This dreaded year started with the massive Australian bushfires and continued to become an even worse nightmare. From Kobe bidding adieu with his helicopter crashing to the looming threat of a world war with escalating tensions between the USA and Iran.
Scheduled Ukrainian passenger airlines being shot by Iran military and the biblical locust storm which engulfed North Africa ( obviously Indians, wouldn’t care about it till June). And all of this was just in January.
With this in the background, March saw the beginning of the nasty COVID-19 pandemic. And the world was soon in a standstill. The entire world was LOCKED. It was a unique experience for sure. For everyone including the medical fraternity.
Have we ever seen anything like this before?
For our generation, the only such instance would be 2009-2010 (H1N1)pdm09 causing the swine flu pandemic. It affected approximately 60 million people, with mortality of o.o2%. India reported only 20,000 cased and 1500 deaths. Screening at airports, isolation for suspects, and restricted entry from countries where the disease was spreading was implemented, similar to the present scenario.
Some things were different though. There was soon a drug in the market that was found to be effective (Tamiflu). Indians were considered to have herd immunity very soon to this virus, probably because this virus was very similar to wild influenza or common cold virus. Also, the rate of international tourists arriving in India has almost increased 4-5 times over the last 10 years.
All these differences create a ground for very different outcomes as compared to the present pandemic.
Were there years worst than 2020?
I personally believe, I wouldn’t have survived two specific time frames in the history of mankind.
A dense fog, probably from a volcanic eruption, engulfed most of the northern hemisphere and marked the beginning of one of the worst times to live in! Half of the earth was plunged into darkness, 24/7 for 18 months, with temperatures falling down to 1.5-2.5 degrees. Snow fell in summers and crops failed almost everywhere. People starved. And just a few years later, the bubonic plague hit the world. These reasons led to the fall of the mighty Roman Empire, which was considered undefeatable.
Just with the world war ending and thousand of troops moving around the world, humanity for the first time was caught in the clutches of Spanish flu, a strain of H1N1 virus. This virus affected approximately 500 million people – almost every one in three humans on the planet. As usual, killing around 675,00 people in the United States, and approximately 50 million worldwide.
This affected both the young and the old alike, and also had a deadlier second wave. Close quarters, massive world-wide movements, inability to maintain social distance, malnutrition prevalent amongst the general population, and the soldiers and no to minimal research potential played a drastic role in this disaster.
Were there any good things in 2020?
Plenty, plenty. Wonder chicken was discovered. It is a fossil that belongs to an era even before dinosaurs. It is a gold mine for evolutionary knowledge about life on earth.
The second person in the world infected with HIV was cured by a bone marrow transplant. That is such a huge victory. It gives hope to the 38 million people living with the infection to finally get cured.
The Australian bushfire finally came to an end after several months too. Although it did not get as much media coverage as it got when it started in January.
Finally, the first in-vitro cheetah cubs were born. This basically means, we humans can artificially make animals reproduce. This can be a boon to the species nearing extinction. Think about how it would feel to see a dodo running around again?
And I forgot SpaceX had their first successful mission, a step towards privatization of space travel. Wow.
Why did we not see the good things then?
All of us were flooded with bad news, scare, anxiety, and panic. Panic and fear sell. And it was sold efficiently.
Do you realize how after 5 months, the news channels and people, in general, are not talking about corona that much? The fear is kinda diminished. Although the problem is far from solved. People are still dying.
Still, humans move on. Suddenly in June, we were scared of locusts. Did we ever care about it when Kenya was devastated by the locusts back in January? I didn’t even know about it, till 15 days back.
Overexposure to information, social media, and poor journalism is a cocktail for anxiety and fear. COVID just exposed it to us along with a ton of other things that are wrong with our society and its systems.
Also, since the younger generations were more or less spared, we all ended up being tensed about how we cannot travel, have their vacations, or their parties. They forget to think about the immunosuppressed and the elderly. But then empathy is a tough trait to embody. Especially when the other option is to go out and have a life.
Why do I feel we are blessed to face a pandemic right now!
Pandemics are not in anyone’s control. Mutations in the viral genome are not uncommon. But to finally make something that our immunity doesn’t identify, it takes the natural cycles about a 100 years. Blame china or blame the bats. I feel a pandemic is just like any other natural calamity, a tsunami or an earthquake.
But what would we do without an internet connection? Or without laptops and Netflix? Or maybe zoom?
As a doctor, I wonder what would we do without ventilators? Without medical research and the hope to make a vaccine? Or if like the Spanish flu era, doctors had no idea of what is happening?
This is a beautiful time to be alive. Low carbon emissions, cleaner air, global warming rates coming down, and respite to wildlife have proven to be a reset button for the planet.
Also, this has created a fertile ground to make us understand how important research is. Everyone wants a new vaccine. A new drug. A new treatment plan to treat the disease. Everyone wants to understand how the disease spreads. Epidemiologists and researchers are having a ball publishing tons of research papers almost every few hours.
This is a beautiful time to be alive. At least it will give us a good story to tell to the next generations. Also, it has emphasized how humans at the end of the day are true SOCIAL ANIMALS.
Tell me how you felt about this year? was it very bad? Did you know 536 existed? Did you know the tons of good things happening around you? tell me all about your 2020.