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Jun 06, 2020 PRINT EDITION

Accepting the inevitable

Now that everybody is done experimenting with the lockdowns and the whole world feels compelled to open up once again it seems the time has come to accept the inevitable and understand that we are going to have to live with the coronavirus for some time t

Updated May 20, 2020

Now that everybody is done experimenting with the lockdowns and the whole world feels compelled to open up once again it seems the time has come to accept the inevitable and understand that we are going to have to live with the coronavirus for some time to come. The World Health Organisation (WHO) was even less upbeat about the whole thing just a few days ago, when its emergencies director, Dr Mike Ryan, said that the coronavirus may never go away. Even if a vaccine is found, which is still nowhere in sight, controlling the virus will still require a "massive effort," he told international media. Prime Minister Imran Khan, based on similar information no doubt, has also finally told the nation that there's no choice but to move on with our lives with the virus in our midst. It's not as if we didn't try to control it; we shut everything down just like every other country in the world, hoping that either the virus would die down in that time or a cure would be found, but since neither was achieved and it's just not feasible to stay locked up endlessly, it seems the best bet now is to bite the bullet and move ahead with full caution.
The world has lived with extreme viruses before - no better example than the Spanish Flu of about a century ago - and continues to do so now as HIV, for example, never went away yet we learnt to come to terms with it. Each time we confronted something like this, though, the whole world had to get a lot smarter and wiser in order to stay safe and keep moving forward. And this time will be no different as literally everybody in the world going about his/her business will have to adhere to perhaps the strictest safety protocols ever required to be implemented at the global level. And one reason leaders are so frank about all this is that people themselves must realise that how this turns out is basically in their own hands. If ordinary citizens are responsible enough to understand the gravity of the situation and exercise all precautions possible, chief among them social distancing and keeping themselves clean and infection free, there's no reason that we cannot go through this phase successfully as well.
But let there be no mistake, even the slightest failure, even on the part of a few people or communities or countries, can have a catastrophic outcome that will not take too long to materialise. That is because getting back to normal will force people to travel and work together, which risks a further spread of the virus unless everybody is extra careful in everything they do, otherwise the downside can be too gruesome to even contemplate at the moment. Yet it's important to remind everybody that any misstep now will surely cause the virus to spread at the speed of light and force everything to shut down all over again, bringing poor countries, at least, truly to their knees. That is why it cannot be stressed enough that governments should be drumming into everybody's ears how important it is to follow official orders about safety and protection. And they must do it incessantly because only personal safety measures will make the difference between survival and a really horrible death count.
So far, sadly, some countries aren't exactly standing out for their safety protocols; countries of the subcontinent being very high on that list. In Pakistan, while some provinces did better than others, the lockdown wasn't really ever in full force. Some, though not too many, people could be seen on the roads throughout the last couple of months, but the situation has gone completely out of control since the lockdown was lifted a few days ago. It seems even the police force is unable to check large gatherings in major cities. So far we've been spared a really severe outbreak like most other countries, but that trend could reverse very quickly if people continue to flaunt safety rules. India, meanwhile, has just overtaken China to become Asia's new hotspot. There, too, the manner of the shutdown - which left millions of people stranded with no food, shelter or transportation - only worsened the problem. This is disturbing news for Pakistan because now we have three bordering countries with very large outbreaks. Reports are also emerging, from all corners of the globe, that pressures from the virus and lockdowns have also started affecting people's mental health. Therefore, it is all the more important to realise that it is a really unique moment in time, and the whole world will have to join forces to see this through so everybody can heal physically as well as mentally.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020