Life  post  Covid – 19 : Preparing for the Changes  

By Rudi V Warjri

 

“We all are men, in our own natures frail..”  Shakespeare wrote while portraying the tyranny of King Lear. Coronavirus or Covid – 19  has unmasked  and exposed the frailties of humankind  universally without any discrimination.  Royalty , powerful , rich , poor , white , black or yellow, caste-ism Brahmin to Dalit,  religion sectarian label regardless, are all in the same boat .

 

What happens then, after all this has come to pass. The cliché  that  the only thing constant in life, is Change, comes to mind . Some changes are slow like ‘mindsets’. Some are rapid like ‘technology’. That is in normal times. The current  Pandemic Covid – 19 scorch, however,  is very , very far  from  normal . Some even think that it is the apocalyptic “end times.” The more it prolongs, the more it calls for adaptation to  the new Normal .

 

The authorities impose lockdowns  and curfews . Relaxation to buy essentials comes with conditions of ‘social distancing’.  And for a senior citizen I have to quarrel with my juniors in the family before they give up disallowing me to venture out. Going out, also means wearing a mask and carrying a hand sanitizer. For once in my life , I was asked to stand  in  a circle  about  two metres away from one  another while queuing up to buy my milk , biscuits , namkeen, chocolates etc. Returning home means mandatory applying of disinfectant to my shoes and attire and washing of hands. I also had to take a bath with dettol. Then the urge to know the latest statistics and trends about the Virus. When will  the dreaded third , fourth stages arrive in my hometown,  makes us all  enslaved  to  social media, electronic media even  more  desperately .  What a change in practices and lifestyle !!!

 

History told us that the plague pandemic virus had invaded our planet earth from ancient times. Some have caused the death of more than 10 millions . The plague of the Justinian (541-542)  where Constantinople  (present Istanbul)  was the epicentre killed an estimated 25 million people. The Great Bubonic plague or the Black Death ( 1347 – 1351) which peaked in Europe resulted in the  estimated death of 75 million to 200 million in Eurasia . The Third plague Pandemic (1855) that started in Yunnan province in China caused 10 million deaths. In early 16th century the notorious Spaniard conquistador  Hernan Cortes used small pox epidemic to conquer the Aztec empire of Mexico that wiped out the indigenous population by 40%. Large parts of the Mayan population of Guatemala and the Inca population of  Latin America were also killed by small pox . 

 

Dissemination of information about Covid – 19  has been exhaustive. The challenge is now, to find the vaccine antidote against it which is taking months and years. Research scientists all over the world especially in developed countries and those with capacities and capabilities are busy working on the vaccine. Now authorities everywhere can only work on flattening the curve of the impact of the Virus .  

 

Most humanitarian movements have their genesis in the aftermath of  wars, famines , earthquakes , etc. The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC)  was formed in 1863 after the ravages and human cost of war  between the armies of the French / Sardinian alliance  and Austria. The League of Nations and League of Red Cross Societies was part of the Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 after World War I. The United Nations is a product of World war II in 1946  later together with the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,   Save the Children Fund , World Food Programme etc .

 

The question looming large in front of us now is what would the post Covid – 19 be like?  How will it change the political, economic and social landscape around the world? Lets’ look at some of the perceivable and possibilities.   

 

Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across countries as they try to contain the spread of  Covid – 19 .  Will this be permanent ?  If so, what happen  to sources of fossil fuels?  Will the world lean more towards  renewable energy ? And a drive towards a decarbonised  sustainable economy? Or will carbon and emissions bounce back with a vengeance and economic growth become the only apotheosis to deal with the immediate  mass widespread joblessness  ?

 

The future of ecology? Will protection of the environment  and afforestion also together lead to a proactive  drive towards more conservation of wild life?    China has already banned the trading in wild life .

 

The universal travel restrictions! What happens to surface transport be it trains, vehicles, aviation, tourism etc ? What about the entertainment industry – cinemas, theatres, pubs, bars and restaurants?

 

Regarding the growth of infrastructure, the Victoria Embankment by the River Thames in London is the result of the post Cholera outbreak in the early 1850s which necessitated a new, modern sewerage system.  De-densification and disaggregation of population will become the most  pressing subject for  urban planners, combined with priority for environmental sustainability. At the same time there will pressure for being energy efficient which means need for denser cities? So it could lead to finding a way between competing demands of  public health and climate .  

 

The Pandemic has made the entire world population look even more to their Governments for solutions and help that included developed and developing countries alike. Does it mean biometric surveillance by Government and  authorities would become more  acceptable to the population? Especially on seeing the successful and cohesive way by which the command and control system like China dealt with it and even in democracies like South Korea!  Will it also lead to the revival of multilateralism in the international affairs going by the collaboration taking place among nations to combat the Virus !

 

At the same time the phenomenal role of social capital that has been demonstrated and the pillars of trust and compliance that have been built need to be nurtured. Trust between all the stake holders from Government to civil society and compliance by the public at large leading to  more empowerment  of  the  populace  or  a new community activism is encouraging. What must be commended in particular is the spirit of  philanthropy by industrial and business houses.  The myriad of  religious  and  social based  NGOs  voluntarily  coming forward  to  help with  food , water etc and even assist the authorities in public health drive is a new synergy that s required for good governance. Perhaps a new paradigm of growth which is a  hybrid between economic and social Capital may emerge that can be called  ‘Socialistic Capitalism’  ! 

Covid 19 teaches us that from the Justinian plague till date the harsh reality is the formidability, if not impossibility, to control a pathogen and the thread  to more mutations and to a next outbreak. Understanding the  spread of the disease much in advance helps to make better preparations for the future.   We now know that while the characteristics of the pathogen of Covid 19 are critical, the lesson that humankind can learn from this should be hypercritical !

(The author is a former diplomat) 

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