Pressing the reset button in times of the coronavirus pandemic – analysis
When the “touch” becomes taboo and the “breath” that sustains life carries a risk to life, humanity is living on the edge. Living in the times of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will never be the same as life before the pandemic. Given the steady increase in infections, it will take time to reach a phase that can be called life after the coronavirus. Until a vaccine is found and the virus is addressed, we will live alongside the coronavirus (LAC). For LAC, the pause button is not an answer, you have to press the reset button. Our minds and ways of life need restoration. It shouldn’t be difficult.
A recent post-coronavirus survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that 91% of Americans have said the virus has changed their lives to varying degrees; 86% prayed for the end of the virus; 77% did not want to eat in a restaurant again, and in this presidential election year, 66% would not feel comfortable lining up to vote. That is the impact of the invisible virus worldwide.
When we had less than 500 cases of infections in India, 1.3 billion people have been locked in their homes since March 25 to avoid the virus. When this number increased to one hundred thousand on May 17, there was a longing for freedom. Therefore, lockdown 4.0 is different from the first one. This longing is perhaps a statement that we are now ready to deal with the virus, as there is much more to life than living in confinement for so long. Experts and government officials say fighting the coronavirus is a long way. The vaccine can take time to arrive, if it does. Therefore, this reestablishing trust to deal with the virus should guide people as they wait for the next set of rules when the current crash ends on May 31. The contours of the next version of the block depend on the infection curve and behavior. of people during the fourth version. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the rules in the social, economic and political spheres have to be restored.
When the comfort of being in the presence of others is forcibly replaced by absence, life has to adapt to that. But at no time should the hyperindividualism of times before the coronavirus be allowed to take root again. The essential interconnectedness of health, of our mutual dependence, so clearly demonstrated by the pandemic, must inform our attitude and behavior. While ensuring social distancing, we must stay meaningfully connected and support each other in every way. After the coronavirus, classrooms have been replaced by homes, seminars are being transformed into webinars, meetings are no longer physical. A healthy digital life is emerging, although there are problems of equitable access to tools for all. New habits are the key to life along with the coronavirus. Albert Camus, writing about the destruction of a fictional Algerian city in The plague, said; “The truth is that everyone is bored and dedicated to cultivating habits”, habits that are not synchronized with the principles of humanity and nature. New standards of living are needed. Keeping your distance, wearing masks, and washing your hands regularly are cost-effective ways to control virus transmission. We need to make these habits a part of life whenever necessary. Life may seem more virtual than real.
Protecting people’s lives and reviving the economy is the key challenge. The global economy is facing the most serious attack since the Great Depression of the last century. Production centers and other economic activities should be revived with strict safeguards for those involved. Strict protocols must be established and followed. Gradualism is better than trying to reach peak performance levels too soon. The coronavirus outbreak has exposed the shortcomings of the healthcare system and underscored the need for substantial investments in public health infrastructure.
Migrant workers are returning to their homes in large numbers amid uncertainty. We need to step up efforts to keep them where they are at the moment and bring those who returned home back by assuring them of their future and instilling confidence.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought out the best of cooperative federalism in our country with leadership at the central and state levels accommodating the point of view of the other as the situation developed, from the 1.0 to 4.0 blockade. This spirit should guide the execution of the announced steps for economic recovery. Central and state governments have become more visible in the fight against the virus than ever. The third level of governance and local communities need power to deal with such crisis situations to obtain even better results.
Historian and author Yuval Noah Harari lamented that the overall response to Covid-19 was not ideal. With nations fighting their own battles against the virus, the much-needed collective global response is lacking in action, negatively impacting those with low-income bases. This needs to be addressed for best results and to prepare for future shocks.
The pandemic has highlighted existing inequalities with respect to technology access, income levels, and livelihood vulnerabilities, resulting in varying degrees of pain inflicted by the virus in different sectors of society in all the world. Appropriate lessons must be learned from this.
In summary, coronavirus is a shock treatment and a clear reminder of the need to re-establish approaches on the social, political, economic and global fronts, in addition to living in harmony with each other and with nature.
M Venkaiah Naidu is Vice President of India
The opinions expressed are personal.