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Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Social distancing, real fears in the age of Covid-19

Filed on April 1, 2020 | Last updated on April 1, 2020 at 11.43 pm

The pathogen has us in its grip and we have realised we are not in control.

At the start of what has now become a global pandemic, we were told not to panic. Everything was under control. Our lives would continue as if nothing was unfolding; disruption was only for those with a negative mindset. We were lulled into complacency in our comfort zones. The disease does not concern us and we have little reason to fear, US President Donald Trump said. He even proclaimed that it would end by April, like he was the lord and master of its destiny. He now wears a crown of thorns as the coronavirus spreads across populations in different countries. Europe failed to see it coming from China, and its health system crumbled. The toll is rising. A million global cases are only a few hours away. The death count is rising and predicting the final number is a futile human exercise. The mind has gone numb and is filled with fear and trepidation. Let's admit it. This pandemic is beyond our understanding. 


The pathogen has us in its grip and we have realised we are not in control. That's a sobering thought. China is reopening Wuhan, but is wary of reinfections from abroad. Reality hurts. Welcome to the new normal. Today, the US is the new epicentre of Covid-19. Trump can wipe that smile off his face. His confidence has been shattered and the smugness has vanished and given way to a new seriousness. We are innovating, but this time to save lives. The pursuit of power and profit has been put on hold. What was once dismissed as a viral pneumonia in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, has gone on to cripple the world. Public health systems have been exposed because governments failed to understand the gravity of the new virus as they believed it could not travel great distances. 


Today, many are regretting their failure to act on time, to watch the signs that foretold of bad times. We were fed by multiple shots of positivity but are now scrambling for cures, any cure, traditional or modern to stave off this new threat that spares no one. We are struggling to come up with a vaccine - a shot at life, which may take 18 months. Testing the preventive jab and mass roll out could take longer. There are costs involved, and the safety of people is important as we take a shot in the dark, so to speak. Then there is the search for a drug. No new drug is being attempted, but some old ones are being re-deployed for another war to save humanity. Some show promise, others are duds. The US has cleared a malarial drug. Anti-HIV medicines are being tried out; there's also a pill for Ebola which is showing the best results in clinical trials. They are being used on a case-by-case basis in a bid to save lives. There is no clear evidence yet on the efficacy of these treatments, but doctors and pharmaceutical companies are hopeful they will work during this emergency. 


The future of humanity depends on these instant cures. What we built seven decades after World War II lies in a shambles. Our will has been broken by a germ; purses are going empty; homes are filled with dread and sorrow. The poor are being driven out of the cities they built as the pathogen follows them. It's still a long trek across great distances. Society has distanced itself from the real power of touch and hugs. The coronavirus has separated us, making our virtual lives almost complete. Our lives have been disrupted in body and spirit. Work will never be the same again. We have come a long way, travelling great distances. Has this experience been worth it? Only time will tell.


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