Covid-19: We Are Not Invincible

Covid-19: We Are Not Invincible

Today the world is completely different from what it was before the Coronavirus outbreak in China in December 2019 and its subsequent spread to countries around the world. The situation is reminiscent of the popular lines from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “……it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered Coronavirus. The virus has caused the world to witness an unprecedented scenario. Words like quarantine, isolation, and restrictions are becoming increasingly routine. The whole world is under an unparalleled state of lockdown. This is not a law and order problem but one of law of nature and order of need without resistance from any quarter. The lockdown stands unopposed because when the very mortality of life is at stake, one does not mind the consequences of actions undertaken to save that life, no matter how intimidating the preventive actions may seem.
As the outbreak of the virus wreaks havoc across the world, it also sheds light on some lessons, some learnings, and a lot of introspection. The Coronavirus has shattered the myth of human invincibility. Sure, we have built buildings and bridges, roads and railways, ports and planes, but today we are completely helpless and totally vulnerable in the face of this adversity. The virus has made us realize how fragile we are. Our lives today resemble an eerie dream. It feels like we are in dream & all these effortless deaths across the world looks an illusion.
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has been immensely disruptive. Many businesses such as hospitality, travel and tourism, insurance, and e-commerce have been severely hit. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that the economic decline is “far worse” than that of the Great Recession in 2009 . The World Bank and credit rating agencies have downgraded India’s growth for fiscal year 2021 with the lowest figures India has seen in three decades since India’s economic liberalization in the 1990s . In a little over a month’s time, the rate of unemployment rose from 6.7% on March 15 to 26% on April 19 . These statistics are indeed worrying.
The collapse of our social and political systems is not hidden. The panic is perfectly summarised in Charles Dickens’, “……it was the worst of times”.
When we look at the coercive and extreme measures taken by countries to protect their citizens from the virus, it appears as if humans are dying only of the virus when the fact is that humans have understood death for as long as they have understood life.
Scientists all over the world are working around the clock to find a cure for this deadly disease. There are many steps being undertaken to contain the virus and protect lives so much so that our planet has been locked down. But this is not humanity’s first tragedy. Isn’t the life of an individual important in the face of any other tragedy, say from hunger, poverty, sponsored violence, wars, strikes, etc. Why is it so that none of these have evoked a similar response from those at the helm of affairs? Are the lives of people dying from hunger, poverty, and violence not important? The answer to this question becomes increasingly clear with time. We know that the virus does not discriminate. It attacks people irrespective of caste, religion, status, or political affiliations. This is one of those rare moments when the elites around the world feel the heat of the threat as much as the “commoners”. They are rattled by its mention and are desperate to avoid the virus with everything at their disposal – power, money, connections, and a brutal lockdown enforcement which has had huge economic repercussions. Poverty and hunger on the other hand, attack selectively. Why would this bias bother the elites? Violence, war, strikes also often affect only the most oppressed and helpless. Just like the coronavirus these too are man-made but why have no extraordinary measures been ever taken to check these. The global response towards any humanitarian crisis is always influenced by who is it that is affected or dying. We are aware of the stark differences in the world’s response between a catastrophe in the pre-coronavirus world and the current environment.
The lockdown makes us realize how intrinsic freedom and liberty areto human life. In the current situation, we value what we almost took for granted earlier. We understand what a blessing freedom was. The freedom to move outdoors, the freedom to eat what we want, go where we want, be with our friends. Freedom is indeed an inseparable part of human lives and makes them beautiful. Don’t we miss it!
On a lighter note, the continuous state of lockdown has made us forget what a ‘Sunday’ looked like. We are working from home but we are at home. Being at home was reserved for Sundays. Home is where we have everything but being at home all the time can be so monotonous and uninspiring. This is a natural human trait. Our survival depends on freedom. Our productive strength comes from being free. And we now understand how freedom and liberty are central to human lives.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has also shed light on the robustness of our healthcare systems. The pandemic has put great strain on the healthcare systems around the world and even the developed nations are struggling to deal with the ever-rising number of those infected. The health situation in New York, which is home to some of the best hospitals and has a large concentration of doctors, specialists, and hospital beds, is under deep stress with many hospitals resorting to what they call rationing care .
The virus has exposed the fragility of the medical system and how little it was prepared for unforeseen emergencies such as this one. It gives away the lackadaisical attitude of most governments in strengthening medical infrastructure and providing for life-saving equipment. It has brought intopublic discourse the magnitude of priority, or lack thereof, put on the health sector. Naturally, these arrangements are now being made in a hurried manner with little to no regard for quality. Take for instance, the inadequate availability of masks, ventilators, and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). All this also begets another question – in the time when governments around the world outdid each other in expanding their defence budgets and acquiring nuclear arsenal, did it not occur to them that perhaps spending money on saving people’s lives would be a better investment to make. How can our people fight the enemy outside when we do not help them to fight the enemies residing in their bodies – sickness and disease. Access to healthcare is still a distant dream in many countries. It is an established fact that many nations spend more on military than heath . Shouldn’t healthcare get the lion’s share of a country’s GDP? Governments today are resorting to crowdfunding to deal with the crisis. Nothing wrong with that but shouldn’t our elected representatives be better prepared to deal with such contingencies.
The gravity of this brings to forth our vulnerability – we may have reached the moon and Mars; we may have championed the cause of technological advancement but none of that makes us invincible. At the end of the day, we are mere mortals who have been brought to their knees in the face of this affliction. It has made the mighty look ordinary, be it China, Spain, Italy, or the United States of America.
At the onset of this decade, who knew what it held in store for us. Every news report now is less comforting than the other and there’s no end in sight. While this pandemic has shown our defencelessness and feebleness, we as humankind love to hope and we hope that we are able to put this behind us. And when we come out of this, a new world order will emerge that will see us change, the institutions change, and the governments change hopefully into something better.

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