Fighting an epidemic

Reports of a drop in new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in China followed by those of a surge in them within a span of a few days are all that we get when we need real information about the situation. It appears to be due to China’s ‘managed transparency’. Then, China deserves credit too for making available samples of the pathogen for scientists for launching clinical trials on potential vaccines and drugs. In the context of the spread, scale and severity of the disease in China and globally, the WHO has warned countries against laxity in taking preventive measures. It is premature to say that the worst of the outbreak is over. As of now, the global community cannot claim to have contained the circulating virus.

The face-masks — the visible symbol of the epidemic — the 14-day quarantine of infected persons and persons who might have been infected, the incubation period of 10-14 days, and the lockdown of residential areas instil a certain fear among people of all nations. The limited public activities, reluctance to use public transport and fear of the crowd are an ineluctable fallout of the outbreak in affected areas. The infection proves to be fatal in roughly around 2%; it means 98% of the infected persons recover. In the absence of vaccines and drugs, prayers are held across the world for divine intervention, but sceptics are not quite of their efficacy.

Epidemics like COVID-19 make us acutely conscious of our fragility and vulnerability. It is instructive to see how people respond to the outbreak. Health workers exposed to infection work at great risk to their health and lives. The Chinese whistleblower doctor lost his life to the killer virus. In contrast, the epidemic has engendered a lot of hostility towards the Chinese, people with Chinese-like features and returnees from China as they are perceived to be potential infectors. Clearly, an emergency or a crisis brings out the best and the worst built into us by evolution. Collective and concerted action tempered with courage and compassion is now needed to grapple with the deadly and dreadful virus.

G. David Milton

Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 8:16:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/fighting-an-epidemic/article30846613.ece

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