I still remember the early weeks of January when a friend of mine was making an excel sheet to track the global spread of Corona. We would take coffee breaks to discuss our lives and then come up with scenarios where Corona would breach Chinese borders to become a Pandemic. None of us are epidemiologists, we are a bunch of aerospace engineers, but given the impact it might have on our industry we were very keen on tracking the virus. Armed with the John Hopkins virus dashboard and my experience in Nigeria during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, we would predict at max 1000 cases outside of China and followed it up with “we would still be doing our thesis in case the world decides to end”. In January, even a thousand cases seemed alarmist, up until early March I was in the United States for a competition and the only Corona we cared for was Extra or Lite. Fast forward to the present day, my friend who was making the excel sheet has been tested positive for Corona, global cases have crossed the million mark, 1.3 billion people in my country have been put under lockdown and, to put it mildly, has become unpredictable, the only thing that hasn’t is the fact that we are still doing our thesis.
In these uncertain times, we often become shortsighted and think about living another day, but the world won’t end and neither will the global struggle for power. Several experts can tell you all about what COVID-19 is and what it can do to humans, how it might bring a recession, etc. but amidst all this noise we are missing out on the bigger picture and forgetting to ask the crucial questions. The answer to those only time can give, but I need to do my part and ask those questions. Questions like, why calling something WUHAN/CHINA virus is racist, but not knowing that Ebola is a river isn’t? Or why there was no “Preliminary proof” of human to human transmission of a disease until 14th of january and the same becomes a global Pandemic on the 11th of March? If these questions are making you uncomfortable/ making it feel like I am pushing propaganda? Then we are on the right track, because the whole point of this article is to make you ask uncomfortable questions.
The article did not start like that, it had a mellow tone and talked more about the fears and uncertainties I have as an International student. With the aviation industry being hit hard I do have some rights to rant about my job prospects and what I will do in the future. But 2 weeks down the line, I have realized that this virus is not just about stats le 1,000,000+ infections, 100,000+ deaths or 4+ trillion dollars in economic impact, it is much much more than that. So instead of writing about something that most of us already know, i.e.:
- There are some tough times ahead;
- The global economy will take a hit;
- A lot of innocent people will needlessly die;
- the airline industry will be, to put it mildly, in chaos;
I decided to write about the undercurrents, helping you take some time off your busy schedule and think not just of today and tomorrow but off a post COVID-19 world.
It all starts with Dr. Li Wenliang (33 years old), a doctor from who was the first raising the alarm on the 30th of December about the outbreak of a SARS-like Coronavirus and trace it to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The guy was arrested by the Chinese authority made to sign a declaration that he is “making false comments” and is now dead. This is the point where some of you start talking about how its a Bio-weapon and that’s precisely where you enter the realm of conspiracy theories. You see China though at power with the west in terms of GDP and economic might, is not even remotely close when it comes to transparency or rights. Its a different society, a society that believes in collective strength over individual rights and that’s precisely why Dr. Li Wenliang was made to sign the declaration. The very reason why you have videos of people singing during quarantine in Italy and whispers about journalists covering COVID-19 in China disappearing. It is because the local governments have strict orders from the Central government to prioritize social order and harmony above everything else, couple that with an old habit of botching up numbers and you have a recipe for disaster. It was the botched up production numbers which were a major factor leading to the great Chinese famine and once again it is the botched up numbers that have leed to a truly global Pandemic. So if you hear about the CIA spending its resources to come up with accurate COVID-19 figures from China, don’t be surprised becuase they were skeptical about the whole number game since January. Just take a look at the daily increase in cases for Germany and China, if it makes sense to you please drop me a line.
Did China wage a Bio War? No, it did not, China did what it has been known for doing but the only twist this time was that we had a few questionable people leading countries and international organizations, giving rise to what some people call a Cluster F**K. As of now, things seem to be under control in China and they have managed to turn themselves from a country taking in medical supply and donations to a country that has become the biggest supplier. Donating so much to some European countries (Italy), that the Chinese National anthem is now being played in Italian streets according to CGTN (A Chinese state-owned media company). That’s a piece of fake news, read more about it here on Reddit, more like propaganda but hey no finger-pointing. Not all countries are accepting donations though, Spain and the Netherlands are buying medical equipment from China and so far they have only had to return all the COVID-19 testing and only 50% of the masks they bought. So is China spreading propaganda + Bio War? No, it is not. China is only doing what it has been known for doing, the only twist is that this time around it’s killing us instead of flooding our markets with cheap stuff. So while you are at home, think about how these things are beneficial for China and start googling with a simple word search.
Historically speaking most Pandemics travel from East (China) to West (America) and Europe has been a welcoming host to all of them. From the Black death to COVID-19, Europe has had it all. What’s surprising though is how ill-prepared it was despite “having it all”.With Governments only suggesting people stay indoors and people running “I’ ‘m not a virus. I’ ‘m a human. Eradicate the prejudice.” campaigns it was only a question of when not if the virus will spread and spread it did. Thankfully European governments were much more transparent and we finally started getting some trustworthy numbers. What is interesting to note (and honestly admirable) here is the cost European society is willing to pay to maintain privacy and individual rights. With countries like India, Israel and of course China launching apps to monitor people and notify them if they have come in contact with a COVID-19 + person, the EU is still considering the idea and relying mostly on the integrity of there people. As for handling the crisis its so far so good, but the underlying current is about the stability of the EU itself. With Germany and Netherlands critically vocal about Corona Bond and the southern European nations baffled by the perceived high handed approach of these countries, only time will tell about the stability of this union.
United States of America:
America is considered to be a global superpower responsible for maintaing peace and bringing “freedom and democracy” to everyone. Thanks to hollywood movies, the whole world things of America as rambo capable of handeling any situation. But with time we have all seen that America is not what it wants to project to the world and the recent incidents have only further highlighted its inability to deal with crisis. With a tinny virus talking an American carrier out of service, its not hard to see that there are chinks in the armour. That being said, there are two types of leaders on one end of the spectrum you have Captain Brett E Crozier and on the other, you have Mr. President. If you ever need a live demonstration of the phrase shoot oneself in the foot, look no further than the United States of America. From “We have it under control” to “we have all done a good job if 100000 people die” the commander in chief has shown his ability to be extremely positive and willing to change his opinions in the presence of new evidence. From threatening India of repercussions if it does not lift the export ban on malaria pills to stealing masks meant for European countries, the American Corona game is right on point. The free market economy has now forced various American states to outbid each other to acquire critical supplies to fight COVID-19. With “me first policy” at its helm and Trump on the wheels, It will be interesting to see how America holds its own on the global stage in a post-COVID-19 world. One thing that might help America is Trump’s staunch criticism of China, but given his stable mind and rational approach, its anyone’s guess as for how long it will last. The free American media has already put out most of the arguments so there isn’t much of an undercurrent to talk about in America. The one thing that might be of interest to some people is to see how Trump’s approval ratings are doing and if American’s would still like to give him another term to keep the Mexicans away or try someone else who might do a better job keeping them alive. That right here is the American undercurrent, to see if the country formed by immigrants has become so hell-bent on stopping immigration that they are willing to die for it. Some of us have already seen the far-right media houses calling for the old and the sick to make the supreme sacrifice (die) so that the American economy can remain open now we just need to wait and watch if the same logic is applicable for immigration as well.
Last but not least, India one of the most densely populated countries in the world with arguable the lowest ranking public (not what the rich in India can get) healthcare system. With learned experts predicting millions of infections and thousands of deaths due to Corona, India is handling the situation, for now, has shown them to the contrary. In a typical Bollywood movie style, the country went into lockdown with its people clapping and banging pots saluting the frontline workers in this fight against Corona and the theatricals have continued since then with an early Diwali with #9pm9minutes on April 9th. Apart from the drama, the Indian response to the situation has been pretty amazing, with people across the spectrum pooling in as much as they can do to help against the virus. While the world is in awe of the speed with which Chinese built temporary hospitals, India has leveraged its vast rail network to build more than 5000 mobile corona isolation wards creating thousands of isolation beds for the ones who might need it. Domestically India has had the same issue as most of the countries, shortage of PPEs, sustenance of the daily wage workers and poor, etc. and the normal political squabbles. The one thing that does stand out from other nations is the communal reactions to the virus, with around 1/3rd of Corona cases across India being linked to a particular Muslim gathering in Delhi a virus that has reduced polarisation globally has done just the opposite in India. On the international front, India has made good use of the opportunity to spread goodwill and solidify itself as a regional power. Pledging 10 million dollars to the SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund and supplying various medical supplies, testing equipment, and sanitizers among other items to Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Time will tell how well it plays out in keeping China out of the Indian ocean, but one thing is for sure that India is playing its cards well when it comes to generating goodwill out of a crisis.