Can Covid-19 spring a surprise to human civilization?
Asoke K Laha, President & CEO of Interra Information Technologies
The sinister impact of the pandemic is lingering on bringing mankind to their knees and forcefully keeping billions of people under confinement. The governments and civil society are on their toes. From the day it started from Wuhan, the news on Covid-19 assumed several dimensions, which no other incident in the recent times would have demonstrated. From localized epidemics, it soon crossed to other countries, with more severity and intensity. Till date, that is continuing without any abatement, infecting millions and ending the lives of close to 200,000 people...
Admittedly, Covid-19 is a life time experience, which will stick on to the psyche of the people. The only country, I am told, has escaped from the virus, so far, is Lesotho in Africa, according to the available information. I am sure, if that is the case, Lesotho, which may not be known to many outside Africa, will be a case study and can unravel many unknown facts about the killer virus, particularly what prevented the virus to penetrate into that small country, while its bordering countries have incidences of viral infection.
An account that I read in the newspaper columns, though gory, but still significant, are the comments of the people managing burial grounds across the country, which I am sure, can be extrapolated to the rest of the world also. They say mortal remains brought for cremation of people, who have succumbed to diseases other than Covid-19 have considerably come down. The number of people dying on account of road accidents and cardiac problems have considerably reduced thanks to pollution free environment, non-existence of traffic jams and other unsavory incidences that an ordinary person living in a city or town has to undergo on a daily basis. The other day, I have seen a clear photograph of snowy mountains of Himalayas shot from some vantage point in Delhi. That is for certain not a fake photograph since it had appeared in a serious daily with the byline of the photographer.
Does it mean Covid-19 saga is not all that fraught with negativity? It has taught people many lessons; of being how helpless he or she is, how important is leading a healthy and disciplined life; how one can recreate Mother Nature; how one can keep the city clean and air pure, which people always considered as a byproduct of development. If Covid- 19 has taught us many lessons, the post Covid-19 world will not be the same.
Did the world forecast about the holocaust? Indeed, the film Contagion has many similarities to this pandemic. The only difference is that it was shot in 2011, when the pandemic was never even dreamt of. If someone feels that there is resemblance between what is happening now and the story line of the film, pray that what is foretold in the reel should not happen in real life, for that would cost mankind dearly. The storyline in the film has also its speculative twists and turns. There are quakes, who made a killing by selling fake medicines and spreading fake news. It also portrays governments, which are staring at the catastrophe helplessly putting us in a dilemma between reel and real life.
When will be the pandemic end or tamed? No one has a clue.There are reports about vaccines at various stages of trials. Almost every country is engaged in that. India is not an exception. Serum Institute of India, in close cooperation with Oxford University is conducting trials. The initial report is that it is incrementally progressing. Few days ago, a US company Moderna announced positive interim Phase 1 data for its mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1273) against Novel Coronavirus. When will the vaccine be developed still remains to be a trillion dollar question. Many see it could be expected only by the end of this year since it has to meet with stringent standards set by the FDA and similar organizations. Once the vaccine is tested successfully, that will be the beginning of a new challenging phase. Experts are of the opinion that every individual across the world should be given vaccination irrespective of their age, color and creed. That only can give them immunity against the virus. This would mean that more than 7 billion vaccines have to be developed to cater to the world population. No country should be left out. There should not be any lag in giving vaccination since in a short time virus can assume menacing proportions. Therefore, a focused attention should be given for the mass scale production of vaccine and its efficient distribution across the world. That will be a real challenge the medical science has to face once the vaccine is developed and tested successfully.
There is a concern also being expressed from various quarters. That is about greater degree of mutation of the virus and with each stage of mutation, the virus strain is assuming newer properties. Therefore, even if an oral medicine is evolved, the efficacy of that medicine for universal application is something, which can keep virologists and medical practitioners in a quandary. I believe that we have seen, so far, only the hard and sinister side of the pandemic. I sincerely feel that it may have a positive side sooner or later.
The change the pandemic can bring to the medical science will be mindboggling. I feel by the time the Covid19 makes its full exit, billions of tests would have been done across the continents to find the traces of the virus. The blood and swab samples of that many people would have been tested in the laboratories. This would be a huge reservoir of data that can be put into data mining to establish correlations between many attributes such as habits and diseases, races and incidence of diseases, dietary habits and diseases, how the virus would mutate and the circumstances in which proliferations happen and a whole lot of other things, which medical science never had an opportunity to do research. These insights are going to be of considerable importance to the medical science in understanding disease patterns, treatment profiles, preventive care etc. The greatest beneficiary is going to be the future generation, who will witness a spate of radical changes in the societal behavior and outlook towards life.