Reason and faith in the time of COVID-19

Being unable to go out is a good time to bond with family, express love to one another, develop an attitude of gratitude, clean the house; above all, it is a good time to reflect on what our lives are all about. What do we value most? If the virus were to take us, what legacy would we leave our children? Only a material inheritance?

First, let me introduce myself for the benefit of our newer readers. I am Dr Silvia Fernandes, wife of Ivan Kostka. Together we started the work of Forward Press in 2009. I trained and practised as a plastic surgeon. In the early years of FP, I wrote a medical column every month, but as the administration load grew I stopped.

However, in the current situation we as a country and as the world find ourselves in, I felt maybe I could give some simple guidelines which could help our readers protect themselves and their families. This virus is a common enemy which does not differentiate between castes, creeds, classes, complexions, genders, etc. It can infect any of us.

It has already managed to halt international flights and lock down cities. There is confusion and chaos. People are panic-buying and hoarding, just in case! As I said, I am a surgeon not a physician nor an epidemiologist. But I will share with our readers what precautions we as a family have taken and are taking.

Recently, my husband and I had to travel out of Delhi for a few days. In the airports we sat as far from others as possible. That is what is meant by social distancing. It is actually physical distancing (by one metre or three feet) and not the social distancing practised in India, which has been to distance ourselves from people of castes and classes considered inferior.

We did not meet all the friends and relatives we would normally have met. Those we absolutely had to meet, we neither hugged nor shook hands with as usual. We did not go to any restaurants. We carried packed food for the journey. We washed hands after touching taxis, doors, etc. And we washed our hands again and again. We washed hands probably 20 times more often than normal. We washed with soap and water and, when soap and water were not available, used hand sanitizer.

Social distancing outside a grocery in Mundra, Gujarat

As the virus can enter through our mouth, nose and eyes, it is important for us not to touch our face.

Wearing masks will help us in avoiding that, as well as will prevent us coughing into the environment should we be infected. The safest way to cough or sneeze is into the crook of the elbow or inner arm.

After coming home we bathed and washed our clothes. And we self-isolated. We neither met the FP team, which is also working from home, nor our children and grandchildren. This is as much for their protection as ours. The virus can infect anyone but senior citizens like us, especially those with underlying health issues, such as diabetes and hypertension, are most vulnerable. Isolation is very important at this stage so the virus does not spread. We have not gone out at all since our return.

Prevention is always better than any cure, which in the case of the Corona virus does not yet exist. In order to build up our immunity, we each took one capsule of 60,000 units of vitamin D3, which we also gave our helper. We plan to do this once a week, and once daily for four days if we get infected. We take at least 1 gm of vitamin C per day. We avoid starches and sugars and drink plenty of hot liquids, gargling with warm salt water as the virus first attacks the throat, where it must be stopped before going down into the lungs.

If we do show any signs of infection we plan of course to get tested and report to a hospital. But we would also do non-conventional treatments like steam inhalations adding a few drops of Lugol’s Iodine to the water. We would also build up lung capacity by doing breathing exercises like holding our breath for a count of 10-15.

Soon after our return to Delhi, there was a lockdown announced. We have bought essentials we need for the week so we don’t need to go out, not for fear of not getting supplies.

Being unable to go out is a good time to bond with family, express love to one another, develop an attitude of gratitude, clean the house; above all, it is a good time to reflect on what our lives are all about. What do we value most? If the virus were to take us, what legacy would we leave our children? Only a material inheritance? Or a legacy of love and service to God and others?

I personally have been inspired by the words of Martin Luther, the man responsible for the Reformation in Europe, during the bubonic plague of 1527:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

 If God should wish to take me he will surely find me and so I am not responsible for my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

(The Annotated Luther, Volume 4)

The PM has now announced a 21-day lockdown. Let us cooperate with the efforts being made by the government and make a joint effort to fight and conquer this common enemy called Corona!

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