When the world wobbles in the face of a ruthless pandemic.

 The year 2020 will go down in history as a year when the Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19 pandemic, let loose its fury upon humanity and spread panic, confusion, fear, deaths, and an unspeakable sorrow all over the world. Considering the massive disruptions to human activities and the enormous pain caused by the deadly virus, 2020 will best be described as an annus horribilis. Yes, a horrible year that completely upended our way of life; a horrible year that will forever be remembered as one of the worst years in human history. The social cataclysm caused by the pandemic will undoubtedly remain indelible in our memories for a long time.

We all began the year with our individual hopes and dreams laid out for realization during the year. Little did we know that we were about to embark on a difficult journey with paths all covered with thistles that threaten to choke those dreams. Everyone had a calendar of plans to execute and goals to accomplish during the new year. Many people, businesses or corporate entities started the year with high hopes of improving on their previous year’s performance scorecard. But COVID-19 struck and threw a spanner in the works. Millions of people lost their jobs. The travel and hospitality industries as well as the restaurant business were particularly hit hard. Most of the businesses that closed due to the pandemic may not come back.

The pandemic, which was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, quickly spread like wildfire in January 2020 to Europe, the US and other parts of the world. Between January and June 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic had already infected well over a million people around the world while the number of casualties within the same time frame ran into hundreds of thousands of people. The trend continued until the fall season which was also the beginning of flu. This was the period which health experts predicted to be the advent of the second wave expected to be more deadly than the first. But could we have prevented the situation from getting worse and spiraling out of control? Has the world been plagued with this kind of terrible disease before?

The Coronavirus Predecessor.

The last time the world experienced a pandemic similar in nature and ferocity was in 1918. The pandemic of that year was called the Spanish Flu which reportedly killed a whopping 50 million people around the world within a period of 2 years and 2 months i.e., between February 1918 and April 1920. An estimated 675,000 Americans were killed in that deadly pandemic. That was 103 years ago when most of the people alive today were not born. Even if there are people who were born in 1918 and are still alive today, it is highly unlikely that they will have vivid memories of the events that happened when they were just 1 year or 2 years old. This means that all of us alive today heard or read about the pandemic of 1918 to 1920 in history books.

How did we allow a smoldering fire to become a conflagration?

In the early days of the Coronavirus outbreak, leading up to March 11th, 2020 when the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and gave it a new name of COVID-19, the global organization and the relevant health authorities and disease control agencies in every country had provided education and mitigation guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the dangerous virus. These guidelines included wearing a face mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizers, and isolation or quarantining. Part of these initial measures also included total lockdown of cities and communities in many countries. Although the WHO advocated a strict compliance to the above-named mitigation measures, the degree of compliance varied from one country to another.  

But how did the US miss the opportunity to extinguish and prevent a smoldering fire from becoming a conflagration when the deadly virus reached its shores? Could we have stopped this dangerous virus from engulfing the whole world? The United States as the leading country in the world also led the world with the highest number of deaths from the Coronavirus pandemic. It failed to rise to the occasion when it could have launched an all-out-war against the virus at its first appearance in the state of Washington. The noncompliance with the mitigation guidelines by the country’s leadership actively encouraged most of the citizenry to do the same. This was how the Coronavirus spread like an uncontrollable wildfire in the US.

 How can you recklessly refuse to comply with a simple measure of wearing a face mask that can prevent the spread of the virus and save your life and those of others? It is sheer display of unnecessary machismo and foolhardiness for an unarmed man to confront a gunman who is ready to rob and kill. Anyone who does this is simply trying to commit suicide. There is nothing to be macho about when you swagger stupidly and defenselessly before a dreaded monster called COVID-19. The general lackadaisical attitude and noncompliance of some people with the mitigation guidelines in the early stages of the pandemic contributed mainly to the astronomical increase in the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, particularly in the US.

The WHO, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control Prevention), a US agency and the equivalent agencies in other countries, and the infectious diseases experts around the world represent our war commanders in the war against COVID-19 pandemic and we are the troops. The commander studies and knows the terrain of the battlefield better than the troops. He plans the movement of troops and logistics for effective results. Any troop on the war front who disobeys the commander’s instructions does so at his or her own peril. Those who refuse to wear face mask, practice social distancing, and comply with the other preventive measures disobey the instructions of the war commanders. And they risk being captured or killed by COVID-19.

The Second Wave.                                                                                                      

True to the experts’ prediction, a high-octane second wave did arrive with unprecedented viciousness and ferocity. The virulence and ruthlessness which the pandemic unleashed on the people since the beginning of the second wave caused a significant spike in the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The world heaved a sigh of relief when Pfizer (USA) and BioNTech (Germany) jointly announced a COVID-19 vaccine in November 2020. Shortly after this announcement, widespread vaccinations of the people began in earnest. But it appeared as if, sensing an imminent defeat, the monster pandemic decided to race against the vaccine in December 2020 to inflict the most horrific devastation yet before being subdued by the vaccine. And it did just that. That is probably why the highest number of casualties in the US was recorded in December 2020. The trend has continued in 2021 as the deadly virus rages on unabated. Sadly, on February 22, 2021, the US crossed over 500,000 mark in the number of deaths from Coronavirus pandemic and counting.

The COVID-19 Variants and the vaccines.

 We now have three variants of the virus that have surfaced in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. They were said to have the potential to exacerbate the already bad situation created by COVID-19. Fortunately, more vaccines from Moderna (USA), AstraZeneca (British-Swedish), and perhaps a few others around the world have also emerged in addition to the one from Pfizer-BioNTech (US-German). As of now, it remains to be seen if the vaccines will be potent enough to ward off the danger posed by these variants. A third vaccine to combat the deadly pandemic has also been produced in the US by Johnson & Johnson. It was released to the public in the first week of March 2021. A combination of these vaccines and a strict and sustained global application of the recommended mitigation strategies enumerated above will hopefully see the demise of the COVID-19 pandemic sometime this year (2021) and confine it to the dustbin of history.

How will history look back on 2020?

When the dust settles and the historians around the world begin to chronicle the events of 2020 and 2021 for posterity, they will describe the years as variously as follows: The years when multiple millions of people were infected with COVID-19 and millions more also died of the pandemic. The years when death became a “cheap commodity” peddled and foisted upon the people by a deadly agent called Coronavirus. The chroniclers will describe the years as a period when cases of coronavirus infections spiraled out of control in the US leading to over three hundred and fifty thousand deaths for five consecutive days in December 2020.

The years will be recorded by the historians as a time in history when the lachrymose mourners and the bereaved hardly had any tears left in their lachrymal gland, having cried their hearts out over the loss of their loved ones. The fact that the bereaved never had the opportunity to bid their loved ones a farewell before their death made the situation more painful.

Interestingly, the historians will look back on 2020 and 2021 as the years when the advanced countries of the world were completely rattled by COVID-19 pandemic. They will describe 2020 as a year when the US, the World Superpower became the World Super Weakling and a giant with the feet of clay in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic considering the slipshod manner it handled the whole crisis. These years will be remembered for decades to come as a period when the world not only turned topsy-turvy but also wobbled in the face of a ruthless pandemic.

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