The two most potent forces that run the jungle are hunger and sex. The modern human is no different from animals except that animals only kill when hungry or threatened and indulge in seasonal sex. The modern human is fighting obesity and failing to find love inspite of multiple partners. Even after millions of years of evolution and technological advancement, humans continue to die by large numbers due to hunger, epidemics and violence. A good number of people fear that the world will end due to some natural calamity or interstellar activity and many blockbuster Hollywood movies have portrayed that day to their advantage. But there is enough evidence to indicate that the danger is not from outside but inside. Infact the planet is under no threat. The human race is.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19, undoubtedly the biggest crisis of our lifetime, has led many to believe the same. It is a new virus and capable of passing easily from person to person indicating a high transmission rate. Countries and governments are fiercely trying to contain the spread in a connected world where countless people undertake travel for business, education and pleasure. Each infected person becomes a host and can further infect many more resulting in mass infections in a small period. Many nations have sealed their borders failing to realize that their attention is better spent taking measures that actually work to prevent the spread of disease. Scientists are already working on a vaccine, but the likelihood of a good vaccine is atleast 12 to 18 months from now. To make matters worse there’s widespread seasonal flu activity going on right now in many countries around the world.
India’s conventional vulnerability of the already fragile healthcare system, large population and a worrisome fact that India expends a measly 1.28% of its GDP on health care are suggestive of unimaginable challenges ahead. The country has a poor culture of testing, and most people with flu symptoms do not go to doctors and instead try home remedies or alternative therapies. ICMR has justified low testing by quoting panic spread, home quarantine and insufficient proof of a community spread. WHO’s suggestion was written off by ICMR Director as “Premature”. Since this kind of pandemic is unprecedented the leadership is clueless. A number of preventive recommendations have been made but the compliance depends entirely on the willingness of general public and health officials to follow them. Precious time has already been lost in trusting people with self quarantine. The recent upsetting display by Indian people, in many parts of the country, just after the “Janta Curfew” has left many doubts about the way this nation will be affected by the virus. And further upsetting is the fact that most of these people were educated and aware. It was unsettling to see them burst out on the streets, after just a 14 hour lockdown, like the champagne out of a bottle. Completely unaware, those people were playing a relay race with the virus as a baton.
No country would like to remotely experience what China, Italy, Iran and many other countries have been through. But countries like Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore have set forth the model to be followed by others. Though it may be premature to say that they have successfully contained the outbreak as suggested by the demographical analysis of the cases on the basis of gender, age and habits, there are crash courses to be taken by studying the model. The virus cannot exchange information but countries can. All it requires is a spirit of global solidarity and well coordinated global effort. The governments are picking tactics like lock down, mass testing, halt of transportation and a few developed countries are promising to offer financial aids to businesses and individuals who are likely to suffer from the predator virus. The only question everyone’s asking is; when will it end? This too shall pass but it will change our lives forever. It is almost absolutely certain that we won’t be able to completely eradicate the virus and may have to live with it. Life changing decisions are being made in the blink of an eye. Most people may work from home and communicate only at a distance. Education may become online. In normal times all these things may have been unimaginable. But these aren’t normal times. In a moment of disaster, decisions can modify quickly.
Safe distancing the human race from the deadly virus may require complete community lock down for unknown periods of time which may lead to progressive decline in physical, mental and financial health. All of this is inevitable until a vaccine or cure is available; and that appears to be a distant solution. Humanity is toe to toe with a deadly virus, almost a life and death situation, bringing out the best and the worst. In the days to follow, we should trust scientific data and WHO’s advice more than speculative conspiracy theories and crafty politicians. Sensational responses that make big news usually give false hope that ultimately backfires in the times of social media and internet. At the end of this there will be many lessons to be learnt but for now the only sane advice to follow is coming from WHO for the governments and individuals. “Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all.”
Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.