28 March, 2020

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Coronavirus Pandemic: A Nature’s Challenge For Humanity? 

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

“Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.” ~ 
John Donne 

It has been now for some years that the World Health Organization (WHO) and other experts have been repeatedly emphasizing that the climate change has an adverse effect on endemic disease spread in the world. Today COVID-19 has become a pandemic. By this morning over 198 countries are affected with the total infected cases nearing 500,000. It is not merely the climate change that the WHO emphasized as a challenge for disease control, but also our present ways-of-living.   

“Today, worldwide, there is an apparent increase in many infectious diseases, including some newly-circulating ones (HIV/AIDS, hantavirus, hepatitis C, SARS, etc.). This reflects the combined impacts of rapid demographic, environmental, social, technological and other changes in our ways-of-living. Climate change will also affect infectious disease occurrence.” (WHO, “Climate change and human health”).  

These ‘ways-of-living,’ as the WHO has called them, have exploited the natural resources to the brim (oil, coal, gas etc.), destabilizing the geology of the globe, and polluting the environment, rivers and the oceans. What should be added to this list is the moral, ethical and also spiritual degradation of the people. Today all young people want to live in cities or rather megapolises, understandably so because the governments do not supply basic amenities to the rural people, in both the so-called developed countries and developing ones. High alcohol and drug use among some of the young and the old are rampant. 

The young also move from developing and poor countries to the developed and rich countries in millions, as refugees, because there are unnecessary and horrendous political and social (tribal?) conflicts in developing countries than in developed ones. The refugee problem today is seven times (77m.)  higher than after the World War II (11m.). If the COVID-19 attacks them, there is no one to stop the unimaginable disaster. 

Some Reasons Behind 

During the last three-four decades the humans discovered highest forms of technology through science which undoubtedly could resolve many of the social and industrial problems including the global warming. Solar energy was one. However, many of these innovations were used lopsidedly for mere profit making and rather aggravating the prevailing problems and creating new problems. Even during the present COVID disaster, some countries use the situation to surreptitiously experiment nuclear arsenal detrimental to all human endeavors.  

Capitalism without any control or monitoring has gone into extreme extents under neo-liberalism depriving billions of people without basic needs and safeguards particularly when economies go into slightest depressions, not to speak of the presently evolving economic crisis. Various forms of neoliberalism has destroyed the welfare principles of state management not only in ‘neoliberal’ and capitalist countries, but also in many previously social-democratic or even socialist countries. 

There is no wonder how and why the COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China. It has nothing to do with the country, people or the ethnicity/race. It is to do with its lopsided industrial development and new lifestyles of some of the young people. This is common in many parts of the world. Wuhan is the largest city in the central China with over a 11 million population within a small area size. It is during the preventive lockdown that one could clearly see the level of pollution of the city which came down by 30% percent after the preventive measures.       

It is not the origin that matters much in understanding the grave danger of such pandemics. This is similar to the ‘Spanish Flu,’ during 1918-1920, after the end of the World War 1, still some ‘experts’ arguing about its origin. The term ‘Spanish Flu’ itself is wrong. While at present, China has managed to control the spread and effects of the pandemic, the epicenter has shifted to Southern Europe (Italy and Spain) which might possibly shift to North America, if necessary steps are not taken soon. The situation in New York is already ‘pandemic.’ 

The Present Situation 

At present, the picture of the pandemic can be summarized as follows. 

By this morning (26 March), there were total of 467, 594 confirmed cases in 172 countries with the death toll nearing half a million. This is an increase of over 50,000 cases within 24 hours. There are 25 countries mainly in the developed regions, exceeding the cases over 2,000. The next tier exceeding 1,000 total cases are also in the developed or highly developing regions. When the pandemic spreads into the developing and poor countries, the situation would be devastating for the dearth of resources, hospital beds, doctors and medical workers. Indonesia is already experiencing the crunch.  

The following Table 1 gives basic figures for the ten highest affected countries, which confirms that now the epicenter of the virus has shifted from China and East Asia to Europe and US without sparing the Middle East or more specifically Iran. 

Table 1: Ten Highest Affected Countries 

Cases Deaths Recovered
China 81,661 3,281 71,957
Italy 74,386 7,503 9,342
US 65,778 552 N.A.
Spain 49,515 3,647 5,362
Germany 37,323 206 3,547
Iran 27,017 7,077 8,376
France 25,600 1,331 3,900
Switzerland 10,897 153 3,507
UK 9,640 465 135
South Korea 9,137 336 3,730

Source: Johns Hopkins University, 26 March  

The above figures are quickly outdating while some are questionable. In respect of China, the recovered cases are reported for some regions while they were not included in the reported cases initially. In the case of US, the recovered figures are not available even for the Johns Hopkins University! It is a fast moving country in the disaster, the President of the country making contradictory statements. During the last 24 hours, the new cases have increased by 10,000 in the US, while the deaths by 800. 

Comparable to ‘Spanish Flu’? 

The present pandemic is similar to the ‘Spanish flu’ during 1918-1920 period, while recent SARS, HIV and similar diseases being the early warnings. A quarter of the world population of that time or 500 million got infected, and at least 15 million tragically dying. Then, even the young were not spared, but this time young would be most affected (if not by the disease), by the economic fallout as a result. It is not purely the fault of the young that they are at present being ‘little callous,’ but the fault of public information and public education in general. The world is already is in a recession. The single digit unemployment in many countries soon would be double digit. All stock markets are falling. Businesses are closing and millions are out of work. 

Coming back to the comparison, the WW1 that triggered the ‘Spanish Flu’ was different to the WW2. At the second world war, Fascism and similar regimes were there to fight against, although some powers experimented the atomic bomb as for fun. The first one (WW1) was purely a power competition for markets, new colonies and imperial pride. The ‘Spanish flu’ was the return from the nature, for the devastation that was done by the major powers. The situation today is similar although there was no world war (but small wars adding up to a ‘third’ or a ‘fourth’). Instead of worldwide war, there is a worldwide economic and power competition between major and medium scale powers aggravating the air pollution, sea pollution, river pollution and resulting in devastating climate change. Coronavirus is the return from the nature. 

Unreasonable Social System

In addition, during the last three-four decades, the gap between the rich and the poor in all countries has increased three-four times. In the case of the US, the richest 0.1% receives income 200 times more than the 90% of the total population. This is not a reasonable system and even some of the richest people might agree. The main defect is not with those people, but with the system. 

Even in a country like Australia, 2.9 million people are considered to be below the internationally accepted relative poverty line. This is about 13.3% of the population. The situation in EU-28 is no better, except in some Nordic countries. At present 120 million people in the EU are considered at risk of social exclusion. This is about 22% of the entire population. The situation in China also has been going in the same (neoliberal) direction in recent times, 1% of the rich population possessing 35% of the country’s wealth.  

Under the present socio-economic systems, welfare measures are reduced to the minimum. Health and education in the public sector are neglected or underfunded. That is part of the present health crisis in many countries. The most affected country in this context would be the ultra-neoliberal US. Given the disastrous competitions between States and the fear of each other, military expenditures have exponentially been increased. Disregard for the global warming, pollution and devastation of the nature is at the center of this coronavirus pandemic. Millions and millions of workers have no permanent employment; they are only casual workers. Within days of imperative lockdowns, these workers would be out of work. Only some countries have taken measures to assist them in their daily living through social security payments. If these countries had policies on Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all, the situation should have been much better.   

Some Lessons  

The challenge of the present pandemic should not be taken as a challenge for this country or that country; this party or that party; or this system or that system. Even the total neoliberalism is not the sole culprit, but its degrading aspects. Even the old ‘welfare state’ might not be the sole answer, if it is without a responsible and a duty abiding citizenry. Therefore, the public education on human rights and human duties is important in finding long term solutions. 

There are countries which give priority to saving the economy, rather than saving the lives of the people, even at this catastrophic stage. There is no question that the economies should be saved, but not necessarily in the old mold. At the moment, the first priority should be given to the people’s health, young or old. More spending should be on the health sector and for research in finding solutions and a vaccine for coronavirus. Giving up on the old, who are apparently on the forefront of the dying, is completely immoral. 

The challenge is for the whole humanity. It is a challenge not only in the health and the economic sphere, but also in the moral and the spiritual sphere. When the COVID-19 is going to hit the poor third world countries, who is going to help them? Early signs are already there in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is a challenge for the United Nations and other international and multilateral organizations. We are yet to see their constructive responses. Cooperative approaches are necessary within and among countries to face the present crisis. 

The major powers should immediately give up their nuclear arms race, and all countries should cut down their arms spending for the barest minimum, keeping military personnel (if necessary) only for internal security and law enforcement purposes. However, those forces should not be used against the political enemies or the ethnic enemies/minorities.       

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Death toll is not 500,000.

    • 0
      0

      Nimal,

      Extremely sorry for the mistake. It should read as “total infected cases nearing 500,000.” Thanks for pointing out. I have requested the Editor to correct it.

      Laksiri

      • 0
        0

        The table itself is flawed.

        • 0
          0

          SJ,
          What is wrong with the Table?

        • 0
          0

          Table is good. It was taken from the university report. Johns Hopkins University is releasing the daily numbers on this matter. Further Still the table is conditioned with:
          The above figures are quickly outdating while some are questionable.

          There is no problem with the table.

          This sentence also saying that the death is 500,000 appears to be revised.

          ” By this morning (26 March), there were total of 467, 594 confirmed cases in 172 countries with the death toll nearing half a million.

  • 2
    1

    I am not a muslim so my views are not biased.what the world did to many islamic countries cannot be forgotton .last year we harassed those who were covering their face duevtheirvreligious beliefs ,today they must be laughing at us

  • 4
    1

    Dr. Laksiri Fernando,

    Re: COVID-19

    Prostrate, said the monks, the self-appointed “third Gem “ of the Triple Gem, and the imbeciles, mean Measured IQ 79, prostrated.

    Instead, people should be praying and prostrating to the virologists,biologists, immunologists, doctors, nurses and hospitals to save them. The politicians, dropped the ball, and are scrambling to catch up. Better late than never, like Gon Trumph and Gon Gotabaya.

    March 17, 2020 address to the nation: “This country, yours and mine, is secure today”. -President Gon Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

    Certain things can be pushed under the rug, not the COVID-19, for the Chinese, Sri Lankan American and other Presidents and Prime Ministers.

    The schoolboys wanted the so-called Royal-Thomian cricket match to continue despite the impending coronavirus outbreak, and the Gon President appeased them. The monks wanted the butterfly mountain pilgrimage, and the Gon President appeased the monks. The blind faithful wanted the Katchithuevu festival continued, and the Gon President appeased them.

    In the meantime the corona virus is going around in circles , infecting the citizens, and the leaders were giving false assurances.The ignorant believed them, those who knew, generally the scientists, did not.

    The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) today said that based on the experience from Hubei, China, “It can be technically assumed that at present, 550 infected individuals are circulating within the population.”

    The GMOA said an estimated 550 possible patients would have had a total of 19, 000 contacts.

    If movements freely take place, without social distancing, one individual can infect 500 others within 30 days.

  • 3
    2

    Laksiri —

    —– Snake Eating Uncivilized Communist China is accountable for producing the Corona virus—

    ——–Criminal China should be held accountable for maintaining secrecy about the outbreak and spreading it to other countries —-and secretly killing the doctor who alerted about the Virus–

    —–This same corrupted China sent plain loads of Corona infected Chinese residents to Developed countries with the intention of ruining their economies——-and killing their people

    ——-Our Health Lady –publicly displayed her lesbian tendencies by embracing a Corona infected Chinese woman —— A gesture that she leads the “Butterfly Group” in Pohotttwa

    • 1
      0

      Mr. Maharage/Dr. Laksiri Fernando,

      The COVID-19 virus originated from Wuhun, China.
      The Ebola virus originated from the Ebola River, Congo.

      President Trumph calls the COVID-19 virus, the China virus. The WHO called it COVID-19. President Trumph should have called it Wuhun virus, just like the Ebola and Lyme disease.

      And
      Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the virus has been infecting people from time to time, leading to outbreaks in several African countries.

      • 0
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        A
        The COVID-19 virus did not originated from Wuhun. It spread from there. The source is not any of those initially suspected.
        *
        The real origin of the viruses, including HIV, is often far from where they were first identified.
        The spread from Wuhan was limited and soon contained.
        The strain of the virus that hit Italy seems more virulent. What will one cal it?
        Also check where Italy and Iran got their viruses from.

        • 0
          0

          SJ ,

          COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin
          Date:March 17, 2020
          Source: Scripps Research Institute Summary:

          An analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.

          https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm

          The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has since caused a large scale COVID-19 epidemic and spread to more than 70 other countries is the product of natural evolution, according to findings published today in the journal Nature Medicine.

          The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.

          “By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author on the paper.

  • 4
    0

    I observe that Laksiri is faltering and slipping up with regard to published statistics as well as in his writing in general. He has declined in the areas of coherence and relevance to each statement made. That to me is tragic. I do hope he bounces back and writes better in time to come.

  • 2
    1

    “The major powers should immediately give up their nuclear arms race, and all countries should cut down their arms spending for the barest minimum, keeping military personnel (if necessary) only for internal security and law enforcement purposes. However, those forces should not be used against the political enemies or the ethnic enemies/minorities.”

    Dear Dr. Laksiri,
    Some people think Corona is a product of a new form of biological war by the major powers. I don’t know whether the super powers have developed such a biological weapon or not, we cannot exclude the possibility of such a weapon. In some wars chemical weapons and cluster bombs are used to kill more people. Whether the countries use nuclear weapon or biological weapon or chemical weapons, they are against humanity and these weapons should be banned internationally and destroyed all the capabilities to produce such weapons. Unfortunately, the United Nations which formed to solve the problems between powerful countries couldn’t even solve a minor problem in Srilanka. No one couldn’t stop massacre of Tamils or massacre of Sinhalese by the ruling Regimes. In practical terms, it is impossible to stop the greediness of politicians whether it is a super power or small nation.

    • 0
      0

      Ajith
      “Some people think Corona is a product of a new form of biological war by the major powers.”
      Do not rule it out, although there is no concrete evidence yet.
      Also ask yourself which countries have scandalously used biological and chemical warfare in the past and which countries let their proxies use chemical weapons and blame the other side as in Syria.
      Check which countries have an active biological weapon programme.
      Nothing is impossible.
      When people are desperate in the face of failure, anything is possible.

  • 1
    0

    Laksiri,
    What happened to you?

  • 0
    0

    Dr. Laksiri Fernando: People can bring many hypotheses as they can. What about this; Read this.
    A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. [ https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/%5D. Recently, they wrote simulating software. I heard one such bioweapon lab was closed because of lack of proper safety.
    Anyway, there is a side that no one is reporting or discussing.

  • 1
    2

    People keep talking about “Bio Weapon”, yes there are countries who have developed as part of their secret armament. But it is not some thing easy to use. Remember “The Chernobyl Disater”. It will kill in thousands of their own before it could reach elsewhere. A country has to be super sophisticated to not just develop a killer bug and then the antidote for it too, just to protect them self. Still outcome is never predictable with a virus, as in other known weapons (nuclear, poison gas, chemicals etc). The virus has existed for years but has the tendency to mutate for its own survival. We human can knowingly or unknowingly enhance it to a much virulent one. Hence we had SARS, MERS and now Covid all of which belong to same Corona Family. Just like Rhino (common cold) and Influenza Virus (H 1 N1) which has thousands of variants of its own and keeps changing with time to resist antibiotics. It will be of great help if a qualified Virologist or a Micro Biologist could educate and advise, us readers

    • 0
      1

      Was “The Chernobyl Disater” caused by a weapon of any kind?
      The US has used germ warfare against North Korea and Cuba. It uses chemical weapons against Vietnam and dropped radioactive bombs on Iraq. The US also has a very active bio-weapons programme.
      *
      Could we count on any virologist or microbiologist when the scientific community in the West, where many scientists are sellouts?
      Much depends on whose virologist or microbiologist talks.
      Remember the sugar v. saccharin debates.
      Think of the medics who still underplay the harm of tobacco.

  • 1
    1

    Is the death toll figure for Iran correct?
    Business Insider gibes 29,406 infections and 2,234 deaths as opposed to 27,017 and 7,077 in the table.
    *
    The poor Third World countries will do well to keep a long distance from the rich countries.

  • 0
    2

    “The situation in China also has been going in the same (neoliberal) direction in recent times, 1% of the rich population possessing 35% of the country’s wealth.”
    The statistics seeme inaccurate. The 35% refers to national household wealth. Much of the national wealth is still state controlled, and the neoliberal label will not stick.
    The writer may not be an economist.

  • 0
    0

    SJ, Chernobyl is just an example ,I used, to drive my point about how things can go wrong , if a nuclear facility or weapon is misdirected. I am NOT commenting on USA using bio weapon ,which only you guys may be aware of and certainly I am not. Also remember there was all kind of accusations in past about US useing Ebola , but when the disease struck , they had to work tierlessly to find treatment/vaccine (with the help of Canada) to contain the spread. Same with H1N1 too. According to you guys USA used it without having an antidote to save them selves. SJ, just because Lankans are born retarded please do not underestimate others for fools. If a so called precise weapon can go wrong , what will be the risk in useing a unpredictable weapon like a Virus.

  • 0
    0

    SJ, I believe your initial numbers regarding Iran are correct but I am not sure buddy. They were reporting more than 500 deaths in a single day. The numbers do not add up.

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