The year is 2019, the month is November and the day is unknown. Life on earth is as routine. President Donald Trump is being impeached, the S&P 500 is at an all-time high, scientists have successfully harnessed the power of sunlight to propel a spacecraft, Syria is under fire, there is a Nazi emergency declared in Dresden, Iran is under an internet blackout and the world is getting warmer on average. Don’t worry! in the days to come the Earth’s fever will go down. Ironically, that of its inhabitants will go up. This is a story about that fever.
Somewhere in a land far away, a naïve innocent soul is excited about his next meal. While walking in a wet market, he zeroes in on an exotic animal after much deliberation.
“I am going to enjoy some bat (presumably) today!” he skips and drools.
Little does he know that this meal is going to change the fate of his life and the life of the whole world in the months to come. Some days go by when he notices irritation in his throat. Fever and shortness of breath follow. Soon people around him start experiencing the same symptoms. As these people rush towards the hospital, doctors are bamboozled by this mysterious affliction. Mysterious atypical pneumonia is suspected. The world health organization is intimated about 41 patients having this “pneumonia”. Origins of the demon are said to be a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China, and the market is closed on New Year’s Day.
February, the month of Valentine — Love, only brings death and despair in 2020.
Six days later, the mysterious illness is linked to a novel kind of Coronavirus. On January 11th, 2020 the demon takes its first victim in China. Two days later, Thailand reports its first case of the virus. 11 days later Wuhan is placed under quarantine and the whole Huabei province follows. By now there is panic in China and multiple cases have started to spring up in other parts of the world. On January 30th, WHO declares this a global-health emergency.
February, the month of love, only brings death and despair in 2020. The death toll in China surpasses that of the SARS epidemic. Cases exponentially rise in China and start to spike in countries like Japan, South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The virus who shall not be named has a name now, COVID-19 an acronym that stands for Coronavirus disease 2019. Common symptoms of the disease include coughing, dry throat, fever, tiredness, and difficulty breathing in severe cases. Early strains of the virus seem to pardon the young ones and ambush the elderly.
The first reaction by governments and their people is that of dismission. Young people seem to think that they are “immune” to the disease. It is commonly thought to have dire consequences only for the elderly or people that have compromised immune systems. Interestingly, the naughty virus seems to affect some and go completely unnoticed in others. However, the virus has started mutating and is affecting the larger percentage of the population. The R0 (infection rate per virus patient) is found to be 3 people and death to case ratio is about 5.8% (as of 04/08/2020).
An entity that can only be seen by sophisticated medical equipment has held the mighty human race hostage without the bounds of race, creed, color, religion, age or sex.
As cases across the globe exponentially rise, things are taken more seriously. Governments all across the world implement lockdowns. Workplaces, Schools, Malls, parks, Religious centers, etc closedown. Common tourist spots are empty, Religious centers are deserted; factories are shutdown. The earth is taking a break. Humans, on the other hand, are busy panic buying in multiple parts of the world. Essentials, PPEs, and personal hygiene products sales erupt as expected. However, some interesting buying patterns emerge during the crisis. Toilet paper and gun sales go through the roof in the US. Even the seemingly innocuous Canadians join the frenzy. Alcoholic beverage sales soar in Australia. A global condom shortage looms over as “Netflix and chill” seems to be the anthem of the times. The western world seems to succumb to such behavior more than the developing world it seems.
Fear entails anxiety, powerlessness, and uncertainty. In times like these, people tend to gravitate towards explaining enigmas they don’t understand with conspiracy theories. Cognitive biases and mental shortcuts reinforce such theories. COVID-19 is no different. Apparently, according to Chinese officials, the US army brought the lab originated virus inside China and planted it in the Wuhan wet market. Whereas in the US some people believe the virus was released by DisneyPlus in time for its launch. One Chinese blogger wrote, “It’s a disease carried by canines and spread to nearby dogs, dog-to-dog, then dog-to-human.” Others think that the virus is the body’s reaction to “dangerous” 5G high-frequency waves. Initially, People in my part of the world think it is a “Yahoodi Sazish” (Jewish conspiracy) and later settle on God’s punishment to humanity.
Conspiracy theories are soon followed by remedies put forward by internet warriors and the WhatsApp army. Sheep’s head soup cures COVID-19 in Turkey, vodka can be used as a hand-sanitizer and as a medicine in the UK, eating garlic prevents coronavirus in China as a woman is hospitalized after consuming 1.5 kg of it, and drinking cow urine cures virus’s patients in India. The best cure was found by junkies who got high and cured themselves by marijuana and cocaine.
Initially, People in my part of the world think it is a “Yahoodi Sazish” (Jewish conspiracy) and later settle on God’s punishment to humanity.
As of today, there have been 1.6 million confirmed cases. Of them, 95,000 have died. There are millions of people who are still fighting with the virus directly and indirectly. Many have lost loved ones and others have lost their livelihoods. Economies are crumbling around the world with no end in sight. Life is at a standstill everywhere. People are locked away in their homes. Once hustling and bustling cities sound like graveyards. An entity that can only be seen by sophisticated medical equipment has held the mighty human race hostage without the bounds of race, creed, color, religion, age or sex. A great equalizer.
This forces us to reflect on what has happened around us. Like any adversity, it brings the best and worst in us. Pranksters have coughed on produce as a joke while medical professionals have served their communities with disregard for personal safety. Pharmaceutical companies have raised the prices of drugs many folds while common folks have increased charitable contributions to the poor and the needy. Communities disintegrate, societies isolate while Italian neighbors sing in harmony from the confinement of their homes.
The earth seems to be enjoying the much-needed break. Pollution has gone down, decreasing the greenhouse effect. Noise pollution has lessened, oceans are quitter, seismic activity is down. Wildlife seems to notice reduced human activity and have come out to explore surroundings without humans.
We have been transported to simpler times. It seems like we can live without eating out several times a week. We don’t have to work all the time to survive. Families for once can spend more time with one another. We can survive a limited social life. Many of us have taken hobbies we always wanted to partake, learn skills we yearned for, read for once, watch age-old classics again. For others their stomachs are starving, their wallets are empty and their bodies don’t have shelters. As of now, the fight continues and if history is any indication, we will eventually defeat the invisible enemy.