2020 in review; 2021 — what it should look like

2020 in review; 2021 — what it should look like Featured

THIS is my last column this year. I’d use my allotted 1,200 words for a cursory review of 2020 and what 2021 should bring or, on a more personal level, what I want next year to look like. There is really not much to review. The trajectory for the metrics and optics were mixed — the economy, nonwar/nonpeace, climate change, environment, international diplomacy and politics — initially upward and positive, but derailed by one major occurrence, the pandemic. With millions of Covid-19 deaths, I am even ambivalent about a Merry Christmas.

I wish now that 2020 were but a dream — albeit a nightmare, in a long, long sleep — from whence the world can wake up unscathed. Better yet, 2020 should just go away, stricken off the calendar. This yuletide season where wishes traditionally would come true as the innocents wake up Christmas morn gathering around the tree to be amazed at the presents Santa brought them. Perhaps the collective wishes of the suffering humanity could likewise come true in the form of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s frozen gift boxes of vaccines. I wish these are the long-awaited cure. If only things were that simple.

1918 and 2020 pandemics

Currently we have 1.7 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide. Yet experts are predicting a third and fourth waves after the holidays, possibly killing another million or two before the efficacy of the vaccines kicks in. And more worrisome, the virus is mutating, now ravaging the United Kingdom. We have had ample warning over the millennia that when nature so decides to move in the direction it is now taking, man may find himself no match. Covid-19 deaths pale in comparison with the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu that killed 50 to 75 million in three waves. Despite the advances in technology sequencing the entire genome of the coronavirus, many questions are still unanswered about its intricacies and how the pandemic was caused. After a century of research, fundamentals of the contagion remain unknown (David M. Morens, Jeffery K. Taubenberger, et al., “Crit Care Med,” Sept. 27, 2011). But hopefully, unlike 1918, where vaccines were nonexistent, today’s virus has more than a dozen types of cure. On the other hand, the accelerated development of these vaccines in so short a time to respond to political pressure and market demands may have motivated Big Pharma to cut corners negating the vaccine’s effectiveness. After all, public health is still a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Eradication or suppression

A similar outbreak is the 1957-1958 Asian Flu (H2N2 virus). But a timely vaccine and the application of antibiotics to secondary bacterial infections limited morbidity rate to about 2 million worldwide. The bizarre expectation is that Covid-19 is approaching the Asian Flu figure. Experts hope this is the upper limit.

The same experts’ best estimate is that mass immunization programs could boost population immunity toward the end of 2021. This is the silver lining in a gloomy cloud that we wish will dissipate. At best, it will not eliminate the disease, but the world community can opt for suppression of the coronavirus to an acceptable degree — tolerating perhaps thousands in annual deaths equivalent to the current ordinary influenza that still claim 650,000 lives. Public health policymakers now consider it a triumph if scientists succeed in eradicating Covid 19 or simply reduce its virulence to the level of other viral diseases — polio, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis B and A, measles, mumps, chickenpox, etc.

Economic recovery

My second wish is putting people back to work spurring economic recovery. This should start now, as “…the taming of Covid-19 is a ‘sine qua non’ and a seamless measured lifting of the quarantine and lockdowns to restart local economic activities” are imperatives. (The Manila Times, “Alternative aftermaths,” April 29, 2020.) The peddlers of fear have sown hysteria, ignorance and panic, leading us to believe lockdown is the ultimate response to prevent infections, enforcing a dichotomy between saving lives versus saving the economy, when in fact this is a false choice.

Further “It is not a zero-sum game between ‘saving lives to save the economy or saving the economy to save lives.’ The trade-off between the need for jobs and avoidance of contagion to save the economy must be calibrated with precision toward the decision to reopen the economy.” (ibid) But on this, we need political leaders with political will. Locally, is the Deegong up to it?

The new normal

Which brings me to my third wish, and I quote excerpts from my column of May 2020: “The new normal — where are we at? The world today is undergoing cataclysmic changes, whose ramifications we may not comprehend fully well into the next generations. What we glimpse now of our future are simply vignettes seen through the prism of current realities, already distorted these past (twelve) months by the contagion. We reach out to the past for comparative clarity yet see only instances of similar horrific plagues. The world has been ravaged from time to time and…our collective consciousness refusing to accept the inevitability of analogous results — nevertheless, the sword of Damocles hangs over our heads. Perhaps this is part of the new normal, impelled by intermittent visits of a contagion that forces a global reset.”

And our new normal is simply adopting the abnormal. Cases in point: even with mass vaccination, our social lives will be altered forever; wearing of masks may be de rigueur while in public. There are those right wingers and white supremacists, particularly in the US, that will consider the same as an infringement of their right to free speech. It would be maliciously delicious were these deniers to be in the forefront of those that will eventually be purged from the responsibly healthy living ones. They are perhaps the reason why America to date leads the world in infected cases and morbidity rate — 18 percent of global deaths despite a population that is 4.26 percent of the world’s.

Social distancing is another new normal and will impact radically into dating habits and sexual mores not unlike what HIV-AIDS did four decades ago to the gay community.

Intimacy in relationships and communications will be diluted, substituting cold impersonal interchange through social media which could consequently breed other complications.

Since the introduction of the internet and social media architecture, 2020 has become the high point for fearmongers who use terror-based tactics to influence the public for a desired outcome. For whatever their motivations, they have succeeded in spawning fake news, bombarding the airwaves with trash.

Peace on earth and goodwill to all men

It may seem naive, but this fourth and final wish should be a collective one. We live on a small planet with a population bursting at the seams. And we continue to misuse and abuse its resources with our petty internecine conflicts propelled by our trivial wants and needs.

Perhaps we — Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, people of all colors and political ideologies, and the rich and the powerful — have something to share. Ourselves. And we should. Because if we don’t, Mother Nature has a peculiar method of chastisement. Believe me. She can do it again!

 

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Read 117 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 December 2020 08:31
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