The thought has been crystallizing in my mind for the past few weeks – the story of COVID-19 as told by the media needs to change. Ever since the pandemic broke, we have all been tuned to the new scorecard of the number of cases in our locality, city, state, country, other countries and the world as a whole. It has provided for a much needed diversion from the lack of sport scorecards during this period. Months after the advent of the spread of the virus, we continue to watch the upward trend of the number of cases everywhere. There are different aspects of this trend that are worrying:
- We still do not have a clear method of identifying the strains of the virus and which are most likely to cause a fatality
- There is no known, established cure for the disease. There are varying reports of multiple tests underway to treat the condition, but none that is known to be more than 50% effective
- The fear has become deep-rooted in so many people’s psyche. It will take time and a lot of effort to overcome
As realization has dawned that we must learn to live with the virus, it is time to start focusing on the positives, as it were. The number of asymptomatic cases in the state of Karnataka was reported as 96% recently. That is staggering. It can mean one of two things:
- There may be a section of the population that has contracted the virus already and have remained unaffected.
- The virus is not as deadly as it is made out to be. Only 4% of the tested patients showed symptoms such as breathlessness, fever, etc. Of that, fewer numbers passed away exclusively because of COVID-19.
Let’s compare the stats for other diseases that have no known cure. Dengue has no specific cure and case fatality rates can be as low as 1% with proper case management and as high as 20% in patients in sever cases. Malaria, on the other hand, has a vaccine available and even then, as per this report, is responsible for anywhere between 1-3 million deaths every year. As a society, we have not been impacted by other viruses and diseases which are more fatal than the Coronavirus. Why has this virus captured our imagination like none other in the recent past? Does it warrant the extreme measures that we have been taking everywhere? We move around with masks even when there is no one within at least 20 yards of us. Restrictions abound everywhere and it appears rather silly that I can step out in my balcony and breathe in the same air that I would when I am outside, hardly a few metres away, without a mask. Outside, on the roads of Bengaluru, about 50% of the people I see do not wear a mask. I envy their courage.
We need to start telling the story of how the virus is not as fatal as perhaps once envisioned. Then, maybe, we can start relaxing all restrictions and let nature take its course? Notwithstanding the overwhelming criticism faced by Donald Trump and Bolsonaro, maybe they have a point. How much longer can the economies of the world withstand the frequent policy changes, rule changes and uncertainty?