COVID-19 goes viral

By Bhushan Salunke
The Devil’s Advocate, serving you a cocktail of humour, wit and sarcasm

How quickly things have changed! Only a few weeks ago, climate change, bushfire, drought etc were on everybody’s lips and minds. Humans were causing climate change and were destroying the planet. Climate change was the “great moral challenge” that was facing mankind (Sorry, PC people. The word “mankind” is still in use and not extinct yet). Now the tables have turned, and humans are on the run and in mass isolation due to the Corona virus pandemic. The shoe is on the other foot!

It goes without saying that we are in unchartered waters and facing challenging times, with reference to human lives and economy. Entire countries are in lockdown, having closed their borders. People are in quarantine, afraid to venture out and face the invisible enemy. There is no vaccine to combat. There’s panic and helplessness in the air. The economy is in peril. Thousands of jobs have been lost. Businesses have shuttered their doors, with no certainty of them re-opening again. It is the perfect storm of events. It is like Armageddon days.

The novel corona virus and its associated COVID-19 have wreaked havoc across the entire world. Originating in Wuhan, China, it has spread to all parts of the globalised world made possible by ubiquitous air travel. If you are looking for a conspiracy theory in this pandemic, the Chinese are blaming the Americans for creating the virus and releasing it in China. A spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Lijian Zhao, has said COVID-19 may have been brought into China by US soldiers. The Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper placed blame on the US that the US had bombarded China with “groundless accusations and discrimination”.

The first casualty of the corona pandemic, in my opinion, was my favourite beer, Corona. No one wanted to touch it even when I offered to shout it for all the punters in the pub. Corona took a big hit in its beer belly and its sales dropped. Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. How wrong was he!

POTUS Donald Trump got into trouble for calling it the “China virus” and was accused for being xenophobic. The 1918 flu pandemic is still called the “Spanish flu”, in this politically correct world.

While China was being ravaged by the virus, USA was completely immersed and obsessed with the impeachment process of its President and the political bunfight, ignoring the encroachment of the virus across its borders. When Trump announced travel ban on people, who were in China 14 days prior to their attempted entry, into the United States, on 31 January 2020, Joe Biden tweeted: “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science; not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.” On the rising number of COVID deaths, Hillary Clinton taunted and tweeted about Trump, “He did promise ‘America First’ ”. How low can politicians get? Politicians taking pot shots, in times of national disaster, is breathtaking!

One positive fallout of the corona virus pandemic is for climate change. As a result of the worldwide lockdowns, factories are silent, coal-fired power stations have gone into hibernation, there is no vehicular traffic or air travel causing pollution. The air has cleared and CO2 emission has dropped dramatically and the planet has healed itself. The much-maligned CO2 has come out of its hiding & quarantine and is breathing in the fresh air. Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions, those released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities, in major Chinese cities, between January and February. The visible cloud of toxic gas hanging over industrial powerhouses had almost disappeared.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made it clear that tackling the coronavirus pandemic, not climate change, is now the world’s top priority. Greta can now go back to school, complete her schooling and then help the world on to its feet, in its economic recovery.

If there is one bizarre event as a result of this pandemic, it is the raid on the toilet paper rolls in supermarket aisles. How does one explain this behaviour of humans, the smartest of the species? This strange behaviour will be analysed in business schools and psychology classes, as a case study, in the days to come. It is not difficult to understand the panic created by a pandemic. We do have regular people, called “doomsday preppers” in our communities who are preparing themselves against alien invasion, nuclear holocaust, etc but even they would not have fought over toilet paper rolls and hoarded them. My best explanation to this phenomenon? People are “shit” scared. So, they are having “runs” on the toilet paper tolls. LOL

There’s plenty happening in India too with India under complete lockdown for 21 days. The only thing that is spreading faster than corona virus is the misinformation & fake news about corona virus, no thanks to social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. WhatsApp’s largest user-base is India, with 400 million users on record. It is a double-edged sword in the hands of the Indian netizens, who love to have a banter. Whats App traffic is clogged with home cures for corona virus, astrologer’s prediction on corona virus’ end date, vigilante news on COVID patients’ whereabouts, corona virus jokes & memes, home-made funny videos on quarantine etc.

The biggest shock to the Indian lifestyle, now, is the lack of cricket and Bollywood movies, the two sources of mass entertainment. Bollywood is subdued too, not able to travel to exotic foreign locations to shoot those mandatory songs and dances. The Bollywood stars, for a change, do not have the spotlight trained on them. So, they are taking to social media handing out advice on how to handle the corona crisis, do dishes the Bollywood-way or how they exercise indoors to keep their toned looks. The cricketers are playing with a dead ball or gardening. Thousands of migrant workers are trudging back to their home villages, in response to the 21-day lockdown, reminiscence of the India-Pakistan partition days.

Places of worship have not been spared either and they have closed their doors. One would think that they would be safe havens for the devotees to take shelter in but apparently even Gods are powerless against the virus. It makes you wonder if Gods really reside in places of worship.

Some other bizarre things to have come out of India are: People clapping, banging utensils, blowing conches etc in their balconies and streets to “kill” the virus through noise vibration; drinking cow urine to ward off corona virus; a swami instructing the Chinese president to build a shrine for corona virus and beg for forgiveness; blaming non-vegetarians for the pandemic etc.

The pandemic has spawned a few new terms: social distancing, COVidiot (someone who hoards things like toilet paper and ignores warnings during a pandemic), quarantine baby (any child born as result of increased intimacy during quarantine period), Quarantini (an alcoholic beverage made and consumed during quarantine).

Waxing a bit philosophical, is this pandemic some kind of Karmic intervention by Nature in the lives of human beings, stopping them in their tracks, to give them an opportunity to pause, think, introspect, reflect and ponder about their lives in the rat race and on the treadmill?

Is it now the time to stop and smell the roses, spend some quality time with the family, do things that you had no time for before, build those relationship bridges, write an old-fashioned letter to a loved one or look closer into your spouse’s eye to re-discover its colour and sparkle?

Growing up, we have always been yelled at by our mums, at dinner time, “Have you washed your hands”? Life has come full circle. Take care. Be safe.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


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