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Covid-19 Is Not Going Anywhere Soon. We Must Adapt

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There is a lot to learn about coronavirus and masses need to know that till the time greater understanding is achieved we must be cautious and prepared, writes Dr Sundass Khan

We are approximately seven months in Covid-19 pandemic. By now we all know it is a harsh reality and not a conspiracy theory. Let me break another bad news for you and set the realities right: whether vaccines, drugs, and treatment are available or not, it will stay in our lives for a decent time and not going anywhere anytime soon.

The prefix ‘novel’ may tell the tale of it being ‘new, fresh, never heard of’ but let us remind ourselves that humanity is not new to pandemics that crossed continents and remained active for years. Given our resilience to live, I am sure this will also be history. The question is how? How do we modify our fast lives around it? How do we convert challenges posed by it into an opportunity? We need to find answers and find them fast. It is not simple, but we can surely do it. It will be an individual as well as a community effort.  We need to adapt and change our lifestyles to go out and face new challenges.

We all know lockdowns help but we can’t continue to live like that. Does that mean we just continue with our lives as they were prior to Covid-19? The answer is no. We seem to be on extremes when it comes to this pandemic. We need to create a living space that is cognizant of the new realities of this world. The need is to educate every segment of the population and the window of opportunity is closing very quickly. Just like we lost time during the early period of this pandemic (a long debate as to who did what), similarly, any delay today in following the protocols of work during a pandemic will be catastrophic.

We should realize that we still don’t know the long-term medical implications of Covid-19. The way it is modifying and treating the human body and its immune system till date, we should better be cautious than plan for a best-case scenario. There is a lot to learn about this virus and masses need to know that till the time greater understanding is achieved we must be cautious and prepared.

The good news is that there is now enough information available from top health organizations like the CDC and WHO. These guidelines are available for schools, grocery stores, restaurants as well as other public places. I will not go into those details as that requires a separate article. Every individual of our society, as well as every organization, must adhere to those guidelines. Yes, they may change as experts get new information about the disease but making decisions based upon scientific knowledge and being ready to make further changes is need for the day. The responsibility to adhere to scientific guidelines is upon our leaders, governments, organizations as well as on me and you as an individual.

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Most of the governments have unfortunately failed to adhere to reason, and hence have failed to guide their masses. We see countries like Germany and New Zealand who took steps very quickly and saved themselves from a bigger tragedy. There were however hundreds of countries who remained totally senseless about their response to Covid-19. First few months, most governments considered it only a ‘Chinese problem’.

Even when it started to gain ground in Italy, the rest of the world still kept business as usual. Once Covid-19 was announced as a worldwide pandemic, then countries started mass lockdowns, mostly to imitate each other than actually considering it as a way to gain some time against the virus. At that time, countries kept on reminding people that the short lockdowns will help get rid of virus for good and as if everything will be normal by summer. Mid of lockdowns, nearly every other country was seeing a clear divide (mostly on political lines) where one group was wanting further lockdowns while the political opponents called for the easing of lockdowns.

In summary, governments lost that time and did not tell their populations clearly that there is a long road to recovery. Even today, hiding behind the fact that lockdowns cannot continue perpetually does not relieve every one of their responsibilities towards a more cautious approach towards the new normal.

I understand that we still need to improve our mode of communication with the public to create awareness about this pandemic. In my view, public messaging needs to be simple, straightforward, and should be repeated. Rather than complex statistics and complicated medical terminologies. We should inform people how to live, work, learn, and do their job so they can be as safe as possible. Each one of us should do our part to help and educate one another to go through this difficult time. We should not prepare to fight but we should learn to move ahead with this virus without disturbing our mental, physical, and financial health.

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In the end, there are vaccines on the right path, the treatments available within few months are showing to decrease mortality rate, humanity seems to get in control of the pandemic, but we must remember that there are lessons to be learned from this pandemic. This may not be the last pandemic in our lifetimes, and definitely will not be the last one to be seen by humanity.

The need is that we learn from our mistakes during this pandemic, we fortify our identified strengths, and we prepare for the long term. The continued draining of funds from public healthcare needs to stop, the policymaking in health, wildlife, and climate change needs to have greater engagement from the scientific and the expert community. The path may be long, the path may seem hard, but with the destination in sight, I am sure we can achieve it.

Dr. Sundass Khan

The writer is a medical doctor with expertise in clinical research. She has completed multiple courses from Harvard and WHO related to Covid-19 including issues in vaccine development. She is currently based in USA and can be reached at [email protected], Twitter: @sundasskhan

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