Our world is changing. As some have put it, the humans have been dominating the world and Nature has for a long time been ignored and destroyed by the humans. The history of this conflict is long though Nature has occasionally hit back at us. It has been said that we in this world are living an era which is said to have evolved after three ice ages of our existence.
In the course of this present age Homo sapiens has gradually taken over the world. A large number of flora and fauna which had existed in the past are no longer there because of the onslaught by the human race. Many species of plants and tree, many animals and birds which once flew over or roamed over the world have literally disappeared.
The gradual increase of the human race has however sometimes been checked by natural disasters and diseases. One has only to think of the destruction of the ancient city of Pompeii in 79 CE by the eruption Mount Vesuvius and of the fatalities caused by the Black Death / Plague of the Fourteenth century. A recent post in Facebook Messenger listed that such disasters are occurring almost every hundred years viz. Plague in 1720, Cholera of 1820, Swine Flu of 1920 and Corona Virus pandemic of 2020.
It was as long ago as 2011 that an American film titled ‘Contagion’ and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet was about Coronavirus, originating in a bat and spreading out from China to the rest of the world.
In connection with this is another fact that the American writer Sylvia Browne in her book ‘End of Days’ subtitled ‘Predictions and prophesies about the end of the world’ and published in 1981 had forecast that in 2010 there will be a flesh-eating disease (? Ebola) and in 2020 a severe pneumonia like illness will spread throughout the globe and will vanish as quickly as it came up. In this connection an Indian soothsayer had also said that this virus will start decreasing as from mid-April, but this remains to be seen.
Yet another interesting instance is that Dean Koontz had predicted in his book ‘The Eyes of Darkness’, published also in 1981 stating that a Corona nightmare - ? ‘Wuhan -400’, a deadliest weapon of biological warfare will be launched. It seems very surprising to hear that the Americans are now blaming the Chinese of keeping facts about the virus and its outbreak secret as many had known about it many years ago!
An interesting point noted about this disease is that countries or places which are around Latitude 40 degrees in the Northern Hemisphere are the ones most affected and are suffering. These are in fact Grand Est. France - 48.7 N, Bergamo Italy- 45.7 N, Teheran, Iran – 35.7 N, Wuhan, China -30.6N, Diego, S. Korea -35.9N, Seattle -47.6N, Washington – 47.8N and New York - 40.7 N! Scrutinising the figures, one sees in fact that the range is between 30 to 49 degrees Latitudes in the Northern hemisphere. Why this is so is a question that should be occupying our minds. This conjecture does not seem valid as the coronavirus is now worldwide, resulting in a pandemic. A theory is that the BCG vaccine used for the prevention of tuberculosis and the Hydroxychloroquine used for the treatment of malaria which are in use in many countries of Asia and Africa may have some protective value against the corona virus. This clinical fact is being looked into. It must be noted however that any immunity by a BCG vaccine will take time to develop and is not an immediate panacea!
With all this news coming from four directions of the world, one is at a loss as to what to believe. What is true and what is fake news. One cannot separate, if I may say so, the wheat from the chaff that easily. Should we utilise all the moments of our lockdown thinking of celestial beings and praying to our Gods muttering ‘Bhagwan Bharosa’. What is the ideal period of a lockdown and what are the rationales for the decisions? What else can we do?
One of the main theories that is doing the rounds is that it is because of the human habit of eating the flesh of exotic and unusual birds, animals and reptiles has brought this about. Because of this conjecture, China in March 2020 banned the consumption of meat and other parts of exotic animals such as tigers, pangolins, reptiles etc for traditional medical purposes. Whether this rule is temporary or permanent, one is not sure. What needs to be remembered is that the recent epidemics which one is likely to remember have been connected to animal and birds. One has only to think of Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Mad Cow Disease, SARS, MERS, Ebola and now Covid-19 -- all from animals and birds.
This brings us finally to the question of treatment. In some countries plasma from immune individuals has been given as protection from corona virus. Whilst some insist that it is the lack of oxygen and its absorption into the body, leading to an Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome like crisis and death, others are striving to find new medications for use against the virus itself. Some have advocated the use of Vitamin C, Azithromycin and some anti-viral drugs such as Remdesevir. A remedy advocated by a Chinese doctor for the ailment and which was circulated in the Internet was to gargle with warm salt water or even just warm water a number of times in the day and subsequently swallow it. His rationale was that as the virus remains in the throat for four days, this action would prevent it from reaching and infecting the lungs. His conclusion was that once the virus reaches the stomach it will be digested. This thought has however been disputed by an item in the Daily Star of UK which has reported that some coronavirus has been found in the stool of some infected patients.
What must be confessed and accepted is that our Nepali government seems to be running from pillar to post. There was first the fiasco of the procurement of the testing kits and the Patient Protection Equipment (PPE). Subsequently came the charge was that there were many underhand dealings in the import of substandard materials, be it testing kits or protective masks and gowns. The rapid testing was not done initially too, and this created doubt of efficiency, suggesting slackness. Once the rapid testing started, which though very minimal, matters have changed and a more realistic picture is emerging.
Whilst the first rescue of Nepalis from China, including Wuhan took place they were put into quarantine but the conditions of the residents there and visitors was not at all organised. Whilst Nepalis have been brought home from the Gulf the fact remains that those coming from the different parts of India were stopped at the border and some of our citizens swam across swirling waters of the Mahakali River to reach the Nepali shore. Others at the Southern border points were not allowed in, nor for that matter were Indians wanting to go home allowed to do so by our authorities at the border! Rather than this state of affairs, it would have been much better to allow and facilitate our citizens to go to their rural homes with state support. They would be in a much better position in their homes to cope with the corona crisis.
It is a fact that a number of Nepalis in the UK, USA, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have been infected with the corona virus and quite a number of died. A number returning from these places have been seen to be infected also. Just as the corona infection rate in India is rising, it is likely that the pattern will be similar in Nepal. The point now is how to deal with the situation in the days to come. Though there are many governmental Academy of Health Sciences plus private medical colleges in the country, the sad fact is that proper co-ordination or what is supposed to be Public Private Mix does not exist. One has only to look at the state of affairs in both the UK and USA, both with tremendous health facilities and realise how things can go wrong even there. Our option here would be to involve both the public and private sector in the tremendous task that confronts us though some opine that corona virus cases should not be admitted in regular hospitals but rather in new centres created especially for the purpose. Example of this is the newly created NHS Nightingale Hospital and similar centres in Spain. In New York USA, many regular patients were transferred to hospitals on floating naval vessels and hospitals so evacuated were used for corona virus cases. The irony of our situation in Nepal is that whilst we talk of medical tourism in our country there is a gross shortage of health sector personnel in Nepal. Institutions to train such personnel must be increased as the reality is that many trained in Nepal will go elsewhere in search of greener pastures.
What is certain is that a recession is looming on the horizon of many countries of the world. Germany and Spain were the first countries in the world to start work in some sectors of their economy. Others will follow soon. Because of the likely worldwide recession many individuals will lose their jobs abroad. Therefore, many of the workers who have returned to Nepal many not be able to find work and some may not want to go back to where they were working before. Funnily our government has been dispersing unemployment benefits to Nepalis in Nepal. Has any assessment been done to see what has been achieved? What a situation!
Many of our fields in rural areas are lying fallow due to the lack of farm hands. This is the time to set about using appropriate machinery and fertilisers to increase our farm products – cereals, fruits and vegetables so that we become self-sufficient and do not need to import. Our road and bridges, which should have been completed already or are being built should utilise some of the returnees in our own country. Most of our prize national projects are behind schedule, there is much backlog in the building industry and so many could be employed instantly.
The development for a vaccine to protect from corona is going on in many centres of the world and one prays that success will be attained soon. We can only hope and pray as it is simply a case of Bhagwan Bharosa. In the meantime, my intention of writing all this is that these thoughts which have been collected from the Internet are hopefully correct and will now be disseminated in our classical Nepali manner of ‘Ek kaan, dwi kaan Maidan’.
Aldous Huxley had written ‘A Brave New World’ in 1932 and created a sensation. As Noah Yuval Hariri in his U Tube presentations has said, we are entering a new age and the world will no longer be the same with lockdowns and social distancing being the norm in future years. It is worthwhile noting that the Persian scholar Ibn Sena (980-1037 CE) first introduced the concept of a forty days segregation which he labelled “al-arba’-niya’ following contact with disease. Merchant from Italy favoured this idea and so the word quarantine, meaning forty came into our vocabulary. In this context one can also look at our 13 day mourning period when the offsprings of the diseased are segregated as a form of lockdown too! Let us all now adapt to what is bound to be a changed world.