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Don’t Push the Panic Button Just Yet


Swapno Chanda


Are these days really unprecedented? Something the world has not seen in its 4.5 billion years of existence? Maybe it is. Maybe not.

For long, pandemics have been the unwanted guests on earth who are just that bit harder to get rid of. They do go eventually, but not for long. Although the Covid-19 phenomenon might seem like something the world will succumb to, history suggests there’s light at the end of a very dark (and lengthy) tunnel after all. It’s so easy to see the reasons to stress in these times. Let me do the opposite for a change. Before you turn your back on me; hear me out first. 

Well, when does a disease qualify as a pandemic? Getting to the pandemic (not to be confused with epidemic) status is not easy. Certain criteria need to be met, of course, with quite a huge number of affected people across the globe being the first of them. Contagion is a must, too. And that’s where corona virus reached a whole new level. The sheer impact of corona virus globally is bound to make you anxious. But getting paranoid about the situation won’t help if you die of stress before you even get to meet the “guest”, eh? Kidding aside, it’s important to retain perspective. Let’s turn back time for a bit. 

The 20th century had its fair share of pandemics. The Asian flu of ’56, the Hong Kong flu of ’68, AIDS — the list goes on. The deadliest of them was the flu pandemic of 1918. A staggering 40-50 million people had to pay the ultimate price. Death toll reached 25 million in just 25 weeks. The flu pandemic of 1918 was in no way unprecedented, in terms of cause at least. The influenza pandemic in 6000 BC in China is said to be the first one. This however, was different. Influenza previously was fatal only for juveniles, elderly, or already weakened patients. Young adults and even children were in its radar this time around. Affecting almost 500 million people, a quarter of the world’s population at that time, made it one of the most lethal pandemics in history.  

1,56,276 people are infected as of now. The mortality rate of 6.86% is still below the 9-12% death rate of the 2002 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Well, at least we know quite a good deal about it not long after it hit the earth. The first reported case of AIDS was in June 1981, and it took two years just to identify the virus. Can’t fight them if you don’t know them, can you?  More importantly, we know how Covid-19 spreads and ways to tackle it. For now, social distancing is the name of the game. And yes, the number of cured cases is 13 times more than the number of deaths.

Still not convinced? The fact that the affected numbers have declined dramatically in the early-hit nations may give you peace of mind for the time being. Wuhan, the origin of this whole pandemic, has seen a drastic fall in the graph of the affected just by practising social distancing. Simply put, we know it can be controlled. If the right lessons are learnt from it, we can get out of this situation fairly unscathed. We do have the opportunities to put things right in hindsight. 

What we do not have though, is a vaccine. And I’m not gonna lie, there lies the concern. A vaccine might be the only way we can get out of this “physical distancing” thing permanently. Approximately 80 groups around the world, including major pharmaceutical companies, are trying to develop a vaccine, and some have already begun human trials. The scientists gave 12-18 months as a realistic timescale to develop an effective vaccine. The professors from Oxford University, however, are targeting September to produce about a million effective vaccines. Which of these is going to be the one? Well, it might seem cliché, but only time will tell. 

No matter how much I sugarcoat it though, the world is indeed in a mess now. But if there’s one takeaway from all this turning back of time, it’s that earth will surely get back on its feet. What you can do in the time being is change your point of view. I know it’s not the best being stuck in your home with your independence wings snipped off. But think about it. When was the last time you slept knowing there’s no alarm clock waiting to drag you out of sleep? The time to binge watch the TV series you just could not manage time for. The time to just sit back and enjoy the rain. Or the sunset. Or even the sunrise (sounds horrific to me — but good luck for that!).

The world is just rebooting itself. Maybe it’s earth’s way of telling us to press the pause button. Take this as an opportunity to appreciate the trivial things in life. Life is all about the little things. Things that are hard to notice but evokes the biggest of emotions. Love and happiness can be unearthed in every situation, only if we are willing to. Willing to dig deep enough. Not a whole lot of work for the priceless gifts known as love and happiness, is it?

Isn’t life itself a gift after all?

 

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