Most people around the world are today extremely knowledgeable about COVID-19 than any other disease but are unable to do anything to strike it down, other than to hopefully follow directions of the experts. Newspapers are packed with Covid 19 stories from the front page to the sports page; TV has learned doctors and experts [...]

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Dealing with COVID-19 pandemic: The bad, the devastating and the good


Most people around the world are today extremely knowledgeable about COVID-19 than any other disease but are unable to do anything to strike it down, other than to hopefully follow directions of the experts.

Newspapers are packed with Covid 19 stories from the front page to the sports page; TV has learned doctors and experts who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable and others not so learned telling us all about it. But there is no sure-cure that anyone can recommend.

When the second wave hit India late last month, its prime minister was more interested in winning a number of state elections rather than controlling a pandemic. Pic shows family members of a COVID-19 victim mourn before his cremation at a crematorium ground in on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India. Reuters/Samuel Rajkumar

Covid 19 is taking us back to the contention of the 19th Century French philosopher Voltaire: The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

We are not belittling the medical profession’s contribution towards combatting the disease since it hit us a year and four months ago. Scientific researchers, doctors, nurses, medical administrators including the staff that keep wards going have made immense contributions.

The vaccines produced in a miraculously short time by a few countries — some of them working together in collaboration — have been hailed all round and are the best to save the victims but vaccine by itself cannot eradicate the disease, it is admitted by medical experts themselves. They speak of ‘ herd immunity’ where the community itself develops immunity but not entirely such as tuberculosis, ebola and some other diseases which are under control but not entirely eradicated. Ultimately the virus has to expend itself, it has been said. That is: It is nature that ultimately cures.

This writer does not claim any expertise on the subject and is only making observations on the passing scene. Law and Order is the top priority of the Rajapaksa government, as it should be for any government. And five golden rules to be observed during this pandemic have been pronounced and is parroted to us over the media. The ‘Panchaseela of Covid’– if we may be permitted to use the term — comprises: Wear face masks, Wash hands, keep a social distance of at least a meter, do not congregate at public places and no social gatherings — parties are banned.

A police spokesman, in a decorated uniform with rows of ribbons, is omnipresent on TV channels, appearing many times of the day and also in news pages and repeats the five golden rules in all solemnity, gives numbers of those arrested and, as a warning, projects pictures of curfew-law violators being carried away in police vehicles. Whether this exercise is having desired results, we are unaware of, but has the number of curfew violators been reduced or ceased?

Is this another exercise of Cops Vs Robbers dating back to the days of Robin Hood and Sardiel? The cops usually win but new robbers keep coming in. Robbers are a product of iniquitous society, sociologists say.

When Covid recommendations are violated by the notable and quotable, it does appear to the people that they are not as sacred as they are made out to be in the media . Quite often it is seen that young men with the devil-may-care attitude to life, come on to the streets for relaxation, endangering their own lives and those of others.

It could be said that these critical days are not the days for sociological analysis and remedies but youth have kept coming on to streets violating the ‘Covid Panchaseela’ as they did during the first lockdown. Probably they have no proper homes to stay in and obey the laws. When VIPs are seen at public functions without masks and not observing social distancing, the people supposedly vested with ‘sovereign power’ will not give sanctity to laws parroted on TV or in other media.

At the time of writing these comments, amidst this life threatening issue and debates on ‘Making Sri Lanka Green’ and Port City ‘the hub’ of all things, taking our attention away from the deadly topic, the Covid debate had boiled down to mass and quick vaccinations being the only way to bring the pandemic under control. But Lanka, despite last year’s claims of being among high ranked nations in the control of the pandemic, is now being engulfed in a third wave and doesn’t have the required amounts of vaccines.

Despite assurances , vaccines are only coming in fits and starts leaving many, including vulnerable Octogenarians and those above not vaccinated, some only half-vaccinated and a great majority still to be vaccinated.

However, the covid virus, despite the devastation it had on Planet Earth, has surprisingly brought about beneficial results as well by helping two of the biggest countries and the world itself, by bringing the roof down on the heads of two megalomaniacs.

Donald Trump, President of the only Superpower of the World, was close to ending his first term and was cruising to victory for a second. His pro capitalist policies had worked, though rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. The stock market was galloping, employment figures were the best in decades, even the Hispanics and Blacks were employed as never before and the economy was booming. American elections are won on the state of the economy and Trump had the second term on a platter.

But COVID-19 ruined the man before he ruined the planet. It’s a ‘Chinese virus’, ‘Only a flu’ that will go away when it warmed up after spring. Macho Trump predicted ignoring his own scientific advisers. The greatest contribution of the virus was that its fallout resulted not only in the ouster of an American president but also the man who pulled out his country from the World Climate Agreement, threatening the world with environmental disaster. Joe Biden has re-entered the Climate Agreement, improving chances of global survival.

If Trump played the white supremacist policies in undertones, Narendra Modi, the extrovert Indian Prime Minister made no attempts to hide his bigoted Hindutva nationalist policies aimed at the second biggest minority in India, the Muslims numbering 204 million or comprising 15 percent of the Indian population. He had destroyed the cultured secularist policies of Jawarhalal Nehru with Hindutva that played the anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistani policies popular with the majority of the 1.3 billion population.

He brutally suppressed the first Covid wave when millions of Indians were thrown to the streets as businesses in cities closed down and migrant workers lost their jobs. Without homes in cities and little or no money they were compelled to walk thousands of miles across Indian states with their children, some falling down with exhaustion, hunger and dying.

With that brutal lockdown, he controlled India’s first wave of the pandemic. Early this year he boasted to world billionaires assembled at the World Economic Forum whose countries were reeling with COVID-19 that India knew how to control pandemics and had done so.

But when the second wave hit India late last month the demagogue was more interested in winning a number of state elections rather than controlling a pandemic and he relaxed most controls to prevent the spread of the disease. The disease spread at speeds beating all world records as Modi campaigned desperately in Bengal to save his prestige but lost to a woman with guts —Mamata Bannerjee — whom a commentator has described as the only man among the 1.3 billion Indians.

The Modi magic has been stalled. He had been compared to a modern day Nero, an Indian commentator saying that Modi has turned Nehruvian politics of India into Nerovian antics.

If COVID-19 can do what it did to Donald Trump, history will look at the pandemic as a beneficial factor too in world politics.

(The writer is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island and former consultant editor of the Sunday Leader)

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