By Ranil Fernando –
A virus of the Beta coronavirus 2B lineage was first discovered in December 2019, in three bronchoalveolar lavage samples of a Chinese patient who was affected by pneumonia of unknown aetiology (1), in a hospital in Wuhan the capital of the Hubei Province in China. The doctors treated the patient and not much was thought of the virus at that time. Doctors, Li Wenliang and Ai Fen realized the dangers of the new virus. They wrote about it on social media. They were reprimanded and warned sternly by the authorities in China. On the 8th January, Wuhan Public Security Bureau arrested eight doctors who had posted information about the illness on social media. An official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered laboratories, which had already determined that the novel virus was similar to SARS, to stop testing samples and to destroy existing samples. On 13th January 2020, the first coronavirus patient was reported in Thailand, the first known case outside China. On 20th January the first coronavirus patient was reported in South Korea. A few days later patients were reported from Japan and USA. The warning signs of an epidemic were emerging but the Chinese authorities were still in denial mode. Soon the Chinese authorities realized their mistake.
On 21st of January, China’s top political commission in charge of law and order warned that “anyone who deliberately delays and hides the reporting of [virus] cases out of his or her self-interest will be nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.”(2).
On 23rd January, Wuhan and three other cities are put on lockdown. As China celebrated the Lunar New Year holiday from 24th to 30th January, approximately 5 million people left Wuhan without being screened for the illness. Hundreds of millions of people travelled around the country. The spread of the virus was rapid and devastating from then on. The virus was given the official name of Covid 19. The WHO declared a worldwide pandemic on the 11th of March 2020. The rest is history. At the last count, more than 300,000 people have been affected worldwide resulting in 13,000 deaths especially in the older age groups and immune-compromised patients. The high figures are partly due to human disregard for the rule of law and lack of civic consciousness. World over people behaved in the most selfish manner disregarding requests and warnings, contributing to the pandemic. No one can predict what the final outcome will be. The tiny particle of Covid 19 has brought the world to a standstill and put many countries in lockdown mode.
The need of a reality check
The world and humanity today is considered to be very advanced. The emphasis is on growth, power and individuality. The buzz words are Nanotechnology, robotics genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and cyborgs. Undoubtedly these advances have made significant contributions to enhance human existence. The higher echelons of society are seeking divinity. The downside is that the human race has forgotten some fundamental moral values. Truth, honesty, civic consciousness, equity, humility, love, family values, unity and kindness are not given much thought in the fast-moving world of today.
In the face of this tiny particle called Covid 19, aforesaid current values of power, growth seems so insignificant. The basic instinct of survival is the need of the day. This emphasizes the frailty of humans. In many countries, people died in total isolation and their main cry was for kindness and the embrace of a loved one. Even the most powerful including leaders of countries and their families were affected by the virus. Power, growth and technology did not offer any protection. Despite all the technological advances experts cautiously predict that a vaccine against Covid 19 is at least 18 months away. Whatever your religious beliefs are or even if you do not have one, it is time for everyone to stop and take a reality check and reexamine your life. The new frontiers of Nanotechnology, robotics genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and cyborgs must be fully supported and advanced. The recent advances inebriated some people so much that they claimed that human beings could achieve immortality in the twenty-first century (3). The current epidemic calls on a reality check for such claims. This is the time to stop and think of real values in life. If humans can balance the advances and the real values that matter then the human existence will undoubtedly be enhanced and the world will become a much better place to live in. Perhaps Covid 19 was a divine message for the world to take a reality check
1. Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
3. Alexander Bolonkin Twenty-first century – The beginning of human immortality – October 2004Kybernetes 33(9/10):1535-1542 DOI: 10.1108/03684920410556115
*Prof Ranil Fernando -Senior Professor of Surgery Faculty of Medicine University of Kelaniya, Consultant Surgeon North Colombo Teaching Hospital Ragama, Past President College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka