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Covid-19: costs and benefits 400

Myanmar Times
Apr 07, 2020
People in Myanmar have started to wear masks when they go out into the street. The city has become quieter, with fewer pedestrians and cars. At the same time, the wildlife in the city seems to be at ease – birds look down from their nests at us humans, fearful of the impeding attack from an invisible virus.

Before the virus people, busy with our chatter and daily work routines, may not have noticed the birds chirping away. Now with such disruption, the more subtle aspects of life come back into focus

Before the pandemic we looked to geniuses to solve lots of problems – from climate change to social inequality, but now our priorities have changed. We are more interested in daily survival, and our geniuses are those on the front lines of the health-care system. Doctors, nurses and medics across the country are risking their lives, in a very real sense, to help deal with the crisis.

The virus is an unseen killer, but it has changed so much of day-to-day life in Myanmar. People are washing their hands, staying inside and socially distancing themselves.

People around the world have had their movements restricted, from self-isolation and quarantine measures, staying at home or in government-provided hotel rooms and hospital wards. Is it worth sacrificing our liberty to help save lives, and is there a larger price to be paid for shutting down the economy?

Scientists have been racing to search for vaccines to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, and social media is full of stories about possible slower rates of contagion in tropical countries, and even benefits of having a tuberculosis vaccination.

Hop-hop artists, singers and actors have all responded to the crisis, uploading their material online. Our office work cultures have changed, with a new stay-at-home policy seeing us punch in, send reports and conduct meetings on Facebook, through email and with Skype.

We all know that people-to-people contact is a risk when it comes to contracting COVID-19, a fact that no-one cared about over a month ago. Now shopping centres, public transport and restaurants are encouraging us to stand six feet apart.

In some ways its like a science fiction movie, where some of us have started wearing all-fitting masks and googles to protect us from the otherworldly pathogen. Should we also buy air purifiers, and is virus-scanning technology available on the market yet? Paranoia is also fuelling some of our dystopian fantasies.

Some people are becoming misanthropic, claiming that it’s human’s fault for being too aggressive and dominating the natural world. Is this nature’s revenge, to cull the world that’s already too overpopulated?

Viruses only have one purpose, and that is to reproduce. They need us as a host to do that, so in a strange way we become both the solution and the problem. We need to work together to starve the virus of a host, which is our wonderfully complex and vulnerable respiratory systems, but doing so means staying away from each other. Sneezing distance apart.

Technology can help us, and this will perhaps bring us closer together than it has before. We already rely on computers and phones for work, but can we also use it for money transfers and day to day purchases? This may help reduce face to face contact, but can it also enhance our need for social interaction?

We don’t always need to know the numbers of dead or infected, so putting a limit on how we use technology might also be useful. We just know that COVID-19 is dangerous, but we need to use technology to help us understand how to prevent its spread and minimise the damage.

We know that if our liberty is taken away, we may lose more freedom. Can we find a more stable system to deal with the next crisis, or will it be forgotten about in six months’ time?

As for a miracle, some people still look to philosopher’s stones and magic wands to help solve their problems – or perhaps relieve their anxiety.

However, people deal with the problem that may face us now, it’s worth remembering how we felt at the time. Some of us felt dread, and others revelled in the possibility of change. For if we remember how it feels now, and during the peak of the storm, we will know what to avoid and how best to deal with the future – whatever it may bring.

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