27 Mar 2020

Lessons from Coronavirus could help Reform Humankind

The COVID-19 virus is a tough story to wrap your head around and so many questions are asked. Where and why did it originate, how did it turn pandemic, are we over-reacting, why is it so much more dangerous than tuberculosis, which is an ongoing pandemic and still kills 1.5 million each year.

The one clear take is that this new virus and the panic-demic, has spread like wildfire thanks to a dense and interconnected world. Budget airlines hastened its reach, and modern day social & electronic media were prompt in spreading its infamy. And our human world is still shaking, hard !

An unwanted alien, the novel coronavirus cares a hoot for borders or walls. Just a simple mask can do the trick… sometimes. As with its poorly cousin diarrhoea, a decent hand wash can also keep it away. But once in, this newbie will observe no niceties with its host.

An extensive and intense global wake-up has resulted, probably because this virus is indiscriminate, and oh so inclusive. It does not differentiate between the rich developed and the not-so-rich underdeveloped parts of our world. This novel coronavirus works in rapid fire sequence and sees equal opportunity in all regions, strata and races of humans. Invisible true, it has brought visibility to unnecessary deaths, doled out unsolicited agony and given a swift kick in the pants of economic survival of many peoples and countries.

COVID-19 has done grave harm, but is it possible to also spot some learnings...

  • An itsy-bitsy virus has disciplined us to stay a Queue... keeping distance is viral! 

Maybe cars would henceforth also keep a safe distance of 1.5 metres on our roads

  • The Sky is Blue, once again, over Delhiby Toutatis it does not appear to be falling on our heads anymore.

The Air Quality Index tells it is safe for outdoor sports, goading me to exercise – thankfully the lock-down is valid excuse to remain a couch potato.

  • Everyone got together, to tinkle bells and blow the conch... not for worship in temples, but to celebrate grassroots heroes.

Swami Vivekananda must be proud, that for once, all of India resounded with bells, drums conches and hails that were directed at living idols.

  • The Mask is back... bigger and more colorful than before.  

Time to review that movie again! Surely, this virus knows enough to shy off from masked heroes.

  • We wash our hands as if life depended on itmaking a song & dance of it too!

Maybe this time we will make a deeper dent on other infectious diseases too. (handwashing can prevent ~30% of diarrhoea-related sicknesses and ~20% of respiratory infections)

Social distancing can somehow, have a reverse effect - in my case it made me more socially active. My phone analyses that I am making twice as many outgoing calls, and my wife tells me that my time on Linkedin and whatsapp has grown multi-fold. But like this virus, the base was near zero, so she has to wait for the long term trend.

This virus has ravaged health systems and depleted some infallible beliefs of many around the world. No one is omnipotent and everyone is suspect... no matter how your economy ranked, it has by now tanked. Many a retirement nest egg is turned to toast, and others are forced to re-prioritise their growth. Long term plans are in a tizzy and havoc is afoot. I wonder at having to attach anklet trackers on some hapless diseased, and indelible ink got used to mark virus carriers. At playing fields used as hospitals, roadsides for ICU care, and school buildings to cordon a truant virus with its unwilling hosts and at reefer trucks & ice rinks in use as makeshift morgues. Temples, churches and mosques are readily shut, community kitchens have multiplied, and so many are now discovering science afresh.
This virus has impressed on us some truths, of how misplaced in mind and frail of body we are, and how inadequate in resources we can remain.
It perturbs when my colleagues inform, this pandemic has begun to scare even the hardy farming population, that fresh harvest, ready on fields is left ignored. It is disquieting that elderly neighbours felt too shy to immediately ask for help. I worry about my parents who border 90 years and for my son, who is now isolated in a camp, because he shared a flight where the virus had hitched a ride on another passenger. I used to fret about slowing climate change, the pressure felt urgent, as we only had a few dozen years at hand. Now one worries whether this virus will slow its spread, and wishing it in just a few weeks.

Yet, it is to rejoice to see nations step up their care for the impoverished, and one hopes it will escalate into cooperative efforts across borders. It feels nice to have a long lost friend connect for a status check across continents, reminding the advantage of living in a shrunken world. It is rejuvenating to see neighbours sharing, making time to comfort one another and express concern for strangers around the globe. It is hopeful to observe that a short pause on our part, could repair our air so fast and see birds and butterflies display their colors again. Seemingly, even terrorists are staying a break - a bigger meaner terror is on prowl.

I imagine COVID-19 will be the worst that humanity will face this century – oops, again forgot climate change! Nevertheless, I wish it will soon fade off, mutate away, or be destroyed. I guess the world will lend strength to those who have suffered and therefore also heal. Knowledge sharing has taken new meaning, and I know it will return us to the busy vibrant civilization we are, and that time may fade the memory of pains inflicted.

But what I truly hope is, that we will consciously retain the lessons, good and bad, this pandemic is forcing on us; and, that science will prevail, knowledge collaboration will be genuine, trust between nations is renewed, and humanity is inspired to better itself.

Meanwhile, please stay safe-
  1. Keep social distance - physically apart and more together in heart

  2. Wash hands - but don't be scared to shake a leg or bounce elbows

  3. Don't cough or breathe into another's face - period

  4. Wear a face mask - but keep your identity and remember that of others

  5. Don't rush to hospitals - only if your respiration gets effected

  6. Care for the ill - they are not zombies, merely unwell

  7. Share with the needy - we are all on the same boat

Till we can meet again...

Physical distancing, to dampen the curve, is a stop gap measure to slow the spread of this virus, only to delay the case load on health services. In a dozen months or so, the real solution, a vaccine will be at hand. At that point, we'll have to reverse tactics ... and begin to actively spread that vaccine, to a billions of people. Countries must plan in advance, to run faster than the damn virus, when it is time to deploy its bane, its vaccine.

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