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Coronavirus and the Return to the 'Cave'

Coronavirus and the Return to the 'Cave'

Saturday, 21 March, 2020 - 13:00

In less than two weeks, humankind and the planet began to seem weaker than the cobwebs of an anonymous spider that cannot be seen by the naked eye. It is the Coronavirus epidemic, which seems that it will likely change the rules governing relationships between both states and people and between nature and people! The numbers so far are not frightening when compared to the long history of past epidemics, which have killed far more people than wars at the time of writing. The WHO figures point to two hundred thousand cases, ten thousand deaths and nine thousand recoveries, but we are in a different world within terms of the progress of technology and civilization. We are not in the year 430 BC, when the Plague of Athens killed around one hundred thousand people, nor are we in 1350, when the Black Plague killed a third of Europe’s inhabitants in what was called the “great mortality” and later reached Asia and the far east. Nor are we in the time of the Spanish flu (H1N1) which infected 500 million people and killed between 50 and 100 million people after World War I, twice the number of deaths caused by the war.

Two months ago, NASA was proud of having discovered that there may be water on Mars, implying an ambition to reach Mars in the future and ruin it after we ruined earth. Fifty years ago, we sent Neil Armstrong to land on the moon, and as the Chinese were preparing for a similar trip two months ago, but then earth told them, and the rest of us: hold on, the challenge now is to find a cure for an invisible virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye; the coronavirus. Strangely the name is derived from “korōnè”, meaning crown!

A mere small virus stopped everything and covered earth’s face with a mask. It closed the borders between the world’s countries, something no world war had ever done. It closed the world’s airports, preventing half a million passengers from commuting daily according to Google. After 50 million people were quarantined in the Chinese city of Wuhan, today coronavirus is putting almost the whole world in quarantine. We used to take pride in having turned the world into the size of a small room. No, sir, the small anonymous virus is invading the earth and placing everyone in isolation. What is the difference between isolation in a home, a room, or the caves which our ancestors inhabited, terrified of monsters? This little monster, coronavirus, can infiltrate all of us, and in it lies a time bomb that can make death widespread.

The director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, labeled the coronavirus an “enemy of humanity” last Wednesday, but also said that it presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to mobilize against a common enemy, and enemy of humanity. However, the features and traces of humanity were not seen in China and Milan. For I saw, like everyone else, utterly horrific scenes of Chinese and Italian doctors drowning in tears and grief because they had to play the role of executioners and make the decisions of gravediggers, deciding whom among the hopeless cases would be sent to their deaths so that the hospitals could receive those have a chance of surviving.

The horror! It is as though the progress of the past three centuries is collapsing as distraught family members wail the outside hospital entrances that had no room for new patients. What a truly harrowing way to die, at the doors of a hospital. The doctors in Wuhan, according to some outlets, wore diapers under their heavy protective clothes because they did not have time to go to the restroom!

What should be done in a country like Lebanon for example, which is now languishing under heavy debts as a result of political looting? For treating coronavirus cases requires money. Yesterday, I read that we do have no more than 300 respirators in our hospitals that have been crying out for two years because the state still has not paid its dues. However, Lebanon is part of the global carnival of misery, and is a victim like other victims, waiting for divine intervention.

I had never seen, like I did on 5th Street in New York at five o’clock in the evening, the time when employees leave, a human stream stretching as far as my eye could see. I considered yesterday a big day during which this stream’s water had totally dried up. Did you see the emptiness of Beijing’s streets and that of the squares of the world's major cities?! Where did the millions go? Where did the billions whom it was said the earth could barely fit go? It was also said that we needed a planet and a half to satisfy our limitless hunger. The centuries of progress, science, civilization, innovation, and talent, but we are like a weak and incapable person at the start of a new journey.

Nature has changed, and humans are changing. Let us remember the massive voids everywhere, the stadiums and their chants, cinemas, theatres, banks, restaurants and train stations. Let us remember that in caves there was nothing but caution and selfishness. Today, however, our selfishness is manifested in the avoidance of handshakes, hugs, and kisses.

What are you doing to us coronavirus?! 850 million are hindered from studying, meaning that the general level of human knowledge will decline, despite classes being broadcast on the television. It also means that thousands of students’ friendships will be weakened. It could mean children being treated with an austerity stemming from the pressure of being in quarantine by mothers and fathers. It is not a joke that fear and quarantine have increased divorce rates, as everyone is anxious and about to explode. In the city of Danshui in the Chinese province of Sichuan, the director of the marriage registry revealed that 300 couples filed for divorce after two weeks of quarantine, and in Fujian, China, 14 divorce requests are sent per day!

Until now, the pandemic has reached 160 countries, but the economy is wavering just like people are. The New York Times mentioned that around 50 million jobs will be lost. Coronavirus is putting the global economy in front of a real challenge, and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ESCWA are saying that the Arab world may lose 1.7 million jobs and 42 billion US dollars.

President Trump said that his country is working on an experimental vaccine that is being tried on human subjects in Seattle last Tuesday. The New York Times has revealed a meeting in the White House between Trump, his deputy Mike Pence and the CEO of CureVac, where it was mentioned that a vaccine may be developed in a few months.

What is interesting is the race towards investing in a vaccine. German newspaper Die Welt wrote that Trump is trying to put his hand on the German lab CureVac and is trying to attract German scientists to work on the vaccine. Among these is Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac, whom Trump appears to have been able to attract through lucrative offers. Perhaps we will remain in a world that says: The misery of one nation is the glory of another! In any case, there are more than 25 companies racing to find a vaccine that removes the mask off the face of the earth where a lot has changed after coronavirus.

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