M Zahidul Haque
IT appears that the Novel Corona Virus has caused to break up the universal ties between Men and Nature. A sombre shadow of gloom has plunged over the entire natural habitat. People world over have been put under total confinement since the outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 disease. On April 7 2020, as a part of the natural system, the moon came much closer to the Earth with its brightest illumination. This moon is called the ‘super moon’. It is also known as the ‘Pink Moon’ which denotes blooming of spring flowers. This is a very enchanting and romantic moment for those who enjoy and appreciates dimly luminescence of the super moon as it floods the landscape. The super moon did rise in the April sky but in a world locked down from COVID-19 pandemic as if a shadow of glum and silence was drawn on the moon!
The way the Novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 is behaving, none could predict when the virus would make a graceful exit from the Earth. Perhaps to completely control COVID-19, a concerted global approach is essential; no country can alone accomplish the target of arresting the coronavirus. Even if some countries like Austria, Denmark, etc. have succeeded in curbing further spread of coronavirus through enforcing stringent protective measures including ‘social/physical distancing’, they wouldn’t still be able to make them fully safe and secure because of Novel Corona’s human-to-human transmission habit. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is spreading fast in Bangladesh; the government on April 16, 2020, declared the whole country as risky for COVID-19 infection. The number of fatal cases due to COVID-19 is rapidly increasing.
Meanwhile, some countries including the USA, India even under the present unsettled situation have decided to relax lockdown up to some extent to rescuing the economy. But if proper protective measures are not maintained, the consequence may be more harmful. The Covid-19 is much more contagious than other known flu viruses, such as H1N1 (swine flu).
The Ro (R-naught) value of H1N1 was 1.46 while COVID-19 is 2-2.5 (as of March 2020).
The Ro value of H1N1 is 1.46 means the infection could be transmitted to 1.46 new persons while as per the Ro value of COVID-19, it can infect more than 2 persons on contact. It may be mentioned here that the R-naught value is a measure of how contagious a disease is; calculated on the basis of factors—a disease’s infection period, contact rate, mode of transmission. Previously it was seen that the viruses which spread by air is more contagious but COVID-19, though spread mainly through human-to-human contact plus human come in contact with surfaces, materials having coronavirus made it severely contagious. So, regular disinfection of hands through hand-washing and cleaning other possible media for getting infected by corona by disinfectants is a must plus maintaining physical/social distance and personal hygiene.
No vaccine has yet been developed to prevent COVID-19. Although some countries including America and China have made some progress towards developing an effective COVID-19 vaccine, still it would not be available till 2021. Meanwhile, certain antiviral drugs, namely—Remdesivir and Favipiravir have shown potentiality to stop novel coronavirus from replicating. In a clinical trial at a Chicago hospital, Remdesivir has yielded a very positive outcome; administration of which has cured of COVID-19 within less than a week. In fact, both Remdesivir and Favipiravir are drugs of the same class; some pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh (Beximco and Bacon) have also started production of Favipiravir (Avigan 200) tablets.
A wonderful machine dubbed as “Mosta’an” has been invented by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards which is not only capable of detecting presence of coronavirus in an individual but can detect coronavirus within a radius of about 100 meters. It’s indeed a very promising invention which will hopefully reduce the time taken to test coronavirus with present facilities and also to sensing the virus’s presence around that will help in enforcing physical/social distancing.
There are a number of herbal and home remedies for COVID-19. Inhalation of hot water vapour is proved to be much effective to kill and control coronavirus. One would, however find a lot of herbal treatment options on Internet and social media but it wouldn’t be wise to go for any treatment option without understanding all the sides about it. In one instance, it was reported that Prince Charles who was tested COVID-19 positive and sent to home quarantine got cure by using Ayurveda and Homeopathy medicine but later this claim was dismissed by the office of the Prince.
Apart from the health sector, the impact of novel coronavirus on world economy is rather grave. Due to lockdown, the entire industrial sector came to a standstill. Income generation activities have been ceased resulted in wide-scale unemployment. For instance, the agriculture sector sustained a serious setback. It is apparent that the world might face an acute food shortage due to drop in crop production. In addition, there always exists the threat of unfavourable weather causing crop failure. Creation of an emergency international fund, maybe under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) to support farmers overcome the losses due to Covid-19 pandemic in different sectors of agriculture– crop, livestock, poultry, and fisheries. In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced a Taka 5000 crore stimulus package for the farmers to overcome the impact of coronavirus together with Nine thousand crore taka as subsidy for the agriculture sector.
In a post-COVID-19 world, trade in agriculture, as this author feels, should be done through bartering, that is, direct exchange of goods (e.g. food) or services for other goods (agricultural implements) or services without using monetary medium (e.g. money). Probably it would be difficult to keep a balance in income and foreign exchange between developed and developing countries; so barter trading would help protect interests of all the parties.
International bodies including the UNFAO may entrust the farmers of areas suitable for farming to grow food for the whole world through extending necessary financial and technical support to avoid food scarcity/famine.
Like the agriculture sector, the newspaper industry also hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic.
The circulation and subscription of newspapers has been significantly decreased. People are afraid of buying newspapers assuming they might catch by coronavirus through touching pages of the newspaper. But scientifically it has been proved that newspapers are safe and no fear of being caught by COVID-19 infection. Newsprints are porous and viruses cannot survive on porous surfaces. Moreover ink used to print newspapers is sterile and the newspapers are printed under automated process maintaining prescribed safety measures. For instance, it is known that paper currencies spread different viruses and even bacteria but we regularly touch these currency notes even knowing the consequences. But newspapers are far too safe than paper currencies and there is no chance of getting infected by coronavirus through touching and reading newspapers.
In this era of electronic media, the newspaper being a print media is still playing a strong role in the transmission of news and views, education, entertainment, trade and business, sports.
etc. Newspaper is still retaining its status as the ‘fourth estate’. It is nurturing the mainstream of journalism employing a great number of people including journalists. The government of Bangladesh must provide a stimulus package for the newspaper industry as well so that they can cover the losses due to COVID-19 lockdown and survive with its glory and importance in our social and economic life.
To end this write up, I would like recall here one sad issue, that is, people’s apathy to family values and social obligations as humans. In a recent painful incident, an elderly sick woman suspecting of COVID-19 infection was left in a jungle in late hour of the night by her dear family members including children on the fear that they might get infected through her contact. But later it was revealed after the necessary test that the woman was not corona positive.
I wonder how the near and dear ones could be so cruel and heartless. Every day we are coming across such unfortunate events wherein very close people are abandoning their nearest ones on the plea of Covid-19 infection. None is ready to help even a sick person in distress; in some cases guys are trying to expel people including doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers from home and locality on the excuse of their involvement with emergency services for the corona patients. What a sad and ugly feeling! Aren’t we claiming ourselves as human beings? Is there any guarantee that those among us who are still well would never be infected by coronavirus? ‘Man is for man, man is for man’s well-being’,
keeping this thought in mind we should not get involved in any action which may undermine our status as the supreme creature. Let us broaden our altruism to help sick and needy people around us!
(The writer is a Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension & Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka)
M Zahidul Haque