minimal,” Dhar added.

    Lifeline Foundation, that runs a helpline for the depressed, had seen an 80% rise in the number of calls during the first wave. Majority of the callers were young and upwardly mobile who had either lost their jobs or were depressed since they had a pay cut. There has been a sharp drop in the number of people seeking help or counselling this time.

    The absence of a lockdown, too, has helped a great deal, felt Ram. “Along with the virus, lockdown, too, was something that left the psychologically vulnerable very depressed. They felt cutoff and went into a shell. This time, normal life is not affected and nothing is completely shut,” added Ram.

    While the fear has waned, Covid fatigue has got the better of scare, felt psychotherapist Minu Budhia. “People are not scared since the variant is mild and most are vaccinated. But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to be careless,” said Budhia, the founder of Caring Minds.
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