Col Ashwani Sharma(Retd)


It is surreal. A microscopic virus locks down the entire globe. As people hunker down to contain the spread, no one is spared, be it heads of state, monarchs or workers in a mine. Smart, as this virus is, it spreads quickly, stealthily and remains undetected for up to two weeks while initiating a chain reaction of infected people. It strikes humans only, sparing all other species in the lower order of the food chain.  An extraordinary phenomenon indeed. Some call it nature’s balancing act, some term it as revenge. To the conspiracy theorist, it is biological warfare to change the world order. Whatever the case may be, the Coronavirus or Covid-19, has created a world war like scenario. Many things in our lives may never be the same again, at least while the world searches for a vaccine.

Governments across the world are facing the crisis with different strategies. Some are learning from others’ mistakes, while some from their own.Some are yet to evolve a strategy, and for the believer it is the hand of God. Closer home, India has reacted fairly early and decisively, including a regional initiative with all the South Asian countries. The 21-day lockdown in India is intended to contain the spread, keep the numbers to manageable levels and eradicate, to the extent possible. Alongside, all international flights have been cancelled to ensure complete isolation. All eyes are on India, as the outcome of India’s efforts will have a major global impact. Naysayers predict unspeakable horrors and fatalities, while optimists forecast minimum damage and a quick recovery. India’s economy has always proven to be resilient; partly because it is self-sustaining.  It will take a hit for sure, but a quick bounce back will help heal the entire world. The immediate challenge is the harvesting of Rabi crops amid the imposed lockdown.

Some analysts have projected millions of fatalities based on simulations and the healthcare system’s capacity. However, one factor ignored in the grim projections of likely deaths is the age bracket. India, fortunately, enjoys the advantage of being a young country with average age of its population being below 30 years. The US and China are nearly at 40, while Germany, Italy and Spain are between 45 and 50 years of age. Consequently, the age of the average person infected with the virus is way higher in Europe and America as compared to India. Rest of the South Asian nations have age statistics similar to that of India. With the virus affecting the older age groups (due to comorbidities and not just the number) far more severely in terms of fatalities the Indian subcontinent is safer.  The mortality rate is likely to remain between 1.5 to 2.5%. Younger patients will also likely require less medical attention and consequently impose less burden on the system.

Are we prepared for it at the individual, community and national level? I think we are still coming to grips with the reality. India’s leadership may not have opted for the herd immunity for all the right reasons, but the virus may still affect a large portion of the population over a longer period of time. The 21-day lockdown is a measure to flatten the curve and a method to buy time to prepare. But prepare we must, at all levels. Fear may be the key to keeping us all in a huddle, but prepare to face this invisible enemy with wisdom, fortitude and rationale.  Be cautious, but not afraid.

Our cover story is on CORONAVIRUS. Ata Hasnain has delved into the unknown and done crystal ball gazing at the possible strategic aspects and effects that may emerge from this battle. We have also done a story on what the virus is all about and the preventive measures that can be taken for it.

A lot has already been written and said on the subject. Hopefully our readers will pick up some useful information to help them prepare better for the dreaded disease.

As we go to print, there appears to lie a long battle ahead, both with the virus and with its aftermath. Whatever be the outcome, we are likely to step into a world which will be different in some ways for sure.

Stay safe, stay fit.