These days most of us pray for one thing: the covid-19 pandemic to subside so that life goes back to normal. To say that coronavirus has completely wrecked our best-laid plans would be an understatement. But here’s the problem with waiting for this infectious disease to go away: chances are, that may never happen.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the novel coronavirus might not ever go away and we might have to learn to live with it.
“We have a new virus entering the human population for the first time and therefore it is very hard to predict when we will prevail over it,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergency director at a press conference last evening.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” he told a virtual press conference in Geneva.
“HIV has not gone away—but we have come to terms with the virus,” he added.
A long-standing date with covid-19 also means following social distancing till the threat looms
In April, Harvard scientists had suggested that in order to deal with covid-19 effectively, we will need to practice social distancing till the year 2022.
In the findings which were published in the journal Science, the scientists from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health noted that some form of intermittent social distancing—along with changed emergency care norms—will be needed to defeat covid-19.
Echoing the sentiment, Ryan added that there was a “long, long way to go” on the path to returning to normal.
“There is some magical thinking going on that lockdowns work perfectly and that unlocking lockdowns will go great. Both are fraught with dangers,” he said.
What does this mean for India?
Last month, officials from the government and ICMR stated that because of the lockdown the growth of fresh cases has slowed down and that the growth has been “linear, and not exponential.”
A ray of hope—yes. But given that even WHO officials have in the past said that the worst is yet to come and the Indian government has just extended the lockdown for the third time, it is clear that we are not getting out of our homes anytime soon.
While confinement might not be our natural state, it’s not the worst part of this lockdown. The lack of medical facilities, hospitals restricting admissions to covid-19 cases, citizens stranded all over the globe, and rising unemployment are the ugly side effects of this containment which is yet to give us the hallowed “zero new cases today” status that even Wuhan (the birthplace of covid-19) has enjoyed in the past.
This begs just one question: we have learned to live with HIV because it doesn’t spread with just a sneeze. How do we learn to live with a virus that is practically all around us, has ruptured the economy, and is changing the way we breathe (we’re looking at you, masks!)?
Covid-19 might be here to stay but without the government making our living conditions better, we don’t know how to stay with it.
(Additional inputs from AFP)