RWC Series: "Facing Challenges from Around the Globe: Covid-19"
By: Prof. Dr. S. Natarajan (India)
Awarded the Padma Shri by the President of India; Immediate Past-President, All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS); President, Sankara Nethralaya Alumni; Secretary General, Asian Eye Genetics Consortium; Chairman and Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd.

Specialized in Vitreous, Retina & Macular Surgery

Other Affiliation: Managing Trustee, Aditya Jyot Foundation For Twinkling Little Eyes (Not For Profit NGO)
A Message from S. Natarjan ~

I am Prof Dr. S. Natarajan, a vitreoretinal surgeon from Mumbai, India – the second most populous country in the world. 

Experience with the country:
India's initial tryst with COVID-19 was when it reported its first three cases of the disease in late January, in Kerala -- the southernmost state in India. All three cases had reportedly returned from Wuhan in China -- the presumed origin and the “hottest” spot of COVID-19 back then. 

As much as there was constant bombardment and warnings from the media, the gravity of the situation was not taken seriously enough by many people and transmission of the disease escalated in the month of March. Several cases began to emerge all across the country, most of them in people that had a recent travel history to some of the severely affected countries of the world.   

In order to combat and stop community transmission of the WHO declared PANDEMIC, India has gone on lockdown in the initial stages itself and stringent measures for its citizens have been taken such as shutting down most public places such as educational institutions, tourist places, famous temples, and other social establishments. With both commercial flights and tourist visas being suspended, the government took some swift and stringent actions against importing any more transmissions from outside the country. 

Additionally, the Honorable Prime Minister, Narendran Modi has been constantly addressing the nation, motivating EVERYONE to stay home, stay safe, constantly sanitize, maintain distancing, while enabling facilities to overcome this difficult phase with utmost ease. To make it a little easier to adhere, on 22 March 2020, in accordance to the Honorable Prime Minister's request, India observed a 14-hour voluntary “JANATA (Public) CURFEW”, with lockdowns in 75 districts. Only essential services were allowed to stay open. This was followed by acknowledging the true heroes and warriors of the PANDEMIC -- doctors and the entire health care fraternity, the support staff in our societies such as guards, drivers, and the like with a 5 minute applause from their homes, coupled with an optional use of utensils or instruments as a token of gratitude for their selfless services and for putting their lives on the line for the general public. In recent times, England followed suit to applaud the NHS, and many other countries such as the US are choosing to follow the same. This was done in India to mentally prepare for the 21-day nation-wide lockdown declared on the 24 th or March by the Honorable Prime Minister. 

Service to patients
In the wake of the pandemic the government of India also summoned an immediate suspension of routine checkups and elective surgeries across all medical establishments, only allowing essential and emergency services to be functional, and our hospital, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, has diligently followed protocol only tending to urgent cases. With the amazing advances in technology and multiple forms of digital media today, we have also initiated teleconsultation services. This allows our patients to connect with our consultant for any concerns, information and medical requirements, without any hassle. A helpline number, and video-conferencing facilities have also been initiated to further allow ease of access to all our patients. Many other ophthalmologists, other medical professionals, hospitals, and specialties across India have adopted the same method of consultation. 

Contribution to fighting COVID -19: 
India is now said to be bravely facing the 3rd stage of COVID-19 spread. To effectively combat and hopefully eradicate this deadly and dreaded virus, I, as the President of the Organized Medicine Academic Guild (OMAG) (about 20 medical associations including the All India OPHTHALMOLOGICAL Society), brought together a group called "Startups vs. COVID-19" while I also set up a “India COVID-19 Triage Platform." This teleconsultation platform allows doctors across ALL medical associations to voluntarily register for the teleconsultation pool that is built-in at our institution, which allows citizens from different states of the country to access services from their preferred doctors.  

Preventive Measures: 
Educating and creating awareness for the general public on a consistent basis via virtual meetings, courses, and the like is of extreme importance, since the current lockdown quite naturally makes people anxious, and even demotivated, to follow important guidelines and protocols. Social distancing (or physical distancing as the WHO has now changed it to reduce the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the public) is likely the most effective and inexpensive tool to overcome the virus globally. I have contributed by providing authentic and essential tips to the general public in the form of videos on my YouTube channel. Here are some of the links: 

I am also organizing separate educational webinars for doctors, patients, and the general public.

“Stay Home”, “Stay Healthy”, Stay Safe”. 

I would like to acknowledge help rendered in content writing by Ishita Iyer, Clinical Psychologist and Lakshmi Balaji, my executive assistant. 

Best regards,
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