The dreaded coronavirus or COVID-19, which made itself part of the international lexicon in December 2019, had by May 1, 2020, infected over 3,214,256 persons and taken the lives of 232,570 persons world wide. In our own country, over 700 persons had contracted or caught the disease with seven identified deaths.
It is feared that, if the number of infected go beyond 1,000, the system may not be able to cope, given the limited numbers of trained personnel available. While the ordinary man and woman’s biggest fear is of falling victim to the disease and the repercussions on family, colleagues and friends, the big questions facing us all is, if and when the pandemic ends, what the future holds for us.
The country’s economy could never be the same. Government is forced to dole out Rs. 5,000 monthly to poorer sections of the community - probably with ‘aid’ from a variety of sources. However, this ‘aid’ has to be re-paid, probably with interest, despite being badly indebted to a range of international financial institutions. Yet, the cost of two basic meals for a family of four is over Rs. 20,000/- a month. The long queues of people standing patiently in line to receive this dole, tells its own story. Visuals of squabbles breaking out among those who stood in queues, and aired by a news channel, confirms a people’s desperation.
"Tourist hotels are empty and large sections of their employees now jobless. A number of small and medium enterprises are on the brink of closure. The education system has come to a standstill"
The tourist hotels are empty and large sections of their employees now jobless. A number of small and medium enterprises are on the brink of closure. The education system has come to a standstill, the streets are empty and production has come to a standstill. In fact, our country and we, the citizens are in a crisis - the normal, which we have taken for granted, has been overturned. We - those free of the coronavirus - have to understand this moment; what it demands of us and what we need to do to make this possible. Already some unimaginable things are happening; government is making available even a small sum of money to the most vulnerable sections of society.
In the main cities, people are taking to growing their own food on the tiniest space available. This phenomenon is happening not only among the poorer sections of society, but even among the elite who live in our midst, with children joining parents in growing food crops and taking pride in eating home grown produce.Young boys and girls can be seen planting veges and clearing weeds by hand, now that pesticides are not available freely. In the process we are eating poison-free food as well as protecting ‘all Gods creatures - big and small’ from petroleum-based agro-chemicals.
The roads are free of traffic and its accompanying petrol and diesel fumes. In their place birds, butterflies and a variety of small animals, which had all but disappeared from our midst, are making a comeback. Our children are learning more of their surroundings and are re-learning the values of sharing.
The ‘Guardian’ of March 23 reports that satellite imagery from the European Space Agency (ESA) shows the COVID-19 shutting down of industrial activity, has led to a slashing air pollution levels around the world. Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that over the past six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were markedly lower than in the same period last year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes NO2 as “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways. Pollution particles may also be a vector for pathogens, as well as exacerbating existing health problems. The WHO is now investigating whether airborne pollution particles may be a vector that spreads COVID-19 and makes it more virulent.
MP Sidharthan speaks of farmers in his area sharing their crop with those who have not and a growth of a barter system in the north of the country.
While not demining the value of lives lost to COVID-19/coronavirus, the pandemic is giving us a chance to see what could be achieved, if we live more environment-friendly lives.