Who would have known that a tiny virus invisible to the human eye would flatten the mightiest of nations, bringing virtually the entire world to a grinding halt. Metropolises which thrived with life 24×7, from New York to Paris, London to Frankfurt, Delhi to Mumbai and a host of others now devoid of everyday life. These are ghost towns now due to the overpowering universal fear of coronavirus that has gripped the world. A military is not yet assembled which is able to conquer over this virus, though scientists in the world’s best laboratories are now engaged furiously in isolating the gene of COVID-19 to come up with a vaccine or an oral pill to neutralise its deadly effect. Believe in the power of the Unknown? But the known are now widely known, from the illiterate farmer to the most decorated of university dons. Wash your hands, keep a safe distance from others, avoid crowded places, cough into the sleeve of your shirt, not into the palm of your hand, etc. Do not greet one another with hand-shakes or Modi-style hugs. Instead say the old-fashioned ~Namastey~ from a safe six-foot distance. And should you suspect you have the symptoms such as dry cough, mild fever and headaches, go get yourself tested for the latest scourge of the 21st century. After SARS and MERS and H1N1 flu, COVID-19 is the latest to disrupt the world at large.
Whether it is to be called the Chinese flu, as the US President Trump calls it, or Wuhan flu, as his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed it, and which China strongly protested, there is no denying it did originate in China. And as early as the last week of November and the first week of December last year. People in India are fortunate to have got the early warning. And the way the Government thus far has handled it has earned plaudits even from its known critics. But this is not enough. The second stage when the virus spreads like a wild fire is yet to pass. From what we know thus far the Indian Government has taken abundant precaution to quarantine anyone coming from known centers of infection such as Italy or China and has increased testing at the airports. Among other steps is the ban on travel to and from Europe and the US.
Having said that, given the size of the population the challenge seems enormous. Unless the private sector is roped in to lend a helping hand with men and materials such as testing digital thermometers and other medical devices, and isolation camps are readied for those unfortunate to have contracted the infection or suspected to have the symptoms, there is a danger of our losing the war against the deadly virus. We can overcome it if voluntary effort supplements the government effort to try and contain the spread of the infection. It is also good that private medical labs are being equipped to undertake testing free of charge wherever possible or otherwise for a nominal fee.