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Is the world overreacting to corona? Shouldn't it be treated like cancer, TB, malaria?

By NS Venkataraman*
Wisdom often comes from unexpected quarters and many times from poor and deprived persons , who do not know as to where their next meal would come from.
On a total lockdown day in hot summer afternoon, I was sitting in the sit out in my flat with nothing to do and looking at the empty road. Suddenly, a middle aged, poor lady came with a mat and lied down on the mat in a place , where there was shade in front of my house. Obviously, in this hot summer afternoon, she could not bear the heat in her ill-equipped tenement and wanted free air and shade to relax.
Then, a young boy came to her and reminded her that it was a full lockdown and police could arrest her for violating the guidelines. I heard the lady make following observation, with what looked like a feeling of detachment:
“Thousands of people die in the world every day, whether there is corona or no corona. Nobody lives eternally and death may knock at the door anytime on any day.
“My grandfather used to tell me that in Hindu philosophy, death is not to be mourned. Death would come as a matter of routine to anybody when the time would arrive for the individual. When my grandfather was dying, he spoke with difficulty and feebly said that he did not know where he would go, in spite of listening to several religious lectures. He said, ‘let me go and see’. Then, he breathed his last. Certainly, he would not have feared corona.
“I am observing social distancing and using mask as wanted by the government. In this hot summer, I cannot sit in the house and I want shade and free air. If corona would take me for seeking free air and shade, let it be so.”

Then, she started sleeping, and after one hour of sleep, she got up, took her mat and quietly walked away. The observations of the poor lady made me wonder whether the world is overreacting to the corona event. Is the world reacting to the other deadly diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis or malaria or due to age related diseases in the same way? What is so special about corona?
Perhaps, the world would have been better placed today if it would have decided to live with corona along with necessary personal safety precautions, instead of reacting with panic, as the world has been living with several other diseases. By getting alarmed over corona, the disease has not been shunted out. Scientists across the world would have certainly continued the efforts to develop the drug to treat corona, irrespective of the level of alarm of the world community, just as the scientists have developed drugs to treat several other diseases in the past.

A look at comparative figures

In the year 2018, around 18 million people were affected by cancer and 10 million people died due to cancer in the world. Around 200 million people suffer from malaria every year and one individual dies every two minutes due to malaria in the world (source: WHO report).  It is reported that around 60 million people die every year due to old age diseases. Millions of deaths also occur due to several other reasons such as war, accidents, suicides etc.
Already, more than 11 million people have suffered from corona in the world and above 500,000 people have died due to corona. Amongst the dead, many people also have other ailments as well as old age conditions resulting in poor immunity level.
So is corona so alarming? Compared to the prevalence of several other diseases and death due to such diseases and other reasons in the past year after year, the damage caused by corona appears to be not really that alarming as it is made to look. The important point to note is that in the case of corona, the number of people who have recovered are far higher than the number of people who have recovered from other diseases. 
In the case of corona, the number of people who have recovered are far higher than those who have recovered from other diseases
The corona picture would look less alarming if the media would report only the percentage of people who have recovered from corona and the number of people who have died. Repeatedly pointing out the number of people who have been affected from the beginning of corona (Covid-19) is purposeless, since more than 50% of them have recovered and others under treatment. The recovery rate is likely to further go up sharply in the coming days. 
Looking at the picture with a holistic scenario in view, it appears that the world community is overreacting to corona, even as the disease is persisting just as so many other diseases. Perhaps, the basic cause for concern amongst people is that human endeavours have not succeeded so far in “conquering” corona.
The ground reality is that so many other diseases have not been conquered, though drugs have been developed. When the world has reconciled itself to other deadly diseases like cancer, why not have the same approach to corona too? 
In the absence of drug for treating corona and lack of clarity as to why the virus happened and being convinced that corona is contagious, the world has come to the view correctly that social distancing and clean living style is the immediate remedy to confront corona. This is the right and appropriate approach. But, should this approach be continued endlessly?

Safeguarding against corona

No doubt, people should be told as to how they should safeguard themselves against corona, as they are told about other diseases and then it should be left to the people to live with necessary safety precautions, as it is being done in the case of other diseases. 
People would react to this approach of strongly advocating safety measures in much better way than when compelled. Perhaps, the social pressure would make people to protect themselves much better than use of force by government agencies.
What is required is strong and continued proactive campaign against corona by the government and social groups, where those who do not observe social distancing would be looked upon as anti socials and not necessarily as law breakers and such anti socials would be viewed and dealt accordingly by the public. Social pressure would build upon those who do not observe the cautions and they would be made to behave.
It is necessary to transfer the responsibility of observing caution to the people, which will yield much better results. The compulsive methods to make people observe social distance to prevent spread of corona is no more yielding the results, as it is seen from the rising figures everyday, in spite of implementing lockdown. It appears that the law of diminishing returns is proving itself.
Humans being what they are, they defy stipulations by government beyond a level. This has been seen even in comparatively developed countries in Europe and USA, where public demonstrations were held against restrictive lockdown policies.
Indeed, the poor lady, who sought shade and free air to escape from the horror of hot summer afternoon in the full lockdown day has a lesson to teach the world.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai

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