A friend of mine who opened his garment factory after four months had a solution for people fed up at not being able to socialise at all. Testing, and then going out guilt free. Private laboratories have come up with a self test that tells you in 15 minutes if you’re carrying antibodies against the Covid infection. It looks just like a home pregnancy kit, and tests for the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies. (The presence of IgMs indicate a fresh infection less than 5 days old while IgG suggests exposure to Covid more than 15-20 days previously — this test covers for our fear of the dreaded, unknowing, asymptomatic transmitter.) My friend, who used this test on himself and his office staff before restarting his manufacturing unit suggested that all of us buy the kit for Rs 410 plus GST. And go ahead with socialising if we’re in the clear (and if the people we’re meeting are committed to testing as well). In any case, the clarity is very welcome. This way those who are negative can meet those who are negative.
Of course, no over-the-counter test can promise 100 per cent accuracy and these are individual calls one has to take. The truly paranoid will find the inner strength to not meet anyone at all. For the rest of us lesser mortals it may actually come to this, that we’ll be pricking an index finger, drawing a drop of blood and waiting 15 minutes before heading out for a party. Or, be handing out kits to guests and requesting them to wait for the result before entering our homes. More and more, people are resigned to a new normal and willing to do what it takes to get back to our glorious existence of the pre-pandemic days. As long as one understands that the only way to get together is to stay far apart, we may restart human interaction: I, for one, can’t wait to bid adieu to Zoom. While it provided some amusing novelty in the short term, the thought of getting together with friends only virtually throws me into a deep depression. There has got to be a way to entertain safely, and in person.
This is of course a lot easier in places that don’t have the wretched weather cities like Delhi and Bombay do. If you sit outdoors or on a balcony with a mask on, maintaining space, it’s perfectly safe. But in this searing humidity, when you’re a puddle the minute you exit an air-conditioned room, the question of sitting outdoors for fun doesn’t arise. I miss my friends but doubt I’d be able to endure this discomfort even for Brad Pitt. So then, do we wait for October, a full three months away? Or try out extreme precautions indoors? I had three friends over recently and initially we followed the protocols, strictly. No hugging or kissing while saying hello though that felt really odd. But within an hour the masks came off, nor were we always six feet apart. Perhaps all these safety measures are wishful thinking. Eventually, people will laugh and talk loudly and engage in normal human behaviour — and after a couple of drinks we are prone to recklessness anyway.
More worryingly, it never even occurred to me that we should have all had individual serving spoons for helping ourselves to shared dishes. Recall, the cruise ship fiasco in Europe where the buffet cutlery played a massive role in quarantining the liner. Unless one is super vigilant and is sanitising common cutlery at a dinner party, this is a danger zone and will be the biggest challenge for restaurants when they return to full capacity. No doubt a new pandemic etiquette will evolve and solutions for these problem areas will emerge. Covid isn’t going anywhere and we have to go on living, preferably keeping frustration at bay. To hopefully, never forgetting that the most dangerous time while fighting a war is when you’re dead tired — and your mind fools you into believing, prematurely – that you’ve won.
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