You are a non-violent army: Rahul tells nurses (Ld)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday interacted with four nurses, three of them also Indian-origin but stationed across the globe, to discuss their experiences as frontline warriors against novel coronavirus and described them as a “non-violent army”.

During the conversation, Vipin Krishnan, who works in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said: “Nurses don’t come under the risk allowance category of the central government. Both nurses and doctors. As healthcare workers, we are fighting this Covid-19 in the frontline like the army. It’s like, we can compare it to a biowar. It is not a biowar, but a virus, a small microscopic organism that is challenging the whole world and the country. So, we are fighting like the army or the air force. I’m not comparing this with our forces. But at least I think you will agree with that we are fighting as an army.” In response, Rahul Gandhi said: “Yes, you are a non-violent army.”

Narendra Singh, a resident of Rajasthan’s Sikar, who now works in Australia’s New South Wales, said that everyone initially thought Covid-19 as a simple flu and did not take it seriously.

“But when it started rolling over, and we saw news in Italy that the death toll is rising higher and higher, then we thought that this is not a flu, that this is serious,” Singh said.

Another Indian-origin nurse, Anu Ragnat, who works in New Zealand, said that the tough policies adopted by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden helped flatten the curve in the island nation.

“Going hard and going early was the motto of our Prime Minister. That really flattened the curve in New Zealand,” Ragnat told the Congress leader.

Sherlylmol Puravady, who works in the Acute Medical Unit in London, said that they received patients directly from the community. “So, initially there was a lot of fear. So who is going to catch this virus? Are the patients all coming in with this virus? So, when I saw a patient come in with no Covid-19 symptoms, but with only diarrhoea and vomiting and abdominal pain, I requested for an abdominal X-ray and a chest X-ray. And chest X-ray reported within minutes a typical severe Covid-19. So that made us all — I wouldn’t say paranoid — but very cautious,” she said.

She said that looking at the risk to her family, she had to move out of her home for six weeks.

“Two weeks ago I went back home, and it’s because the numbers are coming down.”

“Here in the UK, it is so respectful, people are so respectful. We have dedicated shopping time for the NHS staff or the care workers,” Puravady added.

Krishnan pointed to differences in salaries of nurses in private and government hospitals. “Private hospitals are deducting salaries of these nurses. How are they going to look after their families in such a scenario?” he asked.

Krishnan, hailing from Kerala, said: “Me and my wife have been infected. We are right now in quarantine.” He said he is ready to again work on the frontline once he is cured.

Referring to Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s statement that Delhi could see 5.5 lakh Covid-19 patients by July-end, the AIIMS staff said shortage of beds in hospitals could pose a problem if such a thing happens.

The nurses also talked about their learnings from the Covid-19 crisis, emphasising on hand hygiene and PPE kits.

In earlier interactions, Rahul Gandhi had videoconference conversations with former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, epidemiologist Johan Giesecke and industrialist Rajiv Bajaj.