The World on Pause

“It would be an exotic moment,
without rush, without engines
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness”

Perhaps when Pablo Neruda gave life to these words in his poetic piece titled “Keeping Quiet”, he wouldn’t have known that years later mankind would find itself trapped in a similar situation. A situation where people are forced to confine themselves to the safety of their households, barring the very essence of societal interaction laying an indefinite time ahead for self-introspection and for once, in so long, put a pause on the state of being busy. Of course, this is all just hypothetical as Neruda wouldn’t live to witness this strangeness. But it is apparent that no one would wish for the world to be put in such a circumstance had they known that the underlying cause of all this is a deadly virus, one that continues to spread at a rate so much faster than what the most adamant pessimist would have expected it to.

Alluding to the cholera epidemic and the plague outbreak we’ve had in the past, the coronavirus is something that is almost entirely a new foe to researchers and doctors worldwide. Generating a vaccine for the virus in a case where other medical implements like antibiotics are of no relevance is becoming more and more important with each passing day as this is nothing short of a life and death situation. No one is an exception in the eyes of a virus and the risk of spreading the disease has forced everyone across the globe to revamp ourselves to a new set of living, whether it be business, lifestyle, economy, education, or wellness. As the popular saying goes, we have to practice and preach the motto “adapt and overcome”. It is indeterminate as to when this coveted remedy will be conjured, but for now we have to stay prepared and cooperate with the teams working to eradicate the malady, for all we know it might take more time than we expect it to.

Keeping all this in mind, information about the virus and ways to deal with it takes a pivotal position in how the general public perceives the pandemic. The limitless reach social media tyrants and the internet has in today’s world has paved the way for information to spread faster than it has ever been, may it be legitimate or fraud. The spread of fake news and misinformation has escalated ever so wide on a larger scale due to the aforementioned factors, and thus preventing the stretch of such illegitimate information can hugely benefit in keeping people from being delusional about the virus and help them follow the required safety measures.

The medical health teams and law enforcement authorities have been playing a significant role in the whole process, but this coherently does not make anyone an exception from contributing or donating to the cause in some way or the other. There can never be too many supplements like hand-made one-time use masks or gloves. Moreover, volunteers are welcome at community kitchens and food delivery services for the affected patients in isolation wards, regardless of age or any other criterion. Remember, this is a fight against the disease, not the patient. Everyone can play a role in surviving this situation, all it takes is an amiable heart and a willingness to help.

As globalisation extended its influence far beyond telecommunications and made travel such an integral and extrinsic part of our lives, we have evolved to develop a constant need for social exchange. This makes a worthy case for conducting health tests on a regular basis a necessity. Testing can help ensure that every citizen, from every part of the world may it be a densely populated urban center or a local suburb, is free of the risk of being a carrier of the disease. Although it may seem very easy on paper, it is very difficult to organise this system on every section of the society practically. Since there is the absence of a nationwide Covid-19 testing scheme, the frequency of people being tested and the accuracy and efficiency of the noted tests differ from place to place. This is where the requisition of a planned testing scheme is essential. Limitations put on movement to and from political boundaries can help contain the virus to a certain extent but in cases where travel becomes necessary, tests should be a prerequisite in railway services, airports etc. Treatment and testing should begin from the grassroots level and build its way up to the national and then the international grounds. There can also be charging centres set up by the government where people can be subjected to tests for an affordable charge. Albeit the convention is not on the side of it, privatisation to an extent can help ease the pressure of the government having to handle the situations themselves altogether.

The inherent drawbacks of the new work-from-home lifestyle have been evident in dropping rates of trade and commerce, stock exchange and the economy in general, but it is safe to say that with time companies and nations will tailor their strategies to suit the new norm. Along with the changes in the financial and economic front, it is an immutable fact that the environment has started to enliven itself from the undeniable drop rates in pollution levels and human activities which has contributed to a world where concrete was more of a value than the earth itself. Educational institutions and other companies have been bolstering themselves with the likes of online meetings and classes as workplaces and schools have been deemed unsafe. The internet has been thus proving itself as a catalyst for these new changes, leaving us to wonder how the world would have survived with such a pandemic had it arrived a century ago.

The Kerala Model of dealing with the coronavirus has been exceptionally effective in containing the virus and decreasing death rates. The Rapid Response Team system involves a software database where each doctor by themselves can get noticed of every person going in and out of their specified district or local ward. This can ensure that the health team can keep track of every person who might be susceptible or vulnerable to the virus and advice them on various quarantine methods individually, preventing community spread and solidifying the lockdown archetype. When it comes to a densely populated and vast country like India, implementation of this method throughout can help confine the affected people to isolating themselves and in turn help in containing the virus.

Of course, we cannot deliberately attempt to do a full one-eighty on the way we live and it is unfeasible for us to jump the gun on restricting ourselves completely to a new system. We would have the occasional need to stock ourselves with the essential basic necessities to some extent. And in these inevitable cases, there is only so much what the administration can do. One viable measure is to impose a mandatory rule on masks, gloves and other such items. More than this, there should also be a steady supply of these essential supplements so that no one is deprived of sanitisers, masks and gloves. The implicit message of this scheme is that everyone should have the minimum resources and requirements to protect themselves and incorporate these proceedings.

The incursion of the virus leading us to restrict ourselves does not negate our responsibilities as a citizen, for our responsibilities will only accrue during a difficult time like this. We have to commit to the laws and regulations put up by the authorities entrusted all the while lauding the efforts of those working on the frontline face to face with risk every day. Social distancing along with personal hygiene and sanitation has come to be of extreme importance. We find ourselves in a strange scenario where abstaining from being with our loved ones can turn out for the better in the long run. A time like this, unseen before, calls for compromises. We should gain an understanding of settlement and adjust with what we have, to look past all that we are in a dearth of and be grateful for being fortunate enough to fight this fight together with the coalesce of humanitarian values.

The whole ordeal has shone new light on the concept of ‘presence’ if there is anything to take away from this. Although we might still go about our lives almost normally during the lockdown, although we might get all the essential items we need as we need them, we’re missing the humanistic sense of being present in our own as well as a loved one’s life. The ecstatic feeling of being able to freely visit a family member after months of being apart or the warmth of embracing your best friend in so long will mean a whole lot more to us and we will cherish it in a way we never did before, finally realizing the worth of emotions and learn to express them better.

The word ‘quarantine’ has found itself being juggled with different meanings in the past few months. Traditionally pertaining to a brand new lifestyle for the whole world where we limit our outdoor activities, we might as well adopt the system of quarantine as the current normality, for it is unknown as to how long the virus will persist until we revert back to the way it was in the past. Ironically, the same sense of indefinite quarantine has opened up multiple opportunities for us in hindsight, a chance to reinvent what we stand for as human beings. As we find ourselves having a handful of free time in our schedule, this is a chance for us to do things we were putting off for so long, maybe a book we wanted to read that we could not find the time to or a hobby you wanted to cultivate. Maybe we should all see this situation as a wake-up call, a chance to turn a new leaf, and finally come to terms with the fact that prevention is better than cure and tackle these self-inflicted wounds better in the future. Come hell or high water, we will come out of this debacle learning to stop taking things for granted and envision a new world of resilience and hope with no deadline in sight.

-Contributed by Harishankar M (One of the prize winners of Covid-19 Article Writing Competition in the 13-17 years age group)

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