New Delhi: “COVID-19 just seemed to have happened and due to it, we are seeing a lot of change in the behaviour and habits. Now, we are linking the two most important things together – hygiene and sanitation. The need of the hour is to focus on strengthening hygiene and sanitation sectors in our country so that we can further build healthier communities,” said Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan while speaking to NDTV as a part of NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India special show. Mr Bachchan, who has been part of the initiative for last seven years has lent his voice and support to the campaign and helped raise awareness on health, hygiene and sanitation with an aim to build a Swasth and Swachh India. Talking about his own battle against coronavirus and why people should not let COVID fatigue behaviour come in the way of India’s ongoing fight against the crisis he added,
A lot of people are getting fed up because of COVID – one way to keep the fight going against the pandemic is by reminding people the basics over and again – like they have to wear a mask, wash hands and continue practising social distancing. This crisis is far from over, anything can happen anytime and we still haven’t FOUND the cure – that’s terrible. We haven’t got the vaccine for COVID as of now and we don’t know, when will we have one then how effective it will be. We haven’t got the vaccine for HIV as well, so definitely we need to look at the COVID pandemic in the same way. The precautions for protecting ourself from the disease need to be looked at with utmost importance at all point of time. As individuals, I think, we just have to keep on insisting these habits because we have nothing else in hand.
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Mr Bachchan highlighted that the fear of losing lives due to COVID was very high in the initial months and that’s why people were obeying rules of lockdown and was staying at home. But as the time passed, people are becoming careless. He added,
That is wrong…I have beaten COVID, I was in the hospital for almost 24 days, I went through the treatment, which was all sort of hitting in the dark as medical fraternity don’t really know what the cure of the disease is. The fact is that even after coming back, after becoming COVID negative and developing some kinds of antibodies, I was still quarantined in my room at home for 14 days. I strictly followed all the norms. Even now, when I go out of my house, I wear a mask, wash my hands as frequently as I can.
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Explaining few of the COVID appropriate behaviour that he himself is following as he has resumed work in the times of coronavirus, he said,
Yes, I am working, but I have laid down certain stipulations where I work, like the studio needs to be first sanitised with a particular chemical which is also approved by the ICUs of hospitals across, separate corridors needs to be built where you can’t get too close to me or other people. Everyone who works close to me is wearing PPE suits, masks and face shields. These are some of the very basic precautions we all are taking and I think, we can overly become examples for the rest of the people by doing this ourself and carry on with the dialogue that coronavirus is still not over and we all need to continue to take precautions.
Mr Bachchan also spoke about the incredible work that has been done by our doctors and medical staff. Giving a big thumbs up to their hard work over these past few months, he said,
I always had the greatest admiration for the medical fraternity, because I myself have gone through so many medical instances. But during this pandemic, the kind of the work they all have done, their selfless dedication of protecting so many lives, is just so admirable.
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Remembering a saying which he read in Gujarat some time ago and talking about the kind of sentiment that the medical fraternity arouses, he added,
I read – ‘If you find that the temples are empty these days, you know why it is because the gods have shifted to the hospitals in the white attire.’ It is so true – I have been to the hospital for my COVID-19 battle, I know how they are working – the doctors, nurses, staff – they don’t go home, they live on the premise, they work 24 hours for all seven days a week. They don’t care about their families, they care about the patient. They move from room to room and ICUs to ICUs. The attendants staff clean your bed, toilets and the endless amount of the hours they put in, without getting worried that they can also get infected with this virus. We have the greatest respect and regard for them and not just medical staff but our policemen, essential food and services because of whom we are able to get services at our doorstep.
Talking about the hope round the vaccine for COVID-19, Mr Bachchan added,
Obviously, we will all have to have some kind of hope that the medical fraternity will develop some kind of relief to this disease. And yes, we do hope that the vaccine does come out and becomeS effective and bring some kind of confidence among people. There have been cases when the vaccine have not work and somewhere it has worked. This will always happen – in some kind of cases people react positively to the vaccine in some they don’t. That’s going to be a perennial kind of a thought.
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Amitabh Bachchan further urged people to help their household helps by providing them basic hygiene and sanitation facilities like a soap for handwashing and said,
Since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, we have been repeating that we need to wash our hands and maintain good hygiene in bid to protect ourself from the virus. But, the bigger issue is for all those who don’t have access to such facilities. I would not like to put all on government itself, they can do some bit, but, the need is for private enterprises, people, individuals to come forward and think of ways on how we can help our overall society. If we all start taking care of washing facilities of our own household helps – we will be able to cover easily 4 to 5 lakh people. Let’s not depend for everything on the government – let’s start doing something on our own and help out the community at large. This should be the kind of sentiment we need to go forward with.
Talking about the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can move ahead, Mr Bachchan added,
Coronavirus has taught us all a lot of things. I feel some good will come out of all this. We never paid attention to washing hands before and look how that has changed and how we are doing that one thing over and over again. Our parents used to tell us that we should wash our hands before sitting down for food, if we have come from outside, they used to tell us go and take a shower – now all that is happening automatically.
He also said that the western world should be learning from India as we have done well in dealing with the crisis. He said,
It feels good that many western media are writing about our municipal corporations or cities and are awarding them for the way they have managed COVID. We have to understand that our population is huge – second largest in the world and with that respect the kind of numbers we have is no way near to the numbers that United States have – which has one third of our population.
Remembering an anecdote from the time he was diagnosed with COVID, he said,
When I went to hospital to get treated for COVID – I was amazed to see how well and prepared we were to fight the unknown battle. I thought I am going somewhere which doesn’t know how to deal with this crisis as of now. But I was left surprised – the room where the COVID patients are put, the kits doctors and staff wears to protect themselves from the virus, were all so updated. India is curing more and more people as compared to the diseased people. The facilities take time to be built and that’s why we had the lockdown before and I think that has given us time to prepare ourself better and fight the battle in a much stronger way.
Talking about what coronavirus pandemic really is and what has been his Swasthya Mantra for good health in these tough times, Amitabh Bachchan said,
Coronavirus is a type of virus that is looking for a home and that home is your lungs as it is where it can live. If the virus stays alive in your lungs it will make you sick. It can come from anywhere – from surfaces you may touch. That is why we all need to wash hands regularly and as frequently as possible. Because if we will not, our hands will get infected and if we touch our face, nose or mouth via those infected hands, the virus will infect us and our lives. That is why need to practice handwashing as that is the only thing that will help us protect from the virus and will make our hands swasth.
He further urged people to wear a mask and follow social distancing norms at all times and added,
When I see people not wearing mask, while going to work, I roll down my window and just ask them, ‘Hey, can you please wear a mask’. I may get abused or get shouted at but at least I have done my job. I think, we all need to in a way come together and get the message across to as many people as we can. Every time you see something which is not correct – just put in your word. It is not waste of your time, nor it takes too much effort. The more we are able to do this, the better it will be for all of us.
Amitabh Bachchan urged people to follow some basic thumbs rule in bid to safeguard them from the disease and said do not shake hands or hug people, because the virus can spread via those things. Instead talk to people by maintaining good physical distance and by wearing a mask. He added,
Practice #Mere10Guz, which means, clean your surroundings and nearby areas always. If we do all this, we all can fight coronavirus together and come out of the pandemic.
Mr Bachchan signed off by adding,
The #SwasthyaMantra for everyone should be to keep their lungs safe. Keeping lungs protected is essential, when I was in hospital, doctors used to tell me to do breathing exercises like holding breath for 45 seconds and it has stayed with me ever since. I keep on doing that now as well. I think we all need to do some form of exercises to live a healthy life. If you will keep your lung healthy, you will be able to keep yourself safe from this terrible disease.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.