How to win against a global pandemic?

Gap between early warning and early response needs to be bridged so that further casualties are prevented


Dr Moonis Ahmar April 24, 2020
The writer is former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi and can be reached at [email protected]

The global war against the Covid-19 pandemic can be termed the Third World War against an invisible enemy which strikes without discrimination. Everyone is vulnerable to the virus and it has not only created an environment of fear but also caused financial losses of trillions of dollars.

Winning this global war is a big challenge because so far, no vaccine has been developed to treat Covid-19 and thousands are dying of the disease on a daily basis. Why can this fight against the pandemic be categorised as WWIII and how can it be won?

Nuclear weapons prevented the outbreak of another global war as nuclear deterrence made it impossible for states to plunge the world in a total war. Yet, the Third World countries became a battleground of civil wars and inter-state armed conflicts which led to millions of deaths. Out of the global annual military expenditures of $1.2 trillion, the US alone spends $700 billion. The Western world, which has not fought wars with each other since 1945, remained the beneficiary of the arms race by selling weapons worth billions of dollars to various Third World countries. It was only after the Covid-19 outbreak that a paradigm shift occurred with 70% of the casualties taking place in First World countries.

If the pandemic is being fought by mobilising financial, technological and scientific resources, there is no let-up as far as the range and destruction of the virus is concerned. Never before has the whole world been so helpless and vulnerable to such an unseen enemy and there is no possibility in the near future to control what the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, calls a “beast”. Does this then mean that humans will have to live with Covid-19 forever? If yes, is the world prepared for such a situation?

God has given humans superior intelligence and wisdom, provided they are able to use such qualities in a positive manner. Winning against the pandemic will require three conditions to be met. First, unity and prudence on the part of global leaders to undertake maximum efforts for inventing the vaccine and treatment which can swiftly cure the existing patients and prevent its spread. Once the vaccine is created and tested, the next task will be to arrange its swift and fair distribution to people.

Second, the pandemic won’t be over unless adequate preventive measures are taken to defeat the virus. This can be done by keeping the required social distance with each other and arranging the maximum number of Covid-19 tests so that those infected can be separated and put in quarantine. Since prevention is better than cure, dealing with the virus would require people to express a sense of responsibility till the time the virus is finished. Humans are social animals and cannot live in isolation. Particularly when people’s lifestyle has changed so drastically over the last 100 years because of modernization and technological innovation, it becomes difficult for humans to stay away from each other. But scientists argue that maintaining an adequate social distance and adhering to hygienic practices is the only way to defeat the virus.

Third, along with the scientific and societal skills, the world will have to seek forgiveness from God and nature for the colossal damage human have caused to the environment out of greed and lust for power. Excessive industrialisation, deforestation and unplanned urbanisation have destroyed nature and the environment. Pollution because of the use of fossil fuel has not only damaged human health but also led to global warming and climate change. Now, more than two-thirds of the world is closed because of the pandemic and humans are left utterly helpless.

Will God help people who are facing the wrath of this “beast” of a virus and give them another chance to change their lifestyle and become better human beings? The pain and suffering of the people in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan and Kashmir, at the hands of the oppressors cannot be condoned. Despite the warning signs people are seeing for destroying nature, killing innocent people and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons, it seems that they will revert to their previous lifestyle once the pandemic is over.

Surprisingly, many books and films had predicted a scenario where a deadly virus would cause a pandemic. Even then, those having been in power failed to take notice of this threat. For instance, a movie named Contagion was about the spread of a virus in Los Angeles, which results in the deaths of thousands of people. Recently, a novel titled Lockdown, by Peter May, predicted the spread of a virus which led to a lockdown of London. The novel was written in 2005 but no publisher was willing to publish it as they called the book far from the reality. Now, with the pandemic crisis gripping the entire world since January, the novel has been released and is in high demand for readership.

The gap between early warning and early response needs to be bridged so that further casualties are prevented. Instead of taking it seriously, US President Donald Trump behaved in a very irrational manner when he cut off American funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) on unreasonable grounds and threatened China with serious consequences for “spreading the coronavirus”. In his own country, his poor leadership qualities divided the people of America. When the world’s number one economic, technological and military power is helpless in managing the pandemic crisis and is not playing a leadership role at the international level, it means there will be no let-up in the number of casualties and the people infected. Same is true of other Western powers as they are now unable to win this war.

For the first time in the last 500 years of Western supremacy, an unseen enemy has struck and put these countries’ survival at stake. If the war against such a deadly virus is not won, one can expect a serious threat to Western civilisation as they are the ones who will pay a heavy price. With the crash of the multi-trillion dollar oil market and the loss of billions that are being spent to cope with the economic fallout of Covid-19, one can expect a different world with a transformed economy and politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2020.

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