STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Could anyone imagine six weeks ago that our lives will change so drastically and so quickly? It is stuff of movies and fiction. The world is headed towards a deeper recession than the Great Depression. This was announced by the IMF recently. But in the present state of mind who cares when it is a struggle to stay alive versus earning livelihood!

Thus far there is no end in sight. All projections are like sand castles on a beach, a tall wave flattens them. Unusual times give a license to fear mongers. They are having a field day terrorizing an already scared populace.

It is difficult to think rationally when you are in a panic mode. Let us step back, take a few deep breaths and attempt to make sense of it all. We are drowning in a sea of information being hurled at us from all sides. My analysis is based on information available.

Where did this virus come from? We know it originated in Wuhan. Three competing versions are making the rounds. First, it is man made and it was intentionally released. By whom? This pandemic has hurt everyone, global powers, poor and rich countries. Bigger the economy, greater the size of their losses. There is no beneficiary thereby debunking this assertion.

Secondly there is the official Chinese version. It started in a wet animal market in Wuhan. Details are sketchy but investigative journalism asserts that there were no bats in there. Particulars of patient zero or the first cluster of patients show they had no connection to this market. Till new facts emerge to support this version, it is flaky.

The third version is yet unchallenged. A laboratory with the highest security clearance in Wuhan was researching Corona viruses originating in bats. As early as January 2018, US officials were reportedly concerned about safety breaches in the lab that could cause a pandemic. This was revealed in cables recently obtained by a journalist. The virus could have leaked accidently, infected an employee or through bio-waste causing infections.

Till more facts emerge with greater transparency, this version is most plausible.

Let us review some wild claims. In normal times one would find them ridiculous. In a tense environment they can mislead causing more harm than good. A Spanish doctor warned that a serious foot itch means you have the virus. Another expert opined a running stomach is a sure shot symptom. A friend of mine developed a sore throat, cough with slight fever. He was announced as “infected”. After a sleepless night filled with anxiety and fear he visited his doctor the next day. It was a throat infection. A few days of medication cured him. Then there are various concoctions being promoted as “sure shot cures.” Please don’t jump to conclusions and stop self diagnosing.

The blame game is on in earnest. Stung by the rising chorus of criticism of delayed reaction, President Trump has picked WHO as the whipping boy. World Health Organization is not without its faults. It is a top heavy, bureaucratic slow moving entity not geared to quick responses. WHO also has its strengths. It is the only body that links scientists and doctors to share information and data. It is crucial in this fight against the pandemic. The timing of pulling the plug on WHO funding is poor.

President Trump blames WHO for late declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic. It implies he was misled into waiting. It is a weak position. It defies logic that USA with all its satellites and intelligence networks would take its cue from WHO. It lost an opportunity to lead the world and set an example of timely response.

Trump has combined two diametrically opposed objectives into one. Being a caring father figure in times of distress and preparing for his re-elections. Not very smart. He could miss out on both, only time will tell.

We must accept and adjust to the changes. Infections have crossed the 2 million mark with nearly 140,000 deaths. The silver lining is that recoveries outnumber the fatalities by far. Highest causalities are amongst seniors aged 65 plus. Understandable, as you grow older the immune system weakens. Without a cure medical help can only assist in oxygenating clogged lungs and provide relief till the immune system kicks in to fight off the virus.

It is vital for those in their sixties to exercise regularly, eat healthy and take supplements to strengthen the immune system. Two precautions can save a lot of pain for all ages. Maintain hygiene absolutely and practice physical distancing. The virus is most infectious when the patient is asymptomatic. Before the symptoms appear.

It is imperative to increase testing for the virus. New tests are on the market that should increase capabilities. Equally important is the development of antibodies testing of the sick before they rejoin work. The vaccine is still 8 to 18 months away. One hopes that an antiviral drug will emerge sooner.

Every adversity has opportunities. Folks have adopted online access as fish to water. I am told that attendance in Punjab University online classes is 86%. Higher than when normalcy prevailed. Working from home is being adopted as a way of life. If it continues in the future, it will reduce our accelerating pollution. Accept a minimum three month horizon and reduce your tensions. Manage expectations.




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