A small, miniscule virus that brought the world to its knees… a virus that throttled the global economy, and in just a matter of weeks, pushed the world to the brink of a recession. Indeed, that’s what Covid-19 is ! Does this global crisis have any learning for us? Can we emerge from this crisis a little wiser and more equipped to deal with whatever comes along next?
One of the favourite pastimes of us Indians, often even considered our birthright, is to pass judgement on others. We all like to sit back and pass judgement….whether it’s on the Government’s efforts to control the pandemic, on the lack of infrastructure in the country, on the dismal state of affairs of our healthcare system… we all shout out loudly that someone should be held responsible, someone should be accountable. Yes, someone… everyone.. but not us ! Why not us?
Yes sure, it is indeed the government’s responsibility to provide medical support, communicate information, formalize guidelines, impose restrictions, implement lock-down… but is it not equally important for us to adhere to those guidelines and restrictions? It would not be an exaggeration to state that it is we the people who invariably dilute the government’s efforts by flaunting every guideline and restriction that inconveniences us. On one hand, we are quick to call out governments and politicians and bureaucrats for letting the situation get out of control, and yet on the other, we continue to defy guidelines and cause chaos. In fact, because of a few selfish people, many others have to suffer, even to the extent of losing their lives.
Whilst the country is being urged to embrace wearing of masks and the practice of social distancing, hundreds of selfish, irresponsible people continue to throw caution to the winds and walk around in public places without masks or distance. What can we say about these people? Are they just ignorant? Or are they selfish? Probably both.
Nevertheless, this is not the time to point fingers. It’s a time to look around us and learn from those who’ve handled this crisis in the best possible way. What do countries with the best Covid-19 response have in common?
The answer is clear – its proactive leaders and public co-operation. There’s also some evidence that points towards an interesting observation – that the countries who’ve responded well share another thing in common, they are being led by women leaders.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has gained admiration across the globe with her early decision to shut down tourism and impose a month-long lockdown on the entire country, limiting corona virus casualties to just four deaths. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany took the virus seriously from the beginning, implementing a testing protocol right from early days, resulting in Germany’s mortality figures being far below its European neighbours. Taiwan’s coronavirus response has been reported to be among the best globally. When President Tsai Ing-wen heard about a mysterious new virus infecting the citizens of Wuhan in December last year, she immediately ordered all planes arriving from Wuhan to be inspected. She then set up an epidemic command centre, ramped up production of personal protective equipment such as face masks and restricted all flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Now, that is leadership! Iceland, under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is offering free coronavirus testing to all its citizens. According to an April 13 article on Forbes.com, the country will become a key case study in the true spread and fatality rates of Covid-19. The report stated, “Most countries have limited testing to people with active symptoms. Iceland is going whole hog. In proportion to its population the country has already screened five times as many people as South Korea has, and instituted a thorough tracking system that means they haven’t had to lockdown… or shut schools.”
In South Korea, the response to the corona virus threat was swift and measured, with testing rates that outpaced those in USA by more than 6:1. South Korea has been applauded for its proactive approach in dealing with the pandemic. The government in Seoul also recognized the need to get the public on-board with the plan, continually sharing updated information and involving the public in the seeking a solution to the pandemic. Mr Lee Tae-ho, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in South Korea said “Public trust can only be earned and harnessed through full openness and transparency,” and later added to that “This public trust has resulted in a very high level of civic awareness and voluntary cooperation that strengthens our collective effort”. Indeed, he has hit the nail on the head. The pandemic crisis that we face today cannot be fought by the government alone, it needs full and complete co-operation of the public, and the involvement of every single Indian citizen.
While it may be too early to draw definitive conclusions about how different countries will be come out of this crises but surely the ones that took early actions are far more likely to yield better results, while others with delayed government responses are likely to be struggling to contain and combat the impact.
I truly hope that as true ‘global citizens’, each one of us can acknowledge the gravity of the situation and make it our personal duty to adhere to the guidelines, so as to assist the authorities to control and overcome this pandemic. In fact, let’s go one step ahead and be vigilant. Let’s make it our responsibility to be vigilant and raise an alarm if we find others defying the guidelines. Now more than ever, each of us needs to be more responsible, resilient, embrace the restrictions & help the less fortunate.
It’s already late, but let us try to ensure that it does not become too late.