Updated: May 18, 2021 9:18:43 pm
On Monday, residents of Naidupuram in Kodaikanal were in for a shock after they saw a man, with an IV drip connected to his hand, being chased by cops. People panicked after the man claimed he is infected with Covid-19 and that he had escaped from the hospital.
Police with lathis were seen demanding him to surrender, but the man managed to dodge them by entering a shop, and then asked for a lift from a motorist. Fearing he was Covid-infected and that he could run towards them, some people dropped their items and ran. The police then pretend to beat the guy with the sticks and took him in a jeep to the hospital.
After a while, the police announced that this was just a prank for pandemic awareness and the person, running with an IV drip, isn’t actually a Covid-19 patient.
“Covid-19 infected persons might be alongside you, they can be near you in provisional stores, PDS shops. Don’t provide a lift to any random person and don’t ask lift to anyone. Only one person should go in a bike,” the police were seen informing the public.
Speaking to Indian express.com, Kodaikanal DSP Athmanathan said the prank was done to make people realise the seriousness of the disease. He said despite various awareness campaigns by the state government, the public still fail to adhere to the protocol issued by the government.
“For purchasing groceries, four persons from the same family are coming, they say they are feeling bored and hence they are coming outside. Since Sunday was a complete lockdown, more public gathered on Monday in the markets. There was no social distancing, some of them were spotted wearing masks below the nose, these are things that will lead to a spread. They don’t bother who is near them, is he wearing a mask, or maintaining distance, etc. Only after seeing this person (person who disguised as Covid-19 patient) they were scared. After we informed them this is a prank, they were relieved. The initiative was well-received by the public, many told us that they will be alert henceforth and the crowd in the market also got reduced,” he said.
Similar awareness drive was conducted in other areas such as Anna Salai, KCS tidal, etc.
Although the prank was aimed at increasing Covid-19 awareness, it ended up upsetting the public and a section of health experts who believe that such actions could create more stigma around the virus.
Dr. C.Pannerselvam, a psychiatrist at Sneha Mindcare Center in Tirunelveli, said there is already panic associated with the disease, and pranks like these will only further make the public fear them more. “People who were infected with the disease will be seen with fear even after they get recovered. Their family members will also be affected because of this, this kind of awareness is totally unwanted. These will further restrict people from reporting themselves. It affects the mental health of a person,” he said.
Others like Dhilip Manickam, who works as an Human Resource professional in an IT firm in Chennai and also involved in Covid-19 relief work, say that such initiatives are needed if people are not following the rules. “So many people are still thinking that Covid-19 won’t affect them. We are losing our near and dear ones on a day-to-day basis, these kinds of serious awareness can only inflect fear and make them realize the gravity of the virus,” he said.
Andrew M Sesuraj, professor, Loyola Knowledge Hub for Excellence in Child Protection, echoes similar views. He said he is absolutely fine with such theatrics as long as it doesn’t create a stigma around the disease. “There is nothing wrong with this, it’s a kind of a message. We need to find ways to convey a message. Few will listen if you just show a poster, someone will understand after seeing a video, for different people different tools are to be used. All these are done to spread the awareness among public and I welcome it. Yes, these things create fear but that’s how certain messages are to be delivered. The only thing is that the organisers should make sure is that the script doesn’t create a stigma, otherwise this model is fine for me,” he added.
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