COVID-19 is going to stay for a long time – no one can say how long – especially in overpopulated and poor countries.
The impact of COVID-19 on our planet Earth is so serious with far reaching consequences that I feel like calling it “Coverth”, at least for the present. Covid+Earth = Coverth.
There is hardly any country that is not living in fear due to this new disease. It has already made more than 4.72 million people sick and killed more than 0.31 million people. More than 2.56 million are struggling to get rid of it. (As on May 17, 2020.)
Experts world over are unanimous that effective vaccine is the only way to eradicate it. But such a vaccine may not be available in the market for 10-12 months, or maybe even more. The availability is only one part. Equally important is its mass production. Today the population of the world is around 7600 million. Even if 10 million people are given a vaccine every day, it will take nearly 2 years to cover all. Moreover, it can benefit only those who have not been infected. It is not a treatment for those already infected. Unless there is a miracle, many more millions of people will be infected during the next three years.
There is one more problem that may turn out to be quite serious. On May 21, India TV reported today that anew version of coronavirus is infecting people in China. This may be due to mutation of DNA of original coronavirus. It poses a serious challenge to the scientists trying to develop effective vaccine.
Lockdown breaks the chain and reduces the number of persons getting infected. However, lockdown cannot be permanent as it will seriously reduce economic activities and deprive the people of means of livelihood. Those not killed by COVID-19 will be killed by poverty and starvation.
Therefore, the experts are unanimous that we need to have a middle path. Since #COVID-19 has come to stay, we have to put up with it and make ourselves ready to carry out normal economic activities.
How to do that? Several measures have been suggested and are being gradually used. These measures include:
- Improving the immunity of human beings.
- Maximum use of technology to minimize human contacts
- Even where such technology cannot be used, making social distance part of day-to-day living.
- Making cleanliness and hygiene a habit.
Easier said than done, more so in overpopulated poor countries.
Some of these measures are meant only for well-off people. Though most of the COVID-19 patients are in rich countries, the latter are in a better position to introduce these measures. The governments of overpopulated and poor countries like India cannot provide all the facilities.
Take the improvement of immunity. It requires nutritious food, sleeps for 7-8 hours, regular exercises such as walking and yoga, and also medication. Only well-off people can afford nutritious food regularly. Vast majority of people are neither aware of exercise, yoga, and meditation nor have they time.
Even most of the well off people who are aware of the benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation find it difficult practise. These activities will require about two hours every day. Add to it 7-8 hours of sleep. So much time is not possible if a person has to spend 2 to 4 hours travelling to and fro work place. Large number of them remain busy with office work even after coming out of office.
Before the lockdown, I had seen several senior executives of big companies busy on phone even after returning from office. It was a common sight that a senior executive was discussing office issues even while getting out of his/her car, ignoring young kids waiting for the parent for hours.
Only a very small percentage of people have made exercise, yoga, and meditation part of their life.
Employers can provide the number of hours needed for developing immunity only by reducing the workload and allowing, as far as possible, employees to work from home and. But a reduction in workload is not possible without increasing the number of employees which will reduce their profit that is unacceptable.
No doubt, in this age of advanced information technology, there are several areas of work that can be done from home. When I was in service, information technology was coming slowly. The government provided personal computers (PCs) to senior officers sometime in 1986-87 without any training though. Those days PCs had very limited capacity. There was no Internet. By the time I left the government (in December 2002), powerful PCs had started coming and the use of the Internet was becoming common. In retrospect, I can say that from the mid-1970s to 2002, more than 75% of what I did sitting in the office I could have done from home.
Though facilities are available, a change in attitude is needed. Perhaps the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation may provide guidelines to the employers to let, as far as possible, employees work from home. If physical presence is needed, they can be asked to come once a week or fortnight, depending on the nature of work.
“Work from home” will significantly reduce the number of cars and buses on roads which will improve the quality of air.
The use of robots is also increasing. Even in India, some hospitals are using robots for supplying medicines and other necessities to patients. Our government should encourage the production of robots for various purposes.
Educational institutions in rich countries and those meant for the well-off Indians have started online classes. However, most Indian children study in crowded classrooms. Our central and state governments cannot arrange online classes for all students in the country.
Social distancing is necessary but very difficult in over-populated poor countries India. The rich countries are changing sitting arrangements in buses, trains, and planes to keep a safe distance between two passengers. In our country, buses and trains are always very overcrowded. We do not have resources to emulate rich countries. We will require several times more number of buses and trains, much beyond the capacity of our roads and railway tracks. If the number of seats in planes is reduced, only very rich can afford to pay a higher fare.
Prime Minister Modi’s emphasis on cleanliness ever since he took over was a farsighted decision. However, people still do not attach full importance to cleanliness and personal hygiene. Now, because of COVID-19, some state governments and civic authorities have started imposing fines on those who spit on roads. We need strict laws to keep our roads, streets, and localities clean and force people not to spit on the road, walls, and in offices.
The images (taken from the Internet) reproduced below highlight the stark difference between thinly-populated rich and over-populated poor countries. Overpopulated and poor countries will take a much longer time to eradicate COVID-19.
How rich and poor will live on planet Coverth
Student attending a virtual class A crowded government school of Delhi
A real Tramway platform in France A crowded bus in India
due to Covid19
Social distancing in trains due to A crowded train India
End of cheap flight in future
May 16, 2020