coronavirus 13

Please do not think that this is a note which supports the virus in any way but it is examining the behaviour of the virus differently in different contexts and the changes or status quo that it brought on humans. Various hypotheses are already going around regarding the virus which actually made the writing of this note a bit cumbersome and this includes those arguing for the utility of sunlight to different strains to larger ecological factors. Let me reiterate that given the uncertainties and knowledge limitations regarding the virus, I have not gone beyond these statements and also please pardon me for using the expressions like ‘it is possible’, ‘it appears’, ‘it is likely’ ‘might have’ etc. too often. These are inevitable when people become uncertain and helpless!

Let me start with the status quo. I thought that the epidemiologists will have a field day after this infection started. They normally come out with various measures, graphs and figures unintelligible to many in the general public. Unfortunately this did not happen and it did not happen because there was no data of any worth for their calculations except for some doubling time etc.  This only gives a tentative idea regarding the period required for the cases to double which  is an indication of the disease trend and how soon it will disappear etc.  We require these data to understand whether the epidemic is speeding up or slowing down. More importantly, we require such analyses to assess ourselves regarding where we want to invest our resources to control. But this was not the case in the US or in China too where the virus is believed to have originated. Understandably, the infection rates are incomparable to the situation in India and they required such analyses to plan interventions at various stages. But in India, the rates are small and therefore, it is all the more worthwhile to understand the dynamics.  All the international journals have already brought out special issues with facts, figures and more importantly epidemiological analysis by scientists, epidemiologists and public health scholars from the West which shed valuable insights regarding the infection and interestingly our public discussions and valuable opinions are aired based on these calculations. Whatever and for reasons unknown, let the bureaucratic (not medical) confidentiality regarding the infection live longer in the country!

The most happy situation is that the virus did not impact on some of the developing countries unlike the earlier pandemics. These include the smaller countries in South Asia as well. Like many tentative assumptions surrounding many viruses, it appears that the present virus has a larger ecological sensitivity. But it is  possible that the low spread of the virus in some countries could be attributed to the implementation of the age-old strategies. It is also possible that the virus was more friendly here because of the low virulence of the virus and the human receptivity of those cell structures  due to the ecologic conditions. These might have played a significant complimentary role apart from the enforcements that many governments initiated to prevent the spread.

Another friendly note, not because of direct action of the virus, is required regarding possible behavioural changes it might have brought among people.  People in general have started recognising the importance of certain basic sanitary requirements such as washing hands and other etiquettes  like not coughing and sneezing onto others or not spitting into walkways and open places. Such sanitary indiscretions, it can be hoped will be getting some break. It is possible that some of these behavioural changes may be temporary and the current break in such actions, largely due to a ‘lockdown effect’ may not be sustainable. It is too early to analyse the effects of such a strategy on family life as people are waiting for an opportunity to get out and achieve normalcy and certainly the behaviour of the virus in this region probably will  help in realizing this wish.

The virus also probably made us realize our helplessness, weaknesses and limitations and on a larger philosophical plane this is important. But this may not be the time to discuss philosophical issues although this can become a major theme for future academic discussions. However, the one action which led to such a realization could be the lockdown and it can be called as one of the supplementary effects of such a strategy. People have even started recognising the movements of comets and the stellar objects in the outer space while recollecting their beautiful childhood at the same time. And certainly, the virus also become helpless in such an environment!

Certainly, the virus was merciless on many populations but it is a phase we want to forget like all those people who survived and did the same during past pandemics.

(Professor K Rajasekharan Nayar  is affiliated to Global Institute of Public Health and Santhigiri Research Foundation, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. krnayar@gmail.com)


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One Comment

  1. Mukundan Pandiyath says:

    This is a good opportunity for the health experts in India to press for healthy social behaviour patterns and to take up the issue with the government for making strict laws..Impose ban on spitting, etc on the road and public places.