We have to learn to live with the virus

File Pic: Mir Imran/GK

In a span of just a few months, a tiny invisible army of coronavirus has brought the bustling world to a standstill. Nobody knew that a pathogen emerging in China going global, becoming so significant would negatively affect our daily lives. The pandemic is no longer merely a health crisis but leading towards a deep humanitarian tragedy. It has badly affected our economy, health and education and played havoc on the lives of laborers, small businessmen and ordinary people. Staying at home may be affordable for some but imagine the plight of those who cannot afford to stay a single day at home because they live in abject poverty. There are numerous horror stories emerging in the media. While nobody actually knows how long the pandemic and its effects may continue, it seems that this virus is going to stay here for at least the next couple of years. There is no categorical yes/no to end/continue the lockdown but for sure, the lockdowns cannot continue for an indefinite period. We may die of psychological disorders, hunger and poverty than by the disease itself. It is not the case of a developed or the developing country, no country can afford to have an extended lockdown. The pressure against the lockdowns is also mounting globally. With no treatment available for the virus as yet, we have to learn to live with the virus and adopt a behavior that satisfies both our daily living and the norms of prevention.

The pandemic has crippled the economy, shattered world order, leading to anger, frustration and mistrust among the people at large. Businesses have closed, transport systems have stopped, unemployment has risen and productivity has fallen. This dilemma has heightened even more in countries like ours, which has a weak health system and where large parts of populations live below the poverty line and daily wage labor is essential to the survival of millions. The shutting down of the shops, markets, shopping centers and offices have impacted the country’s economy to a large extent further decreasing the revenue collection in the form of taxes. The data shows that just 25% fall in incomes could send as many as 354 million Indians below the poverty line. We have seen migrant workers thronging to railways stations and city centers in tens of thousands, desperate to go their homes, with no work, no money, how can they survive? People who work for small businesses end up with job and salary losses. The employers in various private sectors and others establishments are taking immediate decisions around layoffs and salary cuts of their employs. Temporary staffing is becoming a preferred way of hiring people for businesses. Online business, E-commerce, financial services, logistic service providers is seeing a spurt in demand. The cascading effect is playing havoc on the overall socio-economic setup.

The governments all over the world are facing a catch-22 situation. Either to continue with lockdowns which has socio-economic implications or ease curbs that can cause spread of disease and deaths of the people. It is true that we have to survive first and succeed later and in times like these, they have to take tough decisions. The lockdown was necessary keeping the   overwhelming proliferation and decimating character of virus in view, otherwise lakhs more would have died. The lockdown has been an extreme step available to break the chain of transmission, flatten the peak that can provide time to the health and social systems to mount a response. Off course when supported with public health measures like case detection, contact tracing, isolation and management of cases, the disease can effectively be contained. But if the Govt continues with an effective lockdown for most parts of the country, lakhs of people in the country could die of hunger. Many raise issues that the relaxation to the lockdown should not damage the gains we have already achieved in containing the disease. If lockdown ends, the mass gatherings  takes place, the disease spreads, the transmission hits again, the hospitals becoming hotspots, how that can be managed? These arguments stagger one’s imagination.

Returning to normal life as it was at the beginning of 2020 is still a long way away. This doesn’t mean that everyone becomes a hermit and gives up the charms of life. There are a few important tips about how, when and where the virus spreads.  A complete infection is a combination of exposure to virus loads over a period of time. An 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infections requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections that may require artificial ventilation. The experts while analyzing data conclude that the contagion spreads more indoors rather than out in the open. The enclosed spaces with poor air circulation and high density of people as seen in religious and social gatherings, birth day parties, weddings, funerals etc have been responsible for a broader chunk of transmission across the countries. Talking loudly, shouting, sneezing results in spreading the infectious droplets that can remain in air for hours in a confined space. The droplets landing on floors, seats etc depends on how long viruses survive on surfaces. The virus can stay for more time on surfaces like steel and plastic than on a cardboard. High-touch surfaces, like handle, knobs that we grip regularly throughout the day could be the potential source to spread virus as we touch our mouth, noses and eyes quite frequently. Coronavirus is a small set of genes enclosed by a sphere of fatty lipid molecule that can easily be torn apart by soap. We have to adhere to all the “do’s and don’t’s” to mitigate the spread of the virus side by side living our lives.

The world has learnt that the vaccines for this disease aren’t easy to whip up.  Despite having over 100-vaccines in different phases of development across the world, it is still far off from finding a cure for the disease. Nobody can help all those who are affected by the lockdown. Resumption of economic activities while ensuring all steps to protect the lives of people in a comprehensive manner is the only way forward. SOPs on optimal mix of relaxations and restrictions have to be devised and followed strictly. This is a hard choice the Govts will have to deal with but that is the only way we will be able to get back. We have to learn to live with the virus, get things going and make peace with this new reality.