As India enforces a nationwide lock down due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, one police officer has found a creative way to get the message across. Rajesh Babu, a police inspector in the southern city of Chennai, wears a specially constructed coronavirus helmet while stopping vehicles and pedestrians at checkpoints.The helmet is covered in red spikes with bulbs on the end, just like the microscopic image of the coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19.
Police inspector Rajesh Babu in a coronavirus-themed helmet, talking to commuters in Chennai, India, on March 28.Local artist B. Gowtham, founder of the Chennai-based organization Art Kingdom, came up with the helmet after noticing a lack of public awareness around the pandemic and preventative measures.”People are not hygienic enough,” Gowtham said. “We have government orders not to come out — but still, we’re seeing people roaming here and there without proper safety equipment, without masks.”Gowtham thought people weren’t taking the illness seriously because it seemed invisible. So he decided to create something whereby they could actually see the virus coming toward them.Then, he said, “people will be frightened.”
Gowtham went to his nearest police station. “They’ve been working continuously, so I wanted to reduce their workload and make people more aware,” he said. After getting their support, he got to work.Every store was shut, so he improvised, using newspapers and tissue paper to create the helmet and its spikes — then gave it to police inspector Babu, who loved the idea.Wearing the helmet, Babu stops people in cars or motorcycles, especially when he sees them not wearing face masks. He tells them about the necessity of social distancing and protective personal equipment, and urges them not to go outside for nonessential reasons.
The helmet has been well received, Gowtham said, with a number of commuters thanking Babu for the information and agreeing to stay home.India has recorded 1,024 cases of the coronavirus and 27 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown last Tuesday, and it went into effect midnight that day. The short notice could be one reason why people were caught off guard, Gowtham said.