The coronavirus, this time with multiple varients is back and stalking the world. From Japan to India, to the nations in Europe and America, all are falling like dominos to a second wave of the pandemic.
Our giant neighbour India, the largest manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide, has been the worst hit. Today India, and its capital New Delhi, has been hard hit. India itself is in search of vaccines to innoculate its own population. It has also run short of stocks of oxygen to keep its patients breathing and its hospitals are overwhelmed.
According to official sources, hospitals are running out of oxygen amid a healthcare crisis that is gripping several states. A number of people have died waiting in queues to purchase oxygen. Even worse most intensive care beds in both Delhi and Mumbai -India’s commercial capital- are full with no room for new patients, many of whom are being turned away.
From around mid-March health authorities and doctors in that country had been warning India’s political leaders against the opening up of the country, relaxation of measures designed to keep the virus under control, as well as against holding large gatherings associated with religious festivals and large political rallies. They warned failure could result in an explosion in the numbers of people falling victim to the virus. Unfortunately, both religious and government leaders did not heed this advice. Even the Indian Premier continued to hold large mega political rallies. Today all India is paying the price.
In Europe, France, Portugal, Spain, and Germany are among the countries, which have been badly hit by the virus. In these countries, the general public has rebelled against rules and regulations governing public events, the banning of large gatherings and especially against the closure of pubs and other venues of recreation. Large, mostly maskless rallies, were held in protest and the virus spread.
In the United States -the world’s worst afflicted country- the then President, himself a Covid-19 sceptic- led from the front in refusing to abide by Covid-19 preventive measures. The US suffered thirty-two million cases and 570,000 deaths. Today after Trump’s defeat -once again stringent rules have been put in place governing the movement of citizens and hosting of events. The numbers of victims have dropped.
Our own country too has seen a sudden spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. In our case too, both the people and government failed to heed warnings from the health sector calling on the public to follow health guidelines. Huge crowds were seen during the Sinhala-Tamil New Year season doing last-minute shopping. Equally, large crowds sans social distancing were seen joining a pilgrimage to Sri Pada or Adam’s Peak as it is also known.
Unsurprisingly, the past week saw a massive spike in numbers, which the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 21 April described as a four-fold spike in numbers. At a special briefing held on Friday 23 April, the government called on citizens to avoid unnecessary travel, warned of quarantining particular areas in the event numbers spiked and demanded the wearing of masks. The town of Jaffna is also largely under lockdown. Indeed the coronavirus or Covid-19 once again appears to be stalking the world with rising numbers of people falling victim to the disease and its associated pulmonary problems
Yet, the coronavirus or Covid-19 is not the world’s biggest killer disease. Worldwide there have been 145,000,000 cases of coronavirus and 3.07 million deaths. While these figures are scary, the World Health Organisation points out Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. UNICEF reveals approximately 3.1 million children die from undernutrition each year. While there are multiple reasons behind Cardiovascular fatalities and the cause for cardiovascular ailments and malnutrition, Covid-19 or the coronavirus is spread through infection. It can therefore be more easily controlled by following simple health guidelines, unlike cardiovascular problems and the problem of malnutrition.
So, who is responsible for the worldwide spike in Covid-19 victims and fatalities? China’s rulers imposed stringent rules and regulations governing the movement of people, hosting of events and contained the spread of coronavirus in a country of over 1.3 billion people. China’s rulers chose people’s safety over short-term economic losses and people’s freedom. The country and its populace won. It’s time our blinkered rulers and selfish citizenry put the country before themselves.
Perhaps if we keep in mind the words of the late US President John F. Kennedy…let’s not ask what our country can do for us, but rather see what we can do for our country. We might then be able to control the pandemic, instead of waiting until the country is forced into lockdown, bringing more misery to millions in extreme poverty who have no means to support themselves.