How will the Covid19 onslaught end?
Present day statistics as well as historical data clearly suggest that the threat of Covid19 will eventually end one day. The human race is here to stay. But what is not known is the price that Covid19 will extract from humanity.
The world is suddenly confronted with an unimaginable crisis. It’s not that we do not have bigger problems. But they get ignored because they do not affect the middle class, the elite or the opinion makers. Take Tuberculosis for instance. In India alone it killed well over 4,40,00 people in 2018 but we did not blink an eye. Anyways, let us set aside that discussion for some future date. I am mentioning it here just to make sure that we will keep this fact in mind and do something about it, once the war against Covid19 is won.
All the data available to us so far suggests that Novel Coronavirus itself is not so fatal. The fatality rate may be slightly on the higher side but it would have been manageable had it not been so contagious. The rapid spread, and hence concurrency of occurrence in a certain geographic location, seems to be the real problem. It is this concurrency which is overwhelming the medical response systems, leading to unthinking human tragedy .
The unpredictability, the fear, the lock downs… everything is adding up to create discomforting anxiety. With family members living in different locations; aged parents forced to take care of themselves; overwhelming impact of data that is getting published like a scorecard – all these are enough to rudely shake up even the relatively calm souls. Everyone is hoping and praying that this ends soon.
All the available statistics clearly suggests that it will indeed end one day. That human race is here to stay for sure. But what is not known is the price that Covid19 will extract from humanity. Sadly, the problem is not going to end the day Covid19 gets controlled. The subsequent psychological and economic implications of this disaster on mankind may be even worse that the cause itself. Hopefully, different governments across the globe will set aside their politics for a while and join hands to minimize the impact. Even a collective pledge that no one would wage a war for next two years and direct all defense budgets towards lending a helping hand to humanity can immensely ease the pain. I know it is pretty stupid to even dream of such an eventuality, but then hope is a human virtue that one cannot so easily disown.
The most important question in everyone’s mind is – how is this going to end?
I have listed below a few scenarios, with the last one being my own gut feel, which is not based on scientific facts but purely on logical visualizations. Being a visual person can be a gift as well as a punishment. While most people analyze numbers, I end up experiencing the entire scenario. When people talk about overwhelmed medical infrastructure, I almost see the chaos, the frustrations, fear and trauma of patients, loneliness, wait, anxiety, dead bodies, suffering families and the deep immense pain of helplessness. All this was so overwhelming that I almost went into depression. And that was one and a half months back!
Anyways, let us get back to the possible scenarios of how this whole mess is going to end.
World gains Immunity
Not every exposure to the virus will lead to an infection hence many people across the world will develop immunity without getting Covid19. An overwhelming majority of people who end up getting Covid19 will recover after minor symptoms hence will also gain immunity. Every immune person will help curtail the speed of this relay race. The spread will eventually get checked. But that does not mean that Covid19 will be gone forever. It may just linger on as one of the many viral infections that we are exposed to on regular basis
If this is how it ends then the price that humanity will have to pay could be immense. The resulting trauma could take years to heal. It is not a desirable solution. That is why various scientists across the globe are working day and night – trying to find a cure.
A lot of people are trying to underplay the current scenario through data about other diseases which are more fatal or widespread hence have higher death tolls. They are ignoring two important aspects. Firstly, with regards to Covid19, the scenario in still emerging so we do not know where this is heading. Secondly, the problem is the concurrency of events due to high spread rate. Technically, it is this concurrency that is the real problem.
World finds a cure
Finding a cure would be the most desirable solution. But it is easier said than done. When it comes to dealing with viruses, we have been struggling for a long while. As Covid19 entered Europe, the news of an AIDS patient’s full recovery also made headlines. Sadly, this is only the second case of full recovery from a disease that has been around since many decades now.
In case of Covid19, due to the magnitude of the problem, the entire global scientific community is trying to find answers. If we are lucky, we will end up finding a cure though the cure will take its own time to roll out. In such a scenario, the time taken for discovery and deployment will define the net impact of Covid19.
There is also a conspiracy theory doing rounds that the virus is nothing but a bio-weapon. Who knows? But if it is true then the antidote should be available pretty soon because the purpose of the weapon seems to have been achieved.
World finds a vaccine
Many experts believe that vaccines are double edge swords. These experts also challenge the efficacy of existing vaccination programs. Even if we were to ignore this line of argument, it is a well-known fact that vaccines take years to develop. If a vaccine is deployed without adequate testing, it could backfire. While it may allow us to control the current crisis, it may also open the gates for much bigger problems. The technology approach used to make Covid19 vaccine, which went on trial in the United States, sounds pretty scary. I firmly believe that we should not create anything that we cannot control – like the big dams, nuclear plants, nuclear weapons, and so on. The human race seems to be unwilling to learn from its mistakes even as the leakage from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a disaster that happened in 2011, endangers the world every day.
World collectively controls it
Proactive actions, even though they come at a huge price, may help control the onslaught of Covid19. Restrictions on travel, social distancing, lockdowns, etc. can help limit the onslaught to fewer and fewer pockets with each passing day. This would eventually taper and terminate the spread. Some silly mistakes or actions here and there, by governments or social groups, could re-ignite the disease but an almost war-ready response system should be able to quickly control the fresh outbreak. This is a highly doable and probable scenario but would take a significant amount of time and co-ordination. It is easier said than done!
As our collectively actions will taper the onslaught, the occasional spikes with re-instill the fear. The World will not be able to say with certainty that Covid19 stands controlled. Actions of various governments, driven by their selfish economic and political interests, would keep the threat alive. Deliberate masking of data regarding the spread in certain pockets may suddenly lead to spikes over a wider geographical area.
All these uncertainties will have an immense impact on the human psyche, social behavior, markets, supply chains, etc. With a sword hanging over the head, it would not be easy to take informed and balanced decisions. Every class, country, region, economic block, etc. would try to save their sole interests. Such selfish acts will make the world even more insecure and create immense trust deficit. The world may end up paying a very high human as well as economic price.
But if the world decides to act as one, on its own or due to public pressure, this could bring in peace within a relatively lesser time frame. Such collective actions would also lead towards collective healing. If the world decides to act as one, this event could actually make the world a better place.
It will end one day – just like that!
As the world struggles to find solutions and implement various control measures like lock downs, social distancing, etc., Covid19 may just end one fine morning– without any specific reason. The world would be left guessing. Such events have happened in the past and experts are still trying to ascertain the reasons behind such eventualities. There could also be a chance that Covid19 goes off for the time being and resurfaces later in a less potent avatar.
I do not know why, but I see this as a distinct possibility. Somehow I also want to believe this gut feel of mine. I have this strange feeling that we will live with this problem for two months or so. And then will be left guessing!
The positive outcome of this eventuality would be that we will end up with a lot of unanswered questions. The answers will hopefully lead us towards positive action and change. We would hopefully move towards becoming a less greedy, more humane, ecologically sensitive, compassionate and equal society.
Coming on to why such things happen. Well, no one knows. But as I start imagining the possible reasons, the options amaze me. To the readers, this may sound highly illogical and absurd, but for me they are distinct possibilities – a precursor towards exploring and discovering the scientific basis of events that happen around us. It is not about imagination going wild. These possibilities are based on laws of balance, sustainability and evolution, as I have understood them.
Everything is nature seems to be precisely designed. Even chaos has an order. Everything seems to be following distinct patterns. Life expectancy of various species are pretty well defined. If the life expectancy of a species does alter, it alters gradually. All the elements of nature appear to be following their own cycles, while being in perfect harmony with other cycles.
So, it is a distinct possibility that, like everything else, viruses too may have cycles of replication and mutation. Once these cycles get exhausted, they may cease to replicate or mutate further. Most theological systems believe in such cycles. In the field of design, everything is optimized for specific performance. So if someone has designed this world, all its elements would be optimized in terms of lifecycles. And if the world is a self-optimizing entity then, as it evolves, it would refine these cycles to ensure a harmonious relationship between its various components. If this is true then Covid19 epidemic may last for a shorter duration than previous epidemics because the cycles would get exhausted much faster due to globalization.
There seems to be nothing in nature than does not have a reason to exist. Just because human knowledge discards something as meaningless, it does not become useless. I firmly believe that even a mosquito serves some purpose. The moot reality is that we, as human, do not know numerous things, and yet we do not want to acknowledge that we do not know.
What this means is that viruses too are there for a reason. They exist in harmony with nature. In case of Covid19, it is believed that the virus jumped species. A virus, perhaps older than humanity, would have had some strong reasons to do that. Possibly it is an outcome of our senseless greed and exploitation. It is unlikely that the virus would jump species for revenge, pleasure or greed. Those are very human traits!
Technically, a virus which has been happily ‘living’ on a specific host for ages would jump species for its own survival. If not, then this should have been a very common phenomenon. The survival of the virus does not lie in killing the host. If the virus kills the host body, it eventually kills itself too – paving the way for its own extinction.
So Covid19 may not be so much about the virus trying to subdue us but about our own immune system trying to aggressively defend itself against this unknown intruder. Such aggressive response may be triggering the virus into rapid replication, for its own survival. What if such aggressive response is causing more harm. There are many reports citing cytokine storm as one of the causes of fatality in case of Covid19. Another reason for such response could be our faulty immune system. Widespread auto immune disorders seem to clearly suggest that things are not so well with our immune system.
If this is a likely scenario then, with every mutation, or even replication, the virus would ideally try to lower its guards to dilute the aggressive response of the human immune system. It will try to create an environment of synergy. If I was a virus, my goal would be to keep the fatality pretty low so that I can thrive in the new host species as my original host species is on the verge of extinction. What this essentially means is that as we go along, the virus should eventually become less fatal. Just like naturalization of seeds, the virus too may naturalize as per the behavior of the new host species. Hopefully!
(One may not like the idea of personification of a virus as it is supposedly not a living being. But it is not a non-living being either. It is an entity that thrives at the cusp. It is the connection between the two worlds to which it belongs. What if it is acting merely as a gate keeper!)
If you ask me, my wish is that either we find a cure or covid19 ends suddenly. If these two events fail to happen then coordinated control measures are the only defense left. In this battle we are already paying a significant human price. The economic price would be even higher, and that too will extract its human price. Simply put, for a significant while, the world is not going to be same again.
I am hoping that after all this is over, the world would change for good. From a greed based economic model, we would hopefully start moving towards an equal, secure and happy world. We would hopefully rally for viable public health, public wealth and public education systems. We would acknowledge valid concerns about climate change, environment degradation, etc. and take urgent actions to heal the earth. Images and videos of wild animals roaming around in urban areas sometimes make me wonder – what if this is a revenge of the animal kingdom? Or is it a message from above, asking us to stop fooling around with the life of other species by forcing us to clearly see the impact of individual actions on the whole society? Is this event asking us to stop being the patient 31 (the alleged super spreader of South Korea)?
Covid19 has left us with no option but to acknowledge that the world is a well-connected entity where economic or class silos may not work anymore. We are left with no option but to take a step back and evaluate our collective choices. It seems that we are being clearly told that if we do not respect nature, the nature is not going to respect us. It is high time we realize that living in harmony with nature is our only option!