“I was not born to punish you,
I was born to awaken you”
Words of wisdom signed by none other than the virus that lurks in thin air around and within us.
This is a frightening time. The virus is called “novel” because it is new, and what is new is often terrifying. We don’t know enough about our new microscopic enemy. Scientists, clinicians, and policymakers are all working tirelessly with limited data and learning along the way. Consider that many diseases that we regularly face have been observed, reported, studied, and treated for decades; some for centuries (although with less success than now). This one has been “on our radar” for only four months.
Times like these remind me of something I read in my textbooks when I was barely mature to understand the definition of a ‘Virus’. Black Death, a multi-century pandemic that originated in central Asia and began spreading westward along major trade routes. Upon arrival in the eastern Mediterranean, the disease quickly spread especially through sea traffic to Italy, Greece, and France and later throughout Europe by land. The plague killed an estimated 25 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population.  Our ancestors weathered it, we will get through this too. The coronavirus’ mortality rate lags far behind the infectious nightmares that human ancestors passed through, especially since medications, vaccines, and equipment can be mass-produced, food is widely available, and information can be disseminated in an instant.
It will take at least another year before an effective vaccine is rolled out, and during that period many of the behaviour changes foisted on individuals and businesses will stick.
The most comprehensive shift will be when people realize they do not need to be in the same building to accomplish certain things, which we term as social distancing. As a result, there will be less face to face interactions at work, people will reassess the need for business travel, and many conferences will turn into webinars. Innovation and digitalization will be essential for survival, and most of the entrepreneurs will rise to the occasion.
Another anticipated shift may be that large gathering in a context will become smaller or less frequent. Businesses that rely on people coming together will either adapt or collapse – particularly restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, movie theatres and shops.
An undercover question will also be decoded; When did physicians and health care workers become expendable pawns? When did they become unwitting participants in the game of Corona roulette? It would be when hospital systems began to mandate that, in spite of known exposure, in spite of even a positive COVID-19 test, physicians (and their colleagues) continue working.
Therefore, if history is any indication or vindication, if the past is any lens for the future, this is still a time of tremendous hope. Especially for people, all the people alive today, whose resilient ancestors survived through them to this very day.
People will have to be mindful that dwelling on past economic collapses and outbreaks, for instance, the 1918 Spanish flu, Cholera outbreak, 2015 Ebola outbreak, 2001 technology bubble and 2008 real estate crash will not do them any good except learning from them. With the benefits of science, technology, satellite maps, medical, and biological advancements we will end up doing a lot better than our past efforts.
The positive thing about this pandemic comes in the form of service, as a wakeup call, that we will be more prepared to deal with the next global catastrophe, which may loom in the form of ‘missiles’ or a ‘microorganism’, ‘epidemic’ or an ‘economic collapse.’ Prepared to sock away enough funds and medical supplies which are not to be scathed otherwise but used timely and effectively only during times of emergencies.
Even though being the epicentre of the novel virus, there is a great deal to learn from China who took massive advantage of the months of January and February in heightening their medical and testing facilities and barring people from accumulating in social gatherings. They had successfully restricted the virus in affecting only 0.1% of the country’s population and dated as of today, the number of cases are dramatically dropping.
The staggering figures of 1,773,349 positive cases and 111,652  confirmed deaths and counting are enough to point that our morals, values, and codes are only as good as the world allows them to be. One sign of trouble and they take a hit. It is far easier for people in any country to point the finger of blame elsewhere – be it a country where it emerged, or its neighbours, or easily scapegoated communities like migrants than shoulder it themselves. Millions of people across China have shouldered immense sacrifices to contain the virus once the outbreak began, efforts that have been praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, and there is increasing bitterness that the country is still bearing the brunt of the blame from some quarters. There are many more unsung heroes out there doing their part to prevent the circulation of the virus and if it were not for the age of social distancing, I would stop them on the streets to click selfies.
I do not want to think it is biological warfare and it is too late to blame countries or government but post this, the world will evolve and change for the better.
This is not the time to panic or point fingers, but to pull out all stops no matter how trivial to contain the virus; for we will rebuild, the economy will spur and businesses will bounce back positively. To the government and federal officials who are mulling over the economy, allow me to say that changes in the economy are easy and reversible; however, it is impossible to bring people back to lives.
Become the force of confidence around those we need and strengthen our relationship. The bright side must be acknowledged for what it is and why it exists. The news of Ozone layer healing and nature restoring its balance is certainly a silver lining.
When I started off quoting a snippet by the ‘Virus’, and purporting that it is ‘Novel’ what did you think I was referring to; the infamous ‘Natural evolution of Coronavirus’ or the already hidden yet produced by us ‘The Blame Game Virus’.
1. Zietz B, Dunkelberg H. (2004) The history of the plague and the research on the causative agent Yersinia pestis. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. 2004; 207(2);165-178.
2. “Coronavirus.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.
About the author
I am a doctor from India currently interning in JJ Hospital, Mumbai. Medicine is a perfect combination of science and humanities. From science perspective, you learn about the body, its diseases and manifestations and from humanities, you learn peoples’ stories, and advocate them. I have a passion for science, writing, ardent reading, maintaining optimum health, and business and this excitement keeps expounding by the day. I always take out time to expand my knowledge on the subject. In my perspective, one key we all doctors must strive to master is communication. We have nothing to lose and plenty to gain by reflecting on and adjusting how we communicate to the world.
In a nutshell, I believe in optimization and positive action. Being a part of various organizations and student body established worldwide, I have various research and article publications.