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Every country has had a different response and every nation has had a different feel of the Corona Virus. This post is neither about Corona Virus nor about countries; it is about people.
We know about other populations through news, views and social media messages. The common running theme has been that everyone was lost; some are still lost.
It is also not a criticism on any government; Corona came upon this world so quickly, stealthily and hugely that organized responses were not possible in the beginning.
Different races also took it in different manner, somehow bringing other than human factors about probability of contracting the virus. For example, it was promoted by some initially that the Africans would not fall victim to Corona Virus. No one told why it would not be so. Very quickly it was proven wrong to the extent that African Americans are now suffering more. It has nothing to do with race; it is about their living standards determined by their socio-economic compulsions.
We had had a sequence of folklore tales to tell us that we shall be spared. India was also rife with such things; so would have been others like us.
One by one, the defenses that we had tried to raise around us succumbed to the onslaught of Corona Virus. Now we are sitting in our bunkers, but still holding on to some factors not in our control.
It is also not an anthology of what theories were postulated or how they did not withstand the test of time. It is about here and now.
Starting today, we saw almost all street shops open. The central markets and large stores would still be closed but otherwise the activity appears to have started.
Is that what the government intended? Is this what should be done? Is this appropriate behavior?
Apparently, the government did not intend to relax to this extent. It wanted to give relief in stages and under observation and control. However, the outcome is different from intention. Notwithstanding the difference of views between the Center and Provinces, the common public is generally lost. Being a part of public, I see following factors for our being so lost.
Ambivalence about Protection – the basic protective gear such as masks and sanitizers disappeared from market instantly. It is not believable that all were consumed. These were hoarded; some by people and mostly by traders. The masks have since been replaced by cloth masks selling on every street and by very poor-quality paper masks at pharmacies. Even these are not available easily. Sanitizers also later flooded the market. DRAP recently declared 25 brands of sanitizers sub-standard. It has not however stopped the overflow of all kinds of sanitizers into market. In the presence of such poor items claiming to be protective, the ambivalence about protection is not entirely misplaced. The second reason is that our hygiene standards have been gradually sliding down. Rather than feeling concern, we take pride in our heightened immunity due to bad hygiene. We are therefore not a group of great believers in taking serious protective measures.
Observation of Poor Sensitivity – the opportunists are active. They are not showing any remorse or sensitivity. It is not surprising; rather it is in line with our usual outlook. If it had happened the other way round, it would have been a pleasant surprise. The tendency to make quick money in any case is evident in all segments of society. It is rampant all around. From small fruit vendors to shopkeepers to pharmacies to bigger businesses, everyone is busy in effort to get some financial benefit from the pandemic. An interesting example at government level came up today. Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) announced to increase a certain fee ten times; from 5,000 to 50,000 rupees. The huge increase is baseless itself and the timing is simply callous.
Subscription to Myths – this is our favorite pastime at any time. We love to find and subscribe to some myth, any myth. A large number of myths have been circulating around since the beginning of pandemic. Unfortunately for us, these myths were busted one by one and we were not left with much to hold on. However, our desire to hold to some myth has not died down. We are still looking for and also being supplied with some more myths. These may not be mainstream but living in pockets and regions.
Economic Compulsions – there are genuine and serious economic compulsions. It is bad to the extent that one may be driven to choose between dying from COVID and dying from hunger. Government is trying to reach the poor to give them support. Many people are still sitting on the roads though. The low-income group is in special focus, such as labor and daily wagers. There is another large group of population which works hard to make both ends meet. These are small business owners, employees and many small vendors associated with these businesses. These people do not wish to receive government handouts as it hurts their self-respect. They are dying to do work so that their families continue to survive. In many suburban areas, several members of a family work to make a living. Such people, even when they decide to receive help, may not get it because some undeserving people are more agile and active than the deserving ones.
Future Apprehensions – are more widespread. Even for those such as management cadre employees who are in relative security today, the future apprehensions loom large. The duration, impact and fallout of this pandemic cannot as yet be estimated. What will be new normal? International literature is already coming out where the experts are trying to peep over the time horizon and get some clues to determine what the new normal will be. All said and done, the world will not be same again, at least for a long time if not ever.
All these factors make us lost. And it is likely to leave an imprint on our psyches. The Ehsas Emergency Program and distribution of ration packs by various philanthropic individuals and organizations is needed and accepted with gratitude. However, we need efforts beyond these measures to heal our bodies minds and hearts. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
Photo Credit Anthony De Rosa at Pexels