A Covid World: When Science is Ignored
By Ben Arthur
The whole situation started as a tiny issue in a country far away. People around the globe paid no heed to how serious it could be. Mostly, they ignored the warnings from Chinese scientists about how deadly the new virus was going to be. This was part of a broader problem; it had become fashionable to ignore scientists.
Then, the new virus made its way to the western world. Italy was severely hit, wiping out a lot of elderly people. Finally, the media began paying more attention to the virus. For most scientists, the coronavirus outbreak was no surprise because, for decades, infectious disease experts have raised the alarm over the dangerous intersection of human settlements with animal habitats and the lack of preparation for the kind of pandemics this could unleash. The apocalyptic scenario was an infectious disease that could be spread by air through asymptomatic carriers, especially if discovered on any major travelling route in the world. In 2020, the stars aligned for Covid 19 to turn out to be just that. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid 19 as a pandemic. A few months later, countries were paralyzed, and economies started crumbling under stay-at-home orders across the world. Scientists worldwide worked hard to establish the mode of transmission and potential treatment protocols that could be put in place to lessen the spread of the disease. Most importantly, pharmaceutical labs worldwide came together and started working on a vaccine that could get the world back to normal within the shortest possible time.
In a matter of weeks, the protocols first suggested by scientists in China but largely ignored by the rest of the world as too draconian became mainstay. No social gathering, practising social distancing, wearing nose masks, and washing hands frequently became routine. The interesting thing is that these are well known public health procedures. But in a hyper-connected world, conspiracy theories and resistance movements immediately fought back. Given that some political leaders messed up the response to the virus, the anti-science movement was reinforced, increasing the distrust of scientific voices and institutions. This, in turn, became a tool some politicians used to fuel their populist ideologies. All these, together with the stress of isolation, economic pressures amid a once-in-a-century pandemic, ensured that the fight against Covid 19 was an uphill task. Many advanced countries, such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, lost so many citizens. Interestingly, countries such as Ghana and Rwanda, which were initially designated as countries that will be adversely affected due to their weak health systems, performed relatively well. This is because their leaders followed scientists’ advice and clearly communicated the public health precautions to their citizens.
As the pandemic marched on, the days rolled into weeks, then into months. There were no weekdays, no weekends, no holidays. Each day was indistinguishable from the next. People lost jobs and livelihoods. The casualty rate increased rapidly. Public health professionals across the world cautioned the populace to STAY HOME. The world was hit with a second wave, and some countries are even in the throes of a third wave. Even as the good news of the vaccine came earlier than expected, the logistical nightmare of distributing the vaccines means Covid-19 will be with us for a couple more years.
Like scenes from an apocalyptic movie, any of the great Hollywood studios will be proud of, ignoring scientists is a well-trodden path to disaster. Although the pandemic has caused incredible pain, the hope is that the world has learned the importance of paying attention to scientists’ admonishment. From now on, they will be adequately funded to avoid such catastrophes in the future.
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