The Corona Virus has put brakes to our normal lives. The things we once took for granted and felt entitled to have suddenly become novelties. As of September, 10th, 2020, we are close to a million deaths and the virus does not seem to give up. Added to the already precarious conditions, little progress has been made to develop a vaccine that works. The Chinese and the Russians seem to have made some progress but the efficacy of the vaccines are still to be tested.
The world however is frantically preparing itself to adjust to the concepts of lock-down, social distancing and “Work from Home” (WFM). A lot of organizations and leaders who once were serious advocates of employees coming to work have suddenly metamorphosed into WFM advocates having found trust overnight in employees working remotely.
The situation gets further grim once you factor the economic slow down that has resulted in job losses, depression, budget cuts, hoarding and a grim sense of doom. For the world to rise and come back to pre-Covid days, steps have to be taken and we could begin by letting go of the term ” the new normal” and work towards getting back to the “normal” days where we walked freely, head to head and shoulder to shoulder, where we drove to places in gusto and savoured every bit of what the word had to offer, where the daily wages worker could live with some level of security and where we felt free. This is not impossible and we need to reflect and start solving for the problems rather than fight the symptoms.
History Reminds Us
The Corona Virus pandemic is not new and mankind has been witness to far deadlier plagues and pandemics. The Black Death which had engulfed Europe in the 1347 claimed about 200 million people in about 4 years and was the first instance when people were “quarantined” to curb the spread. The Cocoliztli epidemic that plagued Mexico in the 16th century led to more than 15 million deaths.
What we have learnt from these pandemics has been that life does come to a standstill when these plagues hit you and then chugs along eventually to normalcy. The time frame in between decides the consequences. While some plagues have been wiped out civilizations, mankind has always managed to bounce back and return to the “Normal” where people could intermingle and congregate. There is hence, hope that the phrase “The New Normal” will determine habits and discipline of people and countries and not necessary push us into a lock-down mode forever.
Problems > Symptoms
The Covid-19 has clearly exposed the lack of will of the world leaders and nations to address the problem since they have been busy solving for the symptoms. While the vaccine will save millions of lives, we have to ask ourselves if we have done enough to curb or restrict such a spread in the times to come. The virus was transmitted through animals who were infected from bats in a wholesale food market in Wuhan City, China.
The lack of initiative and pro-activeness from the WHO was easily demonstrated when the WHO chief downplayed the risks but we know how it all panned out in the end. A lot of us have paid and most of us will pay though loss of lives and loved ones.
The first cases of the virus being spread was noticed and subsequently notified to the Chinese authorities but these attempts were silenced and some brave souls who defied were lost forever.The case of consumption of exotic animals has been one of the chief characteristics of the Chinese diet and it was a matter of time that an outbreak such as the one we are witnessing came forth with its ugly head and shook us all. A period of almost 2 months had gone by till the Chinese authorities revealed the precarious condition, a delay which has literally ruined millions of lives, lost billions of dollars and stifling the world economy.
The world has not learnt from its mistakes and China, which has been the reservoir of such break-outs, goes virtually free. To add insult to injury, its territorial ambitions and clear disregard to sovereignty of neighboring nations makes it a problem for the world. The need is now of strict policies and protocols to curb such breakouts and imposition of punitive measures as a result of such devious acts.
Leveraging Global Expertise
The true test now is for nations and leaders to join forces and tackle this menace. We have made considerable progress in the field of science, technology and medicines and we are more equipped now than we were ever before. While some countries have already embarked on their journey to launch a vaccine, the true litmus test will be the time frame within which they are launched.
The average time time to develop a vaccine is 10 years with multiple stages involved such as Discovery Research, Pre-Clinical Tests, Clinical Development, Regulatory Review, Approval and Manufacturing. The world is trying to shorten the time from 10 years to a year or 18 months. This puts a lot of stress not only on the labs developing the vaccine but also for people involved in clinical tests. The race is on and presently the virus clearly seems to be winning. As per the latest stats, we have 1500 organizations working together to outrun the spread and yet the challenges ahead are insurmountable. The decisions regarding pricing, distribution and licensing will be critical to beat the virus and these could make or break the momentum once we have the vaccine ready.
The Responsibility of Citizens
While we leave the heavy lifting with the government, institutions, labs and world leaders, we as citizens cant be going on with our lives as usual hoping things will be back to normal. As citizens we play an integral role in providing much support to these bodies and institutions. The lock-down is increasingly seen as impositions from the government and civic bodies and citizens have taken the grim decision to trifle with the safety protocols. The risk of community spread can only be curbed by the very protocols that people in many parts of the world have so consciously overlooked. No one knows the trauma of the risk until one gets infected and then its probably a bit too late. In India, some months ago, people were down on the streets dancing and celebrating when the lock-down was eased for sometime. We dont want a situation where our world bodies succeed with the vaccines only to be failed by the citizens. Hence the onus is on everyone of us to participate and beat the menace