The start of March 2020 brought Nepal to the realization of how grave the danger of being affected by the coronavirus could turn out to be, and thus we entered the four-month-long lockdown. People themselves were panicked with the lack of proper information regarding the new virus and followed all government protocols that resulted in control of the virus spread, well, at least in the Kathmandu Valley.
But after few months of frustration of the people staying indoors without income and “country’s economic crisis” led the government to lift the lockdown, it made the people assume it to be the end of the pandemic. Those who were still working from home and seriously following the news knew the pandemic was far from over. One day, when I was driving with my husband, who works from home and seldom goes out, I was astonished to see so many people just walking in a crowded street (some without a mask). He looked at me with an awestruck expression and asked, “Is the COVID-19 pandemic over?”
It was an amusing situation for me as I travel daily for my office and I slowly witnessed the changes in the condition of the roads, but for my husband, it was a shock to see so many people when only a few weeks ago the road was with much less traffic and people. He again turned to me and said, “No, seriously, I think the pandemic has ended, and we are unaware about it.” I did laugh a lot at the time, but it made me think. How does a pandemic end? And did we not know something that the others did? So I did a little research of my own, and thanks to the internet, I got enlightened.
There are two ways a pandemic ends; medical one and social one. To understand it, let us recall one of the deadliest pandemics in the past, the Black death. It is believed that the plague outbreak in history arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina (sound similar?). Most of the sailors found on board the vessel were either dead or gravely ill, covered in boils oozing fluid, and blood. Even though the government ordered the infected ships to be cleared out of the harbor, it was too late, later killing almost one-third of the population in Europe. Before Europe, the plague had already taken its toll in China, India, Persia, Syria, and Egypt, killing almost 50% of the population.
A person who went to bed healthy would wake up sick or dead. Mere touch by the infected person or a bite by flea or rat could infect a healthy person whose health would deteriorate so fast that it would not survive. So how did this deadly pandemic come to an end eventually? It is believed that quarantine, more focuses on hygiene and avoiding the infected to the Black Death. Some also say that so many people died and the ones who survived were so scared that they didn’t come in contact with anybody, and the ones who were infected themselves left cities and villages not to infect others. It resulted in the virus not receiving any carrier or person to infect and died down slowly.
However, it did come back years later, but the authorities’ promptness made the sailors stay in the ship for 30-40 days on quarantine and didn’t let them enter the city without confirming they were not infected. So, in this case, due to quarantines and safety measures, the pandemic met a medical end. We all have seen a more known and more superficial infection and may have even been infected is Small Pox. Due to the vaccine’s invention, it may not seem a big pandemic now, but it did create a problem in the past where the death probability was 30% and more in small children. But due to its nature of the infection, i.e., symptoms were clear of the infected person and slow, it was quickly contained by quarantine of the infected, and the invention of its vaccine led to its ultimate medical end.
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Coming to the socially-ended pandemic, we need to talk about the flu outbreak in the 1918s, better known as Spanish flu, where one-third of the population was infected. Similar to the current pandemic, it swiftly spread across the globe, claiming millions of lives. But for this one, people stopped following quarantine and social distancing rules when World War I ended, and people wanted to live without fear and give a fresh start to their lives with happiness and family. The flu did fade away, but it claimed many lives and evolved into different flu variants that come around every year.
So, looking at it, we can indeed conclude that the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended socially in Nepal. People are not following social distancing rules. Clubs and restaurants are crowded with party animals dancing in a room full of people with no ventilation. Every time you open Facebook, you see your friends going on a trip, picnic, parties, and the likes. And to add to all this, political parties are gathering in huge numbers in public places for their interest and power-grabbing agendas.
Why were they following social distancing safety protocols when the country and people needed them and why that safety rule doesn’t apply now when it comes to their interest is a topic for discussion for some other day. While the news of a new variant of the virus is in the rounds, is it safe to ignore safety protocols at the moment?
Is it worth indulging in a few hours of fun that might risk you being shut without contact with anybody for at least two weeks? Or worse, DIE? That also when we are so near to getting vaccinated. What would be the worth of those eight-nine months of following safety protocols if you get infected just days before you get the vaccine?
Yes, we cannot stay indoors and avoid socializing forever, but we can reduce the unwanted ones and follow protocols so that one person’s selfish motive doesn’t become the reason for suffering or death for the other. It is something that you really need to ponder about something before you go out and mingle in a crowd. Till then, stay safe, keep washing your hands, and don’t touch your face.
We wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year 2021. #StaySafe