Coronavirus has become a beast of many heads. What has come with the disease is a great amount of panic and fear. For a while, everybody wanted to be tested as soon as possible for COVID-19 as a way to stay aware and safe. Now, they would rather not.
In many places in Bengaluru, the fear has built, of somebody catching the virus or coming in contact with someone who has gone through it. With the government allowing swab collection volunteers to help add hands to the understaffed authorities, a new wave of backlash against them has emerged.
The stigma against swab collection volunteers
It's become hard for authorities to encourage people to get tested for COVID-19. This is isn't limited to Bengaluru or Karnataka incidents of people filing complaints or picking a bone with authorities has become a common occurrence. In Tripura, after a 3-day old baby died three days after swab collection, a complaint was filed.
Much of it stems from the stigma of simply getting tested for COVID-19. You don't even have to test positive, just getting tested for COVID-19 these days is an intimidating process. Many of these tests are done through swab collection and Rapid Antigen Tests. Some residents don't want to divulge personal details such as phone numbers, earlier this month many were missing from BBMP's radar who had tested positive for COVID-19
The BBMP set up mobile testing units, they're offering free COVID-19 tests around the city as well. Yet, the response has been lukewarm. In July, the government had issued an order taking into cognisance the shortage of staff to allow volunteers to help in swab collection. This included science graduates, medical degree holders and diploma holders a 30th July order from the Health and Family Welfare Department stated.
Another complaint that has emerged against swab collectors, is the question of are they qualified and are they authorised to help take these tests. Interestingly, the volunteers aren't conducting these jobs for their own benefit.
Combatting the misinformation and fear IPS officer D Roopa shared a government order today on Facebook, "Govt has passed the order that even science graduates be used for swab test. There are some ignorant people who are unaware of the emergency and dearth of people for doing this. Sad that they neither volunteer nor allow selfless volunteers to perform. Their ego takes over their motive of service. In all BBMP zones, volunteers have been used for swab test. Some blissfully seem to be unaware of this and keep posting utter nonsense on social media."
A few days back on August 22nd, she also shared a video of swab tests stating that they are completely safe to take, "Swab tests are totally safe& let's do away with a lot of misconceived notions& fear around Covid Swab Collection& Testing."
Perhaps, the stigma will be a much longer battle to fight than the disease itself. Or so it seems.