Being politically oblivious is the most apt thing at this point in time. You can either be reprimanded by your own government or mocked by the scientific community if you dare to have an opinion. The recent SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has compelled countries to close borders and stay under several iterations of lockdowns. If the effectiveness of the lockdown is to be believed, then it merely delays the outbreak but never stops. The leading epidemiologists would confirm the effectiveness of lockdowns and restrictions. As soon as you reopen, the viral transmission rate will bounce back and we will witness a wave. The only serious implementation of the lockdown could be if you could immunize the entire population and then reopen. So was the move to remain in isolation scientific or political? The answer is both partly scientific and political.
Politics: An unified response to the viral outbreak
You may wonder how you could bring the entire political diaspora under one roof and an unified response. Let me draw your attention to an United Nations Organization’s report published in 2019. The report mentioned that India, with 17.5 million, has the world’s largest diaspora of international migrants followed by Mexico, China, Russian Federation, and Syria. Most of them look for settlement in NATO member countries for a better life. In 2019, when NATO members met in London to discuss various issues, one of the agenda was about irregular migration. The United Nations migration report and NATO meeting in 2019 could possibly be the reason for a unified response to target India, China, and Russia.
The recent vaccine diplomacy to discredit vaccines developed in India, China, and Russia can ring some bells. The other aspect is to ruthlessly blame and highlight one country as the most dangerous to deal with. Unfortunately, in this case it is India. The recent Indian double mutant variant B.1.617 or later dubbed as Delta variant has become the talk of the town. Countries across the globe are ruthlessly blaming it for the third wave. The irony is that the B.1.617 variant was prevalent in almost 50 countries. Though India is my home country, I’m in no way soft-hearted for its irregularities. The selective news reporting across the globe mostly highlighted the Indian variant for India’s dismal response during the second wave. Only a handful of media outlets dared to reveal the true picture. The situation in India during the second wave was worse not because of the variant but because of the mismanagement done by state and central administration. People in India have died more because of lack of oxygen and improper care or treatment.
Now, you could question why countries such as India, Russian Federation, and People’s Republic of China would join hands with NATO’s political response. The answer lies with the internal political dynamics of these countries. You may want to read more details about the recent civil unrest in these countries. Some of them are highlighted below:
The amendments in the Citizenship bill and breaking away of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir are the most drastic moves made by the Indian government after demonetization. It’s imperative that the government will get an internal flak from its own people. The Delhi riots in early 2020 made the Indian government join hands with the NATO’s political response.
In March 2018, Vladimir Putin got re-elected and it became evident that the long-existing frustration in the citizens will erupt somehow and somewhere more. The protests against Putin in 2019 and anti-Moscow protests in 2020 has shaken Vladimir Putin’s power to its core.
People’s Republic of China:
The violent protests in Hong Kong erupted during the 70 year celebrations of Communist Party rule during October 2019. The reason was that after being handed over to China by Britain, Hong Kong wants to see itself as a republic and sovereign state in future. Hong Kong protesters then fled to Taiwan to continue their protests. Reference: Hong Kong Protests
Science: Scare Vs Cure
To maintain the status quo, science is a useful tool. You can either use it to inform people about the recent developments or you can selectively highlight and misquote some scientific journals to create a panic. The most important aspect to understand about the current pandemic is the mortality rate. The current estimated mortality rate due to SARS-CoV-2 is somewhere between 3-4%. The crucial point is that this estimation depends largely on the scale of population (sample size). The mortality rate would vary depending on the countries and their sample size. Unfortunately, our unified response to the outbreak has always been counting the number of infections. Whereas, our focus should always be on the critical illness and hospitalization. In some studies, the genetic structure of SARS-CoV-2 and SARC-CoV have been found 75% identical. The length of the SARS-CoV genome is over 30 Kb whereas the genome size of the SARS-CoV-2 varies from 29.8 kb to 29.9 kb. The spike protein (S) is the main antigen to detect all coronaviruses. If you feel that rigorous testing and counting the number of infections is a bit too much then you’re not alone.
Another scientific aspect that was misquoted across news media outlets was that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne. One of the research conducted in March 2020 recommended maintaining a social distance of at least 20 feet which was discarded as SARS-CoV-2 was not an airborne disease at that time. The same research recirculated in the media in 2021 to confirm that SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne disease. People often don’t read scientific journals and rely on the media interpretation. The research only suggested that the disease is airborne up to a distance of 20 feet. Many governments including India had adopted a theory of panic to mandate masks in open air. Of course, the naive people imbibed it with grace and panic.
Now, the most important scientific fact that is used as an instrument of panic and fear is that a flu virus always mutates and gives rise to several variants. This very fact has been rolled out as a failure on people not following COVID protocol hence restrictions and lockdowns will continue. Neither you can restrict people’s movement nor you can create newer vaccines to cover all variants of a flu virus. Both approaches are impractical. The lockdowns and restrictions are only good if you can immunize the entire population before reopening. But that idea is a little far-fetched. And, if you think that the pandemic is not a natural disaster, then I’m happy to blame it all on people.
Disclaimer: This article is based on the facts and real-life experience. My father suffered from SARS-CoV-2 and recovered finally with a drug known as ivermectin. The usage of which is blocked by WHO for insufficient data. Thankfully, the doctor who cured my father didn’t rely on WHO recommendation and continued treatment based on studies done in Bangladesh and Argentina.