“Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine, and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible, is fever.” – Sir William Osler (19th Century Infectious Disease Specialist)
Almost a century after the brutal Spanish Flu pandemic (1918-1920), we are facing yet again, as Sir William Osler puts it, our most terrible enemy. As of June 26, the Covid-19 pandemic has already infected over 9.73 million people while claiming over 4.92 lakh lives across the globe. Clueless about the dynamics of this pandemic, countries across the globe chose to go for an unprecedented and rather unscientific lockdown. A few weeks into the lockdown and we are facing more than a mere health emergency. The pandemic has had adverse effects on economy, education, employment, and human rights. With no promising reports of a potential cure or vaccine in near future, it has been realised that a lockdown is no solution.
The most frequently asked question is, “When would the pandemic end?” Even the best minds in the west have no clear answers. Nonetheless, many scientists have forecast the future of this pandemic based on the experience with earlier pandemics. While some forecast it to end by 2021, others have been more reserved and claim of a resurgence later. A minuscule number also opine that we may have to live with the virus for quite a long time.
So, what next? It is beyond any doubt that the pandemic has crippled the world’s best economies. As per a World Bank estimate, this is the worst economic depression since World War II (1939-1945). The economy cannot be restored by individual efforts of any country. It needs comprehensive and collaborative efforts, the onus being on the developed economies.
A World Bank report estimates that 60 million people will enter into extreme poverty due to this pandemic. There have already been reports regarding starvation deaths in many developing countries. If international bodies don’t intervene, the world is at the brink of a global food crisis. The recent locust swarms in many countries have come as an added trouble.
Humans without knowledge are as good as animals. The progress that humans have made so far is only because of education. Unfortunate to say that with every natural disaster, education takes a bad hit. From the very start of this pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, education has been the first casualty. Schools, colleges and varsities are all closed in most Covid19 hit countries. With no clear strategy about the resumption of work in educational institutions, the career of millions of learners is hanging in thin air.
As per a UNESCO report, about 1.725 billion learners have been affected due to the ongoing pandemic. To compensate the losses, various learning and teaching tools have been introduced. Many institutions have collaborated at national and international levels to share expertise and deliver the best possible learning material to students. Even assessment and admission processes have been made online in a number of countries. However, this is fraught with many disadvantages. As the risk of resurgence looms, most institutions worldwide will be reluctant to resume the conventional teaching system. Many countries can’t afford to allow foreign students in their institutions and this will affect the exchange of ideas, innovations and research. Many global projects and researches may never be resumed after Covid19.
While every living being has suffered amid this Covid19 pandemic, the mother earth seems to be recuperating. Nature seems to have regained its lost glory. There has been a significant reduction in pollution. The air we breathe has been more soothing and healthy. Various environmentalists have claimed that there is a substantial decrease in the contamination level of water bodies. The unabated loot of green gold, i.e., our forests has come to a halt at least for now. All this is clearly due to closure of most types of industries and also decreased demand.
However, there is an ugly side to this as well. Calls for mass sanitisation programmes in Covid19 affected areas have led to ruthless use of chemical disinfectants in mammoth quantities on daily basis, which for sure will show their adverse effect on various living creatures while polluting the water bodies and contaminating the air.
As world is easing the lockdown, there will be increased demand for goods and this will require industries to run at their fullest capacity, thus again polluting the air and water. The loot of green gold will pick up pace again. But hopelessness is never a remedy. The lockdown has taught us how human activities are endangering nature. We should take lessons and work out a sustainable strategy to minimise the harm to nature while making economic progress.
To summarise, the world after Covid19 will enter a new era and it will not be an easy one. The onus lies on us to secure our future. We have to be collective and inclusive in our efforts to face the threats that are staring at us. The global leadership needs to understand that nothing has been achieved by piling up military arsenal. It is time to invest in research that will prevent pandemics or at least equip us with good healthcare infrastructure so that we are not caught unawares. Care needs to be taken of the poor and unprivileged. Let’s pledge that no human dies of hunger or from a disease due to lack of accessible health care.
The darkest hour is just before dawn. Hope the post-Covid world proves far better than the pre-Covid one.
The writer is studying
Politics at Cluster University Srinagar. [email protected]