The World after COVID-19
By: Nirjhar Datta X-D
“It is during a crisis that unity is sparked.”
Not a single soul can be spotted in the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata. Not a single soul can be seen admiring the Eiffel Tower, Paris. The streets of Milan lie deserted. All over the globe, places and attractions usually filled with crowds bustling with joy, laughter and an array of emotions are empty. The entire human population save for medical workers, about 7 billion people are being advised to meet no one. Countries have declared strict lockdowns. All of this trouble and danger to the creatures at the top of the food chain, only because of a tiny organism, about 20 lakhs times smaller than a regular football. This micro-organism of the Coronaviridae family causes COrona VIrus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as nCOV-19 or simply as ‘Coronavirus’.
First cases of the new respiratory disease were reported from the Chinese province of Wuhan in December of 2019. It is believed to have originated from the province’s wet market, though theories stating that the virus was genetically engineered in the Wuhan Institute of Virology exist. This new disease swiftly spread across the globe; the infections growing at an alarming rate. It was not long before WHO declared the disease a pandemic. As of now, it has reached the remotest nooks and cranies of 210 different countries. This has resulted in what is potentially the greatest crisis of our generation. This tiny virus has killed an uncountable number of individual belong to the species which crowns itself as the ruler of the earth, and subsequently shown it it’s actual place in nature. Just as much as it has affected in terms of infections and deaths, it has also affected all fields of life: work, education and everything else. Not to mention the burden on the economy, and the toll on it is tremendous. The World Bank has stated that it is “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” Global leaders are concerned with mitigating the disease. There are a number of things this pandemic has shown and taught us. Apart from the scientific developments, there are deeper cultural, ethical and even philosophical things, which we will have to dig a little deeper to understand.
To quote eminent Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, “In previous global crises – such as the 2008 financial crisis and the 2014 Ebola epidemic – the US assumed the role of global leader. But the current US administration has abdicated the job of leader.” The United States has made it quite clear that cares about the greatness of America far more than it does about the future of humanity. The result of not implementing a proper lockdown in USA is the country topping the charts in both the number of infections as well as deaths. Apparently, this was done to save the economy. However, other countries like China and India did not follow this ideology; they placed their people before the economy, and so the situation is not as bad in these countries.
The infections patterns of COVID-19 have once again shown, like all other epidemics, that it affects people of all races, castes, creeds, religions and genders. The chances of someone getting infected by the virus do not depend on whether they wear the sacred thread or not, or whether they offer ‘Namaz’ or not. It attacks those who come in contact with it, and if they do not proper hygiene. This has once again proved that nature never discriminates. Neither should we. In spite of such an obvious deduction, people are sparking even more racial differences. Muslims are being accused of spreading the virus voluntarily as ‘bio-terrorism’. Hindu monks are being lynched. We need to remember that we are all in the same boat, and need to put aside our differences. An international level projection of the same is required in the form of globalisation. Most South Asian countries have followed this ideology, take for example the donation of 15 million PPE kits to India to China. Basically, rich countries should distribute medical equipment like PPE kits and respirators to poorer and deficient countries instead of hoarding them.
These are, however, only secondary factors in the prevention of infections. The primary weapon against the virus remains public awareness and personal hygiene. Although it may sound trivial, the best thing we can do is wash our hands with soap or alcohol-based disinfectants, both of which destroy the virus’s lipid membrane. Out of all the truths and important facts about this disease, the public has access to most, but is still fed mostly lies by the media and through various social media platforms. With false rumors circulating on popular social media platforms, it is hard to dodge the plethora of false facts. The TV news channels should help with this, but they too are creating unnecessary panic, in addition to presenting rumors in such a way that they appear like facts to the public. The most authentic information one can get is from the WHO website.
Now, this is all about what is going on in the present. The leaders are taking necessary steps, and all we can do now is stay at home. The question remains: what will happen to the world after this? The answer is, it will be very different. The experiences peoples are having in self-quarantine will make them rethink about and question our present system. They are being told to work from home. But then, why not work from home during ‘normal’ times as well? Students are being told to attend online classes, but then why not attend online classes regularly year round? People are being told to buy and use digital, software-based products instead of physical ones. But then, why not buy digital products like e-books instead of physical hardbacks in our usual life? These questions linger in our minds, and make us question our ways. No, the work efficiency we can achieve in a proper work environment may not be attained from home, and the understanding of concepts that takes place in face-to-face interaction may not be achieved in online schools. Neither can we get that feeling and sense of satisfaction of adding a real book to our personal library through e-books. But if we are willing to overlook these small setbacks, we can exponentially increase our efficiency and/or experience if we correctly use our digital resources. Why not make collective and cost effective sharing of digital resources by easily sharing them with colleagues? Why not relate study materials or educational videos from some other corner of the world to a full blown institute? Instead of eating up physical space, why not conveniently store our books on a small device? These are the questions that will open our eyes to the usefulness of technology and those which will ultimately reshape our world.
Yes, there are numerous concerns and speculations about the coronavirus. But there is one thing we can be sure of. When this passes, and it will, the world will be a very different place. If there is anything good that has come out of this, it is the fact that humans will have to rethink, and possibly overhaul all its prevalent systems, strategies, attitude and most importantly, their actual place in the nature.