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Learning from Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Today, the entire world is in disarray due to sudden spread of Novel Coronavirus or Covid 19. Most commercial activities have come to a stand still with uncertainties surrounding the future course of action. No one is certain about when we will return to pre Covid 19 status. Lockdown, isolation, social distancing, curfew, containment area etc. have become buzzwords of the day. It’s fair to say that some of the crystal balls we were using to predict 2020 at the end of last year have now been proven cracked.

Managing in times of uncertainty could lead to indecision and inaction, but for all to sail through this, survival strategies should be put in place. While the politicians, policymakers and researchers across the globe brain storm to identify the causes behind the sudden outbreak of COVID 19 and assess its impact on world and national economies, it presents a golden opportunity for everyone to rethink their own lifestyle. Is it not somehow related to the hyper lifestyle we adopted in the name of increased levels of sophistication, the ever increasing desires for comfort, power and money which led to blurred lines between the dos and don’ts. Stepping back in time, the 1918 Spanish flu was anything to go by, people flocked back to venues. The 1920 was a decade of fiscal irresponsibility crashing halt in 1929, bringing on the Great Depression. The events of 9/11 temporarily grounded US business to a halt due to fear and uncertainty, but daily life resumed as an antidote to terrorism. For now, the focus on sustainability has gone out the window and I expect the issue of climate change will take a backseat as people focus on survival. However, some positive environmental impacts of the shutdown have been noted, such as cleaner waterways and better air quality due to fewer carbon emissions.

The number of fatalities is inching towards a 300 000 mark while the number of infections is about to reach 4 million across the globe. However, if we look at regional trends, it is very apparent that the nations with better health and other infrastructure, with higher HDI and other developmental indicators have been hit harder by Covid 19. Could it mean that the countries closer to nature or say with lesser conflict against nature have a higher chance of survival, maybe because they have better immune systems.

Once the lock down period is over, it is expected that economies will bounce back and “normal behavior” will resume. . But what makes this time different for us?  Through, this piece of thought, I would like to raise some questions on what should be the ‘normal’. Should we use the outbreak of Covid 19 as an opportunity to rethink, introspect and change our lifestyles for a better World or return to status quo immediately with a bang celebrating victory over the deadly corona virus.

We need to identify what is indeed the “Normal”: Running in the race of life being indifferent to others or sparing some good quality time for loved ones, having all the means of comfort irrespective of its negative impact on the nature or enjoying the beautiful things gifted by mother earth, craving for the power and money or having the spiritual and mental peace, desire to rule others or spreading happiness among all. There is no doubt that despite the advances in science and technology, humanity is facing some serious threats including but not limited to militancy, cyberwar, or virus outbreaks such as Covid 19, whether occurring randomly or as a part of a well thought out plan to acquire control over the world economy by some vested interest groups.

This is the opportune time to make the right call. We need to decide the type of life we want to lead. A life full of hustle and bustle along with raised levels of pollution and all types of health hazards or a simpler life a better life in harmony with nature.

In my opinion the spread of the Coronavirus is creating an opportunity to re-evaluate what life means, what to appreciate and what to preserve and cherish. May we stick to the good changes (disruptions) to our lives brought by spread of Covid 19? May we continue with more deliveries taking the place of personal shopping trips. More cooking at home, and less eating out. More driving in solitude—or, optimistically biking—and less reliance on Ola & Uber. More exercise at home and yoga, and medical advice too online. More video games; less live entertainment, the list goes on.

Will these changes to lifestyle be short lived or permanent ones? Will we take a definite turn for the good of humanity or will we return to previously exhibited behaviours once the epidemic is over, is going to determine the future of mankind.

NB: Any comments / queries in this regard may be directed to the author at: udai@nirmauni.ac.in

Author Dr. Udai Paliwal

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