Each year, the advent of Spring, or Boshonto, is a life-affirming event for all Bangladeshis, as the fertile delta we inhabit transforms into a veritable canvas for all the flora and fauna that are known to proliferate in our corner of the world. Find some time to leave behind the smog and haze of our urban centres, and what you'll find is a feast for all your senses, and an abundance of the kind of stimulation you wish could be carried around in flasks all year round.
It is when Nature, through an ancient and natural process of renewal, reclaims the Earth from the dark and foreboding nights of the winter months. Since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has also prevented all opportunities for such participation among groups that may belong to different sections or even classes of society, and yet find themselves united in bewitchment by the same heady mixture of nature's many and varied splendours. This year's onset of Spring carries the added anticipation, of the door finally closing on the pandemic caused by a novel Coronavirus, that beseeched every known landmass on the planet's surface in a matter of months in 2020, on its way to becoming the most important, most dominant and most impactful story in the history of mass media - and no one can call that hyperbole.
Today however it is irrefutably on the wane. Just think of the situation prevailing in 2020, with regards to the world's 'pandemic preparedness', and where we stand on that, what can often be a slippery slope today. The vaccines, if only they were marketed conventionally as a consumer product, would have spoilt us for choice. They were not of course, which ensured that all the vaccine-makers could venture down the critical path of developing the life-saving jabs without compromising their scientific purpose. The 'cures' for Covid-19, that performed so superbly under trial conditions, can now be found on pharmacy shelves of most countries. Yet it is nothing if not a nod to the collective success of the vaccine effort, that almost nowhere are these same shelves emptying out with alarming frequency.
So as some scientists had ventured in somewhat hushed tones towards the start of November, the Omicron variant may well represent the last one of any real concern, in humanity's epic struggle to overcome the Coronavirus. Armed with an incredibly enhanced ability to infect our cells, we have seen it spread through some human populations at almost four times the speed witnessed with the other variants. But in doing so, it did such a neat number cleaning up the killer variant that preceded its dominance, that the words of Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who was one of the first to detect the emergence of Omicron, can only be said to have been prophetic:
"Omicron could potentially be of great help to us," she had written, in a piece for the Daily Mail in mid-December, that sought to calm the visibly fraying British nerves on the world stage, as Omicron began tearing through its highly vaccinated population - it had already over 70 percent of its population double-jabbed. A quickly rolled-out booster campaign was aimed at tackling the inevitable wave of infections fuelled by Omicron, without returning to lockdowns or school closures - this they managed comfortably.
Sadly Bangladeshi authorities were unable in the end, to face its own wave from Omicron without resorting to one more round of school closures. By the time classes resume on February 22, it will have clocked another 4 weeks - in the process capturing the top spot worldwide, for the total duration of school closures during the pandemic. Not quite the record you were looking for perhaps, to celebrate the end of the pandemic. For now though, it is the end that matters most.
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