Disclaimer: The things I am about to share in this article are for the sake of informing the general public and also to show a different perspective on how a Pandemic like Covid-19 can work as a wake-up call for the current society. This is not to say that I want to watch the world burn down. I think an optimistic viewpoint is necessary if we all want to survive this pandemic. My thoughts go out to every victim and I do hope that a vaccine can be quickly procured to solve this crisis. Although it has to be made clear that the fastest a vaccine can be produced is with in a year. So our best hope to solve this crisis is to follow the ideas of social distancing and not to go out searching for an infection. Let me start this article with a very powerful phrase :
“This too shall pass”
There is already plenty of information out there on how we can protect ourselves during this pandemic. I will touch on them briefly and provide helpful links if you want to study further. There is a lot of false information out there on the internet. So stay safe, don’t blindly trust everything you read online and only trust the information from credible sources such as WHO and the CDC :
In this article, I will be discussing the following topic
What is Covid-19? and the different ways we can protect ourselves
Viruses are constantly looking for new hosts to infect. Most of them fail due to the genetic dissimilarity between the different hosts and that is why viruses like the corona virus are so rare. But viruses can also replicate rapidly by the millions and can quickly develop a random mutation. These mutations under the best-case scenario will kill the virus or make it so that it can cause no harm. But a random mutation may also make the virus capable enough to infect a host (humans or animals).
Covid-19 is a new strain of the corona virus. It is said to have first originated in Wuhan Province of China and since then has become a global pandemic spreading to about 182 countries to date (until March 19, 2020). Yes, there are other types of corona viruses. Namely, MERS and SARS which have caused some real problems in the past and we were lucky that they did not become a global pandemic like this one. Even though the mortality rate of covid-19 is only about 2% which is much lower than that of MERS or SARS it has already managed to kill more than 10 times as many people (until March 19, 2020). The main reason behind this has been the global spread of this virus.
The most common symptoms are Fever, Cough, and Shortness of breath. In some patients – particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions – these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients requiring hospital treatment while 80% of the cases are mild and can recover at home.
The various ways by which we can protect ourselves and others are :
- Don’t be complacent about this virus. Take it seriously and follow the ideas of social distancing for the foreseeable future. This is the best preventative measure we have to help us defeat this pandemic given that a vaccine is not going to come anytime soon.
- Don’t be an idiot and hoard masks and food. This creates more panic than is needed and takes supplies away from health professionals and people who are actually showing symptoms.
- Consistently wash your hands for at least 20 secs with soap. And try not to touch your face. Disinfect the surfaces that are frequently touched. A new analysis found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours.
- Don’t be a racist. That does not help anyone. You will not get the virus by eating Chinese Food or by getting a Chinese package.
Status of Nepal and things we can do
We are currently seeing that the number of medical cases due to corona virus is rapidly increasing in many countries. Hence it is safe to say that the spread of the virus in Nepal is almost inevitable (If it has not spread already). As of writing this article, there has only been “one” reported case here in Nepal with no fatality. That number should be taken with a grain of salt because there is a good chance that 1000’s of cases are lurking in the background. This is because our country is ill-equipped to even test the existence of the virus. WHO has already enlisted Nepal in a high-risk zone for the corona virus outbreak. If we use our common sense, it is safe to say that the outbreak in Nepal is not the question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
A strong rumor that is going around
There are rumors that the season of summer (Due to the increase in temperature) might slow down the spread of the virus. But until now there is nothing concrete to support that theory. Hence information like these cannot be trusted without factual analysis. Although if this theory is assumed to be true the virus could die out or it could resurface in the cold by becoming an even deadlier strain. Therefore it is important for us to understand the nature of this virus as individuals in order to take the right preventative measures to protect ourselves.
Condition of our health care system
It can be easily estimated that if this outbreak occurs, the Nepalese health care system will be overwhelmed. People who are showing symptoms may be unable to find proper medical care. And because of this many who could be treated and saved may suffer and die.
The major stakeholders during this outbreak we will be the elderly probably with a preexisting condition. Recently the government did take some action towards dealing with this pandemic. But an even bigger effort other than closing everything down is needed if we stand any chance of escaping this cluster fuck that is about to come our way.
The necessary steps that must be taken are things such as the management of hospital beds, other then this virus testing kits should be provided at different locations especially in different checkpoints that go in and out of the country, the government should also look towards increasing the number of ventilators for the sick. Other things like Stimulating the economy without causing rapid inflation, managing food sources for the unemployed and poor must also be taken into consideration. This virus at the moment is not strong enough to kill a lot of people on its own. But the panic it creates definitely will.
Things we can do to help
The thing you can do to help during this time is to be a decent and responsible human being. Do not hoard masks if you are young and not showing symptoms. You might be taking it away from health care professionals and people who are infected, who actually need it. Do not act stupid and stock up on a year’s worth of food supplies. I get that you might be sacred but remember that there are others who desperately want those supplies too. It is an asshole move to be selfish especially during this time. The idea is to act like a normal human being and not act as if this is a zombie outbreak. Use preventative measures and follow the ideas of social distancing. (Discussed below).
Exponential growth and what does it mean for Nepal
Many are choosing the route of superstition and ego to explain why the virus has not spread in Nepal. As I said earlier our country lacks the resources to even start testing people for this virus. And let’s say, that is not the case. That until now there is no one infected with the virus. Even then we should not be complacent. The reason is exponential growth and what we are seeing in countries like the US, Italy, Iran, and others. The cases there are skyrocketing. In order to understand why that has been the case let’s understand what exponential growth actually is.
The virus has an incubation period of about 12-14 days. This means that you may right now carry the virus and not even realize that you are infected. Because of this, things can stay normal for a very long time until it isn’t. One day you may find out that a few people got sick. And just within a day or two, like magic everyone around you gets sick. This is why governmental response must be rapid especially in the early stage when the number of cases are low. This must be done in order to prevent an outbreak. You might think closing down public gatherings, stadiums, schools, festivals, and other social events are an overreaction but know that it is necessary. This is because we may not notice an outbreak until its too late.
Let us understand what exponential growth actually is. Let’s say a frog can reproduce once a day for the next 20 days. On day one there will be 1 frog. On day two 2 frogs. On day three there will be 4 frogs and so on. In just 14 days you will have about 16 thousand frogs in the pond. By the 20th day with the same rate of increment, you will have about 10 lakh frogs in the pond. And a interesting thing you have to realize is that on the 19th day there will only be about 5 lakh frogs in the pond. The number of frogs will double from the 19th to the 20th day. This is how viruses spread. Starting from mid-February we have seen about 1.1-1.4 times the cases every day around the world (i.e. A frog is reproducing 1.4 babies a day). This means that every day there has been more than a single case and growing. This can make the cases add up very quickly as you saw with the frog example. An expert wrote in an Atlantic Article and predicted that about 40-70% of people around the world will be infected by this virus within a year. This is because a potential vaccine is a year into the future and will probably take longer. This is why rapid responses are needed at a very early stage to help prevent an outbreak.
So just because there has only been one “reported” case in Nepal does not mean we should be complacent about the potential harm this virus can bring socially, economically and physically.
The idea behind social distancing and what does it means to flatten the curve
Social distancing simply means to stay away from close human contact. We do this so as to make sure that new people are not infected by the virus as frequently and that we do not spread the infection to others in case we have it ourselves. Why is this necessary? This is necessary so that the number of infected cases does not overwhelm the health care system within a nation. No matter what we do there are a limited number of beds and medical resources available.
Let’s look at the outbreak curve to understand what it represents. How bad will the impact of the virus be is dependent entirely on the rate of infection over a period of time. A rapid global pandemic means a lot of people get sick in a very short amount of time as shown by the sharp cliff in the diagram. A slower moving pandemic looks a lot flatter. In this scenario, the rate at which cases increase is lowered and spread out over a long period of time (Flattening the curve).
Even though the total number of people infected in both curves may be the same. A slower spread means that the healthcare system will have resources to treat the ones who are sick. The dotted line shows the capacity of the health care system of a nation which includes things such as the number of beds, doctors, respirators and other medical equipment.
A sudden explosion in the number of cases will mean that only a few people will get access to health care. And a decision would have to be made as to who gets the treatment and who does not. This can result in a lot of fear, anger, and hate. If we manage to flatten the curve by socially distancing ourselves. i.e. to say that if we can slow the rate of infection over a longer period of time so that it does not overwhelm the system, everyone who is infected gets treated. Whereas in the first scenario if there is a rapid growth of infection then many will die because of the lack of access to health care. So given that a vaccine will take some time to be procured this is what we may have to live with for the foreseeable future (which could be weeks or months).
So be a responsible human. If you are young you might be arrogant enough to think that you are safe. But it’s not about you. It about you giving the infection to your parents or grandparents. Don’t go out in groups. Don’t meet people unless and until it is absolutely necessary. We all have to take responsibility in order to help each other during this difficult time. This is the best preventative measure we have at the moment.
How this pandemic can be beneficial to the current society
Note: This is a biased personal opinion
I think pandemics like these can help us to take a step back and rethink the norms of society. Also, pandemics like these can expose massive holes in the economical, and social infrastructures that we have built for ourselves. This pandemic can be a wake-up call for the rest of the world.
This outbreak has already shown how countries are vulnerable when it comes to the inefficiency of the health care system. Countries keep pouring money into weapons and defense systems as if they will be attacked tomorrow. Even though a threat of an all-out war is very low in the present context with most countries having nuclear weapons. It is already a stalemate. We can see that microscopic viruses can destroy an entire nation within weeks. So what good are all these weapons which cost billions of dollars that could be poured into improving the health care systems?
This outbreak is also showing the inequity that exists in the modern world. If the health care system is overwhelmed by this outbreak. A harsh decision has to be made on who gets the treatment and who gets left out. Do you treat the rich and the powerful or do we help the poor? And we are already seeing the signs of where that needle will flip. Celebrities and people in power have a lot faster access to treatment and care. The inequity that exits is starting to get exposed. And this is making people fearful and angry. Inequity will always exist in the world no matter what. But it is up to a nation to at least give all its citizens access to basic rights for survival. This includes food, clothing, shelter and health care.
Structures must be set up in the future to counteract such a pandemic because right now we are already seeing how vulnerable we are to this. The next time we may not be so lucky. Health care should be made a basic right to every individual.
A friend sent this post to me. I don’t know how factual this is but I do believe that we have put a lot of strain on planet earth. Climate change is already sounding death bells for human extinction. The post goes something like this: Since the lockdown: Venice’s canals have become crystal clear. Italy’s coasts have dolphins coming nearer and nearer. Japan now has deer roaming free in the streets, and Thailand: the same with monkeys. China has record-breaking pollution cuts. The earth is thriving and showing signs of what will happen if there is a lack of human pollution impacting its climate and environment. What if we took this opportunity to start fresh? To take this pandemic as a wake-up call and protect this ecosystem that we all live in. Because if we are not careful, we will be signing our own death warrants.
Colleges are made online which should be a norm, not an exception. How does sitting in a lecture hall bored out of their mind for 7 hours a day can help anyone learn, is something I will never understand? The entire idea of the college system today is idiotic. It is madness what we are doing to this generation. Colleges should be a place of community where projects are carried out. I say let the online system remain. Education should not be forced down anyone’s throats. It should be the choice of an individual. Pandemics like this help humanity rethink its traditions. With no classrooms, every room in a university can be turned in to the laboratory. Individuals can form groups and work together to learn via projects. Research has shown that project-based learning is the most efficient way of learning. Because of this, the young generation will have time to understand and explore life on an individual level. Read a book that interests them, and not because it is forced upon them. Things such as finding a hobby, learning how to cook or invest are just as important as college education and do not cost as much.
With classrooms being fully online you can reuse old materials. Quickly Adapt the study material to modern world. There needs to be a more holistic system of education that helps millions instead of a few thousands.
All studies arise from aspects of the one earth and the one life lived upon it. We do not have a series of stratified earth, one of which is mathematical, another physical, another historical, and so on… All studies grow out of relations in the one great common world. When the child lives in varied but concrete and active relationships with this common world, his studies are naturally unified… Relate the school to life, and all studies are of necessity correlated.
Sources and Links