PANDEMIC TO NORMALCY: A JOURNEY
Mankind is currently capsized in the midst of an "unprecedented" lifestorm - a predicament that has swept through the life of every man, woman and child on the planet. A disease, a pandemic sickness that obeys no boundaries of either caste, creed or religion, social status or international borders, rages through the world, picking up lives with it's cold icy fingers, spreading breathlessness, death and massacre through every street it trundles through. In most countries at the moment, there is a complete or partial lockdown in most states, financial and GDP growth has frozen and fallen below sea level, and life in general, has been compromised massively. Unemployment is on the rise by the minute, the poor are starved and dying from hunger; there is no credit support to national reserve banks and the stock markets have fallen desperately. The healthcare systems of the Third World Nations are in a desolate state; unable to cope with the amount of the cases being reported daily, or to find remedies to face up to the death blow that was thrown at the question of human survival.
Temporarily, complete lockdown and strict maintenance of curfew seems to be the best solution, to tone down the spread of the disease, and ensure health upto a certain point, but this cannot go on forever, because, as in Devi Sridhar's words, "Lockdown is costly - both economically and socially". It is evident, that normalcy needs to be reinstated to a certain degree, for the world to start functioning again. Experts are of the suggestion that complete normalcy cannot be returned anytime soon, because the pandemic is still far from being under control, but the initial mobilization needs to be taken for life to be "normal" again.
The foremost measure to be taken, is to "swift-improvise" the healthcare system - increase resources for mass testing, purchase ventilators and provide medical relief independently. Alanna Sheikh, a member of the global healthcare system regulation society, suggests that a guideline should be set up to identify the major signs and symptoms of the ailment, and the data should be made public -so that there is am universal conformation to the chart. Since there is a lack of space to set up beds for the patients, remote fields and stadiums need to be converted into hospital tents. Nations need to collaborate with each other intensely, if they hope to cope with the pandemic humanely. Developed nations should provide ventilators to the overcrowded underdeveloped countries at a much reduced cost, so that the death toll can be minimized. The trial for vaccines need to be spurred on, because that is the only hope after the plasma infusion treatment was acknowledged to be futile a week ago. Meanwhile, the complete lockdown can be smoothed into a partial lockdown - provided
that strict measures of social distancing and personal hygiene are maintained. The following guidelines need to be implemented judiciously in every part of the world, I believe :
1. Crowding should be avoided at any cost. That reduces the chances of transmission by about 30%. Social events such as weddings, parties and sports matches should be streamed online, to prevent clustering.
2. Personal protective equipment such as face masks and carrying of an alcohol based hand-sanitizer should be made compulsory.
3. In public transports, only half the number of allotted seats should be allowed to fill up, and on airplanes, the middle seats should be left empty to reduce chances of person to person transmission.
4. Compulsory testing needs to be done at international borders for COVID-19 positive immigrants.
It is crystal clear even to a child that if trade and communication is staunched across the borders, countries might be starved and compromised immeasurably. So, essential commodities need to be imported but only with strict measures. Workers have to be compulsorily provided with protective gear, and asked to follow personal hygiene rigorously.
Amidst all this chaos, there has been a rising terror of there being insufficient revenues, and consequently, workers suffering from layoffs in jobs of the private sector. I personally believe that following America's policy of slashing through jobs might take an irrevocable toll on the Indian job market, and worsen the unemployment crisis. The government instead should provide relief measures to these private companies, so that they can retain their employees, even if on a minimum wage basis. The worst affected in this pandemic are the lower class and the lower middle class laborers, whose households run on daily earned wages. Currently, their life's savings have been drained out already, and the day is not too far, when they start dying from starvation even before the disease gets to them. Certain measures to ensure the survival of these unfortunate people, is on the government's mandate. The rabi crop is due to be harvested, and the grain houses need to be made vacant of the kharif crop first. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has to formulate measures how to channelize these food grains to the millions of dying population of the country, so that the food isn't, first of all, wasted, and the rabi crop can be accommodated, for the rest of the year. Also, the nation should understand the demand for self-sufficiency in dire times like this. It's evident, that we can trust global supply chains even less now, because there is no certainty based on their production and supply at the moment. But this might be a perfect situation to reverse the producer-consumer roles of the world. Developing nations can benefit immensely by turning to the producer end of the trade chain, and exporting indigenous goods; while developed countries will be made available to cheaper products that have been produced in the poorer nations. Since the stock market deteriorated immensely, central banks across the world, should be made more accessible to overseas investors, so that offshore bonds can be grasped more easily. Bond markets being opened up, might bring up the opportunities of trading currencies online and abroad. The bank interest rates should be brought down, and bank officials need to be given incentives to implement economically viable measures to reduce the GDP deficit.
More attention need to be paid to development of healthcare systems - this might have
been the first case of a pandemic, that took only 48 days to infect the first 1000 people; but next time, we might not even have that time lapse. Globally, the market prices have to be maintained optimally, if we hope for stability to return to life.Companies that can restart their establishments are the completely automated systems. Food packaging mills and suppliers need to be mobilized too - because our rations won't last indefinitely, and we soon need to find alternatives to sustain us while the major population still maintains strict social distancing and self-lockdown. I personally feel that this limited lockdown has been keeping down the spread of the virus, even if to a minimal amount. Consequently, those who have the means and resources to work from home, should avoid trudging outside, unless absolutely necessary. Students can take their classes from home for the time being, until the moment this disease comes under grip. The commodities that are absolutely indispensable are food, shelter and medical facilities. Most restaurants need to open their takeaway sectors, so that people can order food from home. The homeless can be relocated to indoor stadiums, only when their health situations have been ascertained; because one sick person can make an entire population sick. The worst part is, that the virus can live dormantly inside a carrier upto 20 days; so it's virtually impossible to identify the COVID-19 positive individuals, unless mass tests are conducted without exception.
This pandemic has only one exit strategy: that is, to reduce the number of infected cases and produce herd immunity in the entire population against the disease. If the mass health is compromised, there is no way normalcy will be reinstated in ever. Since the older population is more vulnerable to the infection, additional care needs to be taken for them for the time being. The younger generation should interact with them regularly, to make sure that loneliness and depression doesn't set in during these times. Alternate work day rules can be installed, to prevent clustering. Gradually, things will become smooth, and people will learn to live with the new rules of life. Maybe this was a wake-up call to mankind, about the dire consequences they might have to face, if they toy with the ways of nature. We need to learn our gigantic lesson from this biological apocalypse, and make tomorrow worth living.
As Thomas Carlson said, " Go as far as you can see; when you reach there, you will be able to see further." Right now, we just have to get to the horizon uptill where we can see; and then there's a million possibilities left for us to trade.
MBBS (1st year),
R.G.Kar Medical College.
Secured 1st Position (GROUP - II) in ' E-Competition on Creativity' organized by Techno India Group