China is associated with secrecy and the exotic. Its penchant for exotic and exquisite food has landed the world in a soup. As innocent as horror stories begin, the current story began in a seafood stall in Wuhan. The virus strain, today known as the Covid-19 or the Coronavirus is plaguing the world.
With layers of secrecy shrouding the information channels including the infamous ‘Firewall of China’, the news of the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan was delayed. According to reports, the first case of Covid-19 was reported by doctors in China on November 17.
The interest of China in positioning itself as a global political power saw it shirking its international commitments. After the news of the Wuhan Coronavirus got out, it tried to paint itself as a nation that can efficiently counter the epidemic. However, there were many appalling incidents that made headlines amidst its attempts to control the outbreak.
The story of Li Wenliang highlights the callous attitude of the Chinese authorities towards human life. From them there is nothing to fix, until it is broken. Li Wenliang, a medical professional in Wuhan, tried to alert authorities and fellow doctors about the possible outbreak of an illness. His warnings landed him at death’s door. He was denied treatment by state authorities and succumbed to the Coronavirus. Recently, a Chinese business tycoon who criticised President Xi Jinping for his handling of the epidemic has disappeared.
This high handed approach towards containment definitely did not make China look good. In addition China shrugged off its responsibility to inform the world about the dangers of the outbreak of the epidemic in China.
Even after the Chinese authorities confirmed the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many European governments did not act. Depending on the advanced healthcare systems developed, they underestimated the impact of the virus. A lackadaisical initial response to the threat of Coronavirus by countries such as Italy, France, Germany has resulted in high death rates.
The countries in closer proximity to China have safeguarded themselves from the Wuhan Coronavirus much more effectively than the rest of the world. Countries like India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have fortified themselves and have lower infections and death rates.
In a move to combat the deadly pandemic in the sub-continent, the regional grouping SAARC under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid down the future roadmap. But Pakistan, the achilles heel of SAARC, raised the Kashmir bogey in a meet to combat Coronavirus. The person who represented Pakistan during the meet is being probed for smuggling 20 million medical masks out of the country.
The apathy of the Pakistani government to safeguard its citizens against the Wuhan Coronavirus is turning the country into the epicentre for the subcontinent. With dingy dormitories being used as quarantine wards, the virus is spreading at an alarming rate. At the time of writing, Pakistan has 303 confirmed Coronavirus cases with 2 reported deaths.
As much as the negligence of the governments has put people at risk, the people themselves too are responsible for putting themselves at risk. When Italy began to take preventive measures to contain the pandemic, the citizens did not heed the calls for social distancing and self-quarantine. This resulted in a rapid spread of the virus across the country. The situation is dire. Italy recorded 475 deaths today taking the total death toll to 2978. Only China surpasses this.
Religious beliefs of the people are becoming a major source of concern in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic. As governments and medical organisations are recommending self-quarantines and social distancing, devotees are thronging places of worship. While churches and temples are shutting down recognizing the need for safety, mosques are yet to announce closures.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, large prayer gatherings have taken place in mosques have contributed to the drastic rise in Wuhan Coronavirus cases. Mosques across the world are trying to limit prayer timings instead of closing them down. India too is slow in closing down sites of religious importance. While sites of pilgrimage like Sabarimala and Tirupati are either limiting entry of people or requesting people to stay away, there are many holy sites who are not taking measures.
Apart from a few famous religious hotspots in Mumbai, Uttarakhand closing down and cancellation of the Vaishno Devi Yatra much has not happened. Mosques, churches and temples still function as usual. This aids undoing all the good work being done by the authorities.
It is just not faith, the politics around religion is proving to be equally troublesome. Since the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, protests for and against the bill have reverberated across the country. Shaheen Bagh is one such pocket. The women sitting at such protest sites in Delhi and Chennai are rapidly becoming health risks for the community and the country. But politics of appeasement is keeping the governments from taking action against them.
Politics and faith are proving to be roadblocks in the battle against Wuhan Coronavirus. But they pale in comparison to human stupidity. Despite various advisories and warnings, people are willingly ignoring them. They are planning vacations, parties and functions. These events in the current situations are potential health disasters. This situation is playing out in many countries across the world.
But Indian citizens are taking it a bit too far. People returning from EU and Gulf regions are desisting checks at airports, refusing to be in quarantine citing religious grounds and throwing tantrums in quarantine camps. The major cause for concern though is people trying to flee from quarantine camps and escaping lockdowns. There are a plethora of news reports of people fleeing from quarantine centres.
Amidst this catastrophic situation, hoarders and scrupulous businessmen are trying to make a quick buck. Many factories and consignments of fake sanitizers have been nabbed by the police. Some stores were caught changing expiry dates on sanitizers. Fear of hoarding has led to huge lines outside supermarkets in Europe, America and Australia. And many scuffles have broken out among customers to get their hands on available commodities.
This gross negligence among different sections of the society from withholding information to selling scrupulous products and ignoring health advisories is compounding the issue and raising the costs for the human race. The silver lining to this morbid episode is that this global lockdown of humans is helping rest of the planet breathe easy.