–By Simmran Sharma
On December 31st 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of “pneumonia of unknown etiology” in the central Chinese metropolis Wuhan– a major transport hub. This outbreak came as a bad news amidst the approaching Lunar New Year, marking the start of busy travel season–even overseas–for the masses celebrating. On January 20th 2020, China’s top medical authority announced that this vicious virus can spread person to person and WHO convened an emergency meeting on January 22nd to determine the required international response. Ever since, this “viral pneumonia of unknown origin” has morphed into a world wide pandemic crossing 7 million confirmed cases on 8 June, 2020 claiming lives of over 4 lakh people globally.
In Retrospect, China may have missed out on golden period to control the spread of virus. It was considered that learning from its failures of 2003 SARS epidemic, China could deal with health emergencies in the present times. However, surprisingly enough the health authorities downplayed the outbreak and called it unlikely to repeat the 2003’s deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Despite early warnings from visionaries such as Bill Gates, who considered a deadly epidemic as one of World’s three biggest threats next to climate change and nuclear war, we failed to gear up for a calamity of such scope.
On 11 February 2020, this hitherto nameless virus was named COVID-19 in an attempt to make no reference to places, animals or people to avoid stigma. CO stood for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and, 19 for the year it was identified – December 31 2019 – hence, COVID19 was born. The world has since been facing shortage of income, economic slowdown, inadequacy in medical aid, reverse migration and what not. In this state of panic we are reminded that health is not valued until sickness comes. Whilst this illness can be contained with most basic measures such as washing hands it will remain until a vaccine is developed. And though it has been pushed that development of vaccines should take less than 90 days to avoid major loss, the time and resources are largely failing to do so and a complete cure remains to be a far cry.
But, even as the dark clouds hover over the sole existence of mankind we are forced to perceive the silver lining they are accompanied by. The focal point of world’s leading authorities and government has been drawn to some of the most important hot topics like making healthcare equitable. Once again we are reminded how important it is for treatment to be affordable and accessible to the multitude. People are compelled to pause and reflect, take a break from the mad rush of life. Everyone is finally realising the futility of money against the resources it cannot buy. The only wealth is well being and time is the only currency.
It feels like after an eternity, the over pressured environment is being allowed to breathe again and as it is happening we are forced to question our daily life routines. Did we really need to overburden the natural world to such an extent or was it just something we believed we needed. Since the lockdown, world is seeing an immense diminution in carbon footprints and the country has witnessed a sharp fall in air pollution in past weeks. And thus a pandemic ruled out another silent killer that had been taking toll on millions of lives each year –the very air we breathe. Isn’t it ironical, it took the world a virus that attacks respiratory system to actually have access to a cleaner and fresh air.
An immense amount of gratitude and appreciation is being showered over doctors, nurses, police, cleanliness staff and the entire medical staff. Daniel Kraft once said, “as a cancer doctor, I am looking forward to being out of job”. In times like these we realise who are the real heroes of this battle. The amount of sacrifice and hard work they put into building a better world is insurmountable. And yet, what they long for in such testing times– their family, kids, a moment of leisure and a good night’s sleep– we possess but do not care for.
Needless to mention, as people harmonize just like in any other crisis, this too has introduced new heights to generosity and integration. Millions are joining hands— figuratively of course– to feed, donate and provide shelter to homeless people and stray animals. People are striving to help the elderly and re-organising their priorities because they know now, how much their simple decisions can affect other people’s lives. People are crossing their comfort levels to jaunt beyond the sheer insignificance of “me”, “myself” and “I”. This is somewhere restoring faith in humanity and reclaiming some very wise words once said by Bruce Lee, “Under the sky under the heavens there is but one family.”
This isn’t an attempt to celebrate the outbreak or ridicule it’s fatal nature, because it isn’t an occurrence to be celebrated. But if the world as one doesn’t sought after what there is to learn from this fateful series of events that is where the real defeat will become inevitable. There are thousands more to be fed, thousands more to be sheltered . More prominent and evermore unfortunate issues highlighted but not created by this event, like xenophobia and discrimination are waiting for some action to be taken. Education, healthcare and sanitation are waiting still to no longer be privilege to mankind. How lovely would it be to actually live in the world once hypothetical now a reality; a world free of malice? Together we can not only overcome but prevail. So let us unite to defeat all evil and lead humanity towards a better tomorrow. In near future the pandemic might end but the war has just begun. Who knows maybe all the world needed was a push and what we are so afraid of now, in hindsight might prove to be the much needed lethal cure.