Can we expect a better earth to live in?
Let's talk about the most deadly disease of the present time, the novel coronavirus. Now we all know more or less where this deadly disease comes from. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. They have made the jump to humans causing cold-like symptoms.
The new virus, officially called Covid-19, is very dangerous so far. Around 20 to 30 per cent of hospital cases have been classed as "severe" and the current death rate is 15% till the 25th of March. While writing this article, I have just come across the news of Bangladesh confirming five coronavirus death, reported by the Director of The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
We are already aware of how the outbreak started. What started as an epidemic mainly in China has now become a truly global pandemic. If we focus on Asian countries, World Health Organization (WHO) warns that some "aggressive measures" to be taken to deal with an increasing battle to prevent the spread of coronavirus in many Asian nations. A lot of countries including the US, Canada, and other European countries have already introduced restrictions on entering their territory and people in a lot of countries are adjusting to the life of complete lockdown and isolation. Nevertheless, the death toll climbed to more than 13069 (till the 22nd of March) and there is no certainty how and when this will stop.
And being a citizen of a third world country how much are we ready to encounter the pandemic?
World Health Organization former adviser MuzaherulHuq said that Bangladesh's preparation to tackle a pandemic like the coronavirus outbreak was still almost zero.
In addition, The Health Minister Zahid Malik said the coronavirus in the country has spread to the level of community transmission. He also said the number of coronavirus cases will rise in the country. We are scared and devastated anticipating what the outcome will be. Yet we are not concerned. Educational institutions shut down but we are in a mood of vacation. We are continuously asked to keep social distancing but we are socializing even more now.
It's sometimes easy to blame others or authorities saying the responsibility of providing protection lies only on them. But how doesn't the reality frighten us and teach us to take care of ourselves and our loved ones? I don't know if it's too late or not, I urge everyone to STAY HOME because moving out not only poses a threat to yourself but also a threat to the community. For the best of all, please maintain a distance and go to isolation for the next 14 days. We need to be remembered COVID-19 finds no class separation, political borders, social barriers, or cultural significance.
And it just hits us fairly hard. Why couldn't we still realize that? What are we still waiting for? We are just taking COVID-19 for granted thinking it can't happen to us. Why don't we take any disaster seriously until it happens to us? Are we still living thinking it's generic type flu? No, it's not. It's not like any other flu that can be prevented by a vaccine. So the only way to slow the spread of coronavirus is to quarantine individuals. The whole purpose of herd immunity or community protection is to save ourselves and others as well. How can we be so indifferent about our well-being? There is one crowd in the population who thinks some herbal medicines can cure the virus and there is a crowd who is unaware of the deadly consequences of this novel disease.
Luckily some great initiatives have been taken already by the government. For example, the first was to prepare BishwaIjtema ground as a quarantine center in Bangladesh. Along with BishwaIjtema, Kuwait Bangladesh Maitree Hospital and Kurmitola General Hospital will take necessary initiatives to keep a large number of people in quarantine due to coronavirus. The health and family welfare minister said the new corona unit will be set in eight divisions of the country to strengthen information, treatment facilities of coronavirus and monitoring to this end. Furthermore, the decision of suspending all public and private offices and deployment of the army in every district was much needed. Moreover, People would be quarantined under strict monitoring from authorities. Maybe now it can be expected to create awareness among people so that we prepare ourselves to confront the dreadful epidemic.
Besides, a new alert on probable locust infestation is another concern that our country has not experienced before. Locust invasion has already started in some parts of India and Pakistan and it can be a new threat to Bangladesh as well. But it has not reached to that extent yet and hopefully will not.
Going back to our concern for coronavirus, have we thought of the question of what the post-coronavirus reality will be like?
We already know that the stock market is in severe crisis. There is already chaos in the share stock market and soon it is going to make a huge impact on the world economy. The spread of the virus has triggered so much panic around the world that the investors have already lost their confidence to invest. Furthermore, the current situation is so unstable that has already put a lot of restrictions on most economic activities like traveling, consumption, etc. Being a citizen of a developing country, do we have any plans to handle this financial crisis when the whole economy collapses?
Let's see what opinions are held by some influential world leaders. A Singaporean minister supposes the coronavirus outbreak presents a 'twin crisis' for all countries. He says, "The challenge is that the more we do to flatten the infection curve, we are also steepening the recession curve because as we do more of these measures, the right measures, to save lives ... economic activity will be reduced and it will increase the risk of an economic downturn."
Minister Wong reflects on the fact that people have put their lives on hold, but at some point, the shockwaves will stop being absorbed. People not doing things ultimately means people not getting paid, and uncertainty means no one is starting anything new. Houses won't get sold. Businesses won't get started.
"Global recession in 2020 is now our base case," Morgan Stanley chief economist Chetan Ahya wrote in a note. "With Covid-19 spreading in Europe and the US after hitting Asia, the disruptions and dislocations in the economy and markets will trigger a [year over year] contraction in global growth in [the first half of 2020]."
"This time will be worse than the global recession of 2001. While the policy response will provide downside protection, the underlying damage from both Covid-19?s impact and tighter financial conditions will deliver a material shock to the global economy," Ahya said.
The shops, factories, airlines, restaurants shut down almost around the world. International Labor Organization has suspected that the economic and labor crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million. They reported different scenarios of how unemployment will be impacted due to the coronavirus. Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages.
This could be a worldwide effect of the pandemic that is unimaginable right now. At this moment if we come to think of a smaller context that is of Bangladesh, what will happen to us? Even if we somehow manage to survive coronavirus, will we be able to survive the massive financial crisis that's coming ahead? Daily wage earners are already counting losses during this outbreak. The day- to- day earners are struggling a battle for their livelihood. Can we all be concerned enough to extend our hands to help these helpless people in need?
The garments industry of Bangladesh is the key source of export and earning foreign exchange for the last few decades. But unfortunately, this industry has a possibility of being doomed shortly maybe! Orders have been canceled, no one knows salaries of the laborers will be paid or not, thousands of families may have to see days of starving. Have we thought of taking any precautions to deal with such a massive crisis?
Maybe it is beyond imagination to think of the consequences that the human race will run into. We are already going through a deadly crisis and we don't know what the post coronavirus condition holds for us! I wonder when we can look for peaceful earth to live in…
The writer is Lecturer, Brac University