Death is in the air, but hope is in the distance
Today the world has come to a stand still. More than half the global population is in a state of lockdown. Most governments are working diligently to prevent their populace from contracting a novel strain of the Corona virus called COVID-19. The virus started from Wuhan Province in China in December 2019, and in the next 4 months, has attacked more than 200 countries. The second epicenter was Europe where Italy suffered the most. France, Germany, Spain are the other highly affected countries. Now, the epicenter has made its way to the US where the fatality rate is rising by the day.
The virus is an enemy that cannot be destroyed yet--no weapons in the world are able to kill it, no medicines are effective, no vaccines can prevent it. Thus, the fear of dying is everywhere and in every individual today. Attempts are being made in laboratories to invent new vaccines for this invisible killer. Because of the lockdown, the normal life of the people around the world has been affected as they try to stay away from each other. Sadly, distance and hygiene have been the most effective medicine to protect people from COVID-19.
Nepal’s situation, comparatively, is not bad, but we cannot be complacent. This pandemic can go from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye. We should count ourselves lucky that we have had no fatalities from Corona so far in Nepal. However, the danger is out there and omnipresent. This is the reason why we have to follow the government’s lockdown mandate sincerely. Once all the people coming to Nepal from foreign lands including anyone they have come in contact with are traced and tested with negative results, we can start conversations around our return to normal livelihood. At this difficult hour, however, we need to be united spiritually and intellectually adhering to principles of social distancing and proper hygiene as long as it is required.
Corona virus itself is not a new affliction. A strain of the virus appeared in China in November 2002 and went by the acronym SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). There were 8098 cases affected worldwide with 774 fatalities. The same entered into the US with 8 confirmed cases with no fatality. The same news indicated this virus spread over 24 countries but after May 2004 no cases were reported. Another Corona Virus strain appeared in 2012 and was commonly known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). It was first identified in Saudi Arabia. It had the same symptoms as SARS, namely fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people also had pneumonia, gastrointestinal defects, and diarrhea. MERS, however, had a 34.3% case-fatality rate, which is significantly higher than any other Corona strain, including COVID-19. MERS was also unique at the time in that it was proven to be transmitted to humans through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels. Less than a thousand (720) people lost their lives because of MERS which spread over 27 countries over a period of 6 years. The last known instance of MERS was in 2018. COVID-19 is just another strain of the Corona virus, and in many ways is similar to its predecessors.
The rate of transmission of COVID-19 is, however, unprecedented. And that makes it the deadliest of all viruses. Death is, quite literally, in the air. We have to be vigilant, especially with people coming from abroad who may be asymptomatic carriers. The only safe strategy, in the long run, is to wait it out. Let us all “Stay Home, Stay Safe” and wait for the day when there are no further COVID-19 cases in this world.
Mana Prasad Wagley, Ph.D. is Nepal’s leading educator and educationist. He was formerly the dean of the School of Education at Kathmandu University. Dr. Wagley has more than five decades of teaching experience at several premier academic institutions in Nepal. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. Post-retirement, he has continued to voice his ideas on issues of education, research, and social inequity through major national publications.