While not showing any covid 19 symptoms, I’m in mandatory quarantine at home since arriving from the USA as instructed by our health service. This pandemic is endangering an essential public good, human health and life. Whilst I’m confident that we’ll get through this together, what keeps me up at night is whether this pandemic will get us to think about our behavior to one another and our relationships with the environment and all living things.
According to The consequences of human actions on risks for infectious diseases: a review (Infection Ecology and Epidemiology, 2015), emerging infectious diseases are on the rise, causing losses in both human and animal lives, as well as large costs to society. Many factors contribute to this hike, but most are caused by humans. These include urbanization, human induced climate change, deforestation, global pollution, an increasing demand for exotic (bush) meat as the foodie culture gains in popularity. Unmistaken is also the fact that marginalized populations who live with poverty, health inequities, and other burdens, take the brunt of infectious diseases as a consequence of greed, war, and ill-conceived political priorities and policies.
We need to realize that what affects one person anywhere affects everyone everywhere. We have seen genuine acts of kindness of people and heroic healthcare workers. Yet we’ve been stockpiling toilet paper and antibacterial wipes without thinking of the rest of the population. We’re willing to put each other at risk by making “hand sanitizer” at home. The covid 19 apparently has given us carte blanche to step up discrimination of Chinese (and Asians in general). In London an Asian Singaporean student was recently accused of being responsible for covid 19 and beaten up.
We must continue the briefings here emphasizing personal hygiene and physical distancing (social distancing means something else). What’s missing from the conversation however is the need to deal with issues that this disease has laid bare: greed, unequal opportunities, disdain for our environment, unhealthy lifestyles and more. Finding a vaccine may stop this strand of covid, but will not eliminate future catastrophes which may be occurring with an accelerated speed if we don’t change our ways. This pandemic is holding up a mirror to society.