Pandemic is an epidemic of a disease which has presently spread all over the world. The current pandemic has spread across the globe. The main difference in the recent pandemics and the previous ones is the communication methods of the 21st century. These communications include travel modes, personal and public communications. Sitting in your home, you can see the TV channels from the world over. You can be in touch with your near and dear ones 24/7 using voice or video methods. One can have “family meetings” using apps like zoom!
With all the technology around, except for the Vaccine or the cure, the whole world knows everything about the current situation minute by minute. Sometimes it loses seriousness and looks like a commentary of sports events. The number of deaths is just a number like a strike two in base–ball, and the number of wickets fallen in a cricket match. We are lucky that these commentators do not shout like in football, it is a goooooooal!
Why am I saying that the ending is going to be very, very messy? None of the pandemics that occurred before ended medically except smallpox! The last patient for smallpox was seen in 1977. But all other pandemics have tapered off into a situation, where people started getting used to them. It means that the problem does not come under control medically but socially. People and governments learn the methods to contain them and to overcome the fear. Lockdown is a tested and proven method.
I will share with you with the information about the Bubonic plague. I am giving you the history so that we may understand how COVID will go away.
Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak.
The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats.
The plague began in 1331 in China. The plague continued for some time, along with a civil war, that was raging at the time. It killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the people of Siena, Italy, died. It seems, as far as diseases are concerned China and Italy seem to have a great partnership from olden days.
That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighbourhoods trying to rid them of the plague.
The 1918 flu is the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the Flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide.
We have already seen that people are getting fed up of restrictions. Governments are worried about social revolts. The movement of migrant workers in India to their native places is a classic example of the same.
Governments relax restrictions which give them a kick on the butt in some cases, e. g. Singapore. In India, the numbers during the last week are increasing fast. Chennai is leading “the charge”! Mumbai is already in trouble. But still, a place like Delhi wants to relax restrictions. Why is that so?
There is a reason. I mentioned about influenza, which killed millions, a hundred years before. Now we are so used to it, that we have become friendly with it. We have now given it a pet name “Flu”! We are so used to it, that we even go to the office or wherever even when we have Flu! Why the change? We have got used to it. We sometimes do not go to the doctor to get treated and take self–medication. It is unbelievable that the same Flu had killed millions.
There is a reason. Diagnostics are better, our knowledge is better, and medicines are more potent. The same thing is going to happen in the case of COVID. Vaccine and treatment for the same is a distant dream. But in South Asian countries, the pandemic is much weaker than in Europe and the Americas. Even in these places where the pandemic is smouldering, discussions about relaxation have started.
Now why it is going to be messy? I will now talk of only India. With the help of technology, we have managed complete shutdowns. Shutting down is a more straightforward process because restarting is a complex process. We have Red, Orange, Green zones. All these zones are present in states, districts and large cities. Then there are containment zones. All our economic activities have become dependent on Pan India suppliers and transportation of goods. Maharashtra does not have Steel plants, so the Steel for construction has to come from somewhere; if that somewhere is in Red Zone, we are stuck. The same thing happens in the Automobile industry. Most of the car manufacturers have some vendors in Pune and around. Pune is the Red Zone! You get me! Migrant workers have gone home, and the economy is trying to restart. One may not get trained people. Do you understand why I am saying messy?
No, you have not understood. The second wave may come back after a few months! But hopefully, as time passes, we will have the cure and the Vaccine! The old cars, when they sometimes did not start, a technique called Dhakka Start (Push and put it in gear and hope it starts). The start and stop can happen for the economy too, and the word Messy will be an operative word for some time. We will learn to live with another term, Collateral damage.
Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations. But the term can be applied to the current situation when we are trying to restart life after Reset! There could be some deaths when the pandemic returns. There could be business loss due to some sudden sever surge. We should be prepared for this collateral damage.
The travel and leisure industry has a large clientele like us senior citizens. But as far as Jaya and I are concerned, 2020 is out! At most, we will travel to Mahabaleshwar in our car. Many businesses will limp back to normalcy. Many things we have assumed to be safest, like air travel, will be hotbeds where the virus can get spread easily.
Life is going to be Messy soon. We are already getting conflicting requirements from the Chief Ministers of different states. Some want to open everything, and others want to play it safe till May end, at least. Each city, each district, each nation is going to have conflicting requirements. Some say let the train and bus services start; others say not yet! But we are dependent on each other for almost everything. Messy? Very, very Messy! Now I hope you get me what I mean by Messy!