India got hit by Delta, partly because it gave higher priority to politics. Leaders greatly underestimated the dangers and allowed public gatherings in the name of democratic politics. The results that followed were devastating as Delta hit India. While the Delta variant has waned, another new one is rising in the shape of Omicron. It is milder but far more infectious making the absolute number of cases rushing the health system could be as high as before. As New York Times noted on India, "Now, with the rise of Omicron, the mixed signals from the government and rapid spread through cities are fueling a sense of déjà vu."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked all to be vigilant and Delhi supremo Arvind Kejriwal, has introduced night curfews, shut down movie theaters and slashed capacity in restaurants and public transport. But here is the rub. Both are hyper busy politicians, who were seen even as they announced such measures campaigning unmasked in rallies with thousands of people attending. Large election rallies are being held across several states that are going to the polls in the coming months.
Politics matters bhai
Meanwhile, Mumbai reported more than 15,000 new infections on Wednesday; it's highest of the pandemic. In New Delhi, the daily number nearly doubled overnight. India is also vulnerable as vaccines are not proving to be a sure fire protection against Omicron. This applies in particular to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used in about 90 percent of India's vaccinations but it does help reduce the severity of the illness.
It's obvious that politics matters of the Indian variety to ensure the parties there so no matter what the danger, politics will go on even when lives are at risk. Once it became clear that the first surge was not as a killer machine as it was in the West, people shrugged it off. That is one reason why the Delta/second surge was so cruelly efficient in maiming and killing. It caught the world including India off guard. And a price was paid.
India looked ramshackle and the scenes of people dead and dying as the oxygen crisis hit the affected was bad pr for a country that truly values its public image. It advertises itself as a junior super power and way above its neighbors. So that hurt and didn't help its claim to be the largest producer of vaccines in the world. So what were the lessons learnt?
Of vaccinations and Christmas parties?
If politicians can't survive without crowds and voting for the sake of power, can people survive without the daily need of economics? It's such a simple question that it doesn't deserve an answer. Economics can't be ignored but politics can be, at least theoretically. So how is the equation going to be drawn between people and economics and the pandemic is what deserves enquiry. Perhaps just as the virus was produced by biological laws of intrusion into their space and thus bridging a deadly bond, the greatest threat to the virus could be the overwhelming nature of economic needs and not vaccination.
The pandemic narrative in the West and the East are very different as expected. In the West it is/was about illness, hospital care and death. However, the collective suffering was also about social life, vacations and so on. Now lifestyle issues dominate as the crisis is much less threatening after massive vaxing. It was inevitable as the majority were vaccinated and felt safe.
The East is about economics?
This was very different in the East where the narrative centered around the livelihood crisis. Very soon after the pandemic took hold, western media focused on the miserable health situation in the East but death rates were much higher in the West. As the virus infected many/most in Bangladesh for example and, the death rate remained low even for a high death tolerant country. But the concern was about economics. Thus every decision of the authorities whether lockdowns, restrictions and instructions were flouted. They were seen as impediments to livelihood and hence discarded.
Death rates shake up authorities and media but leave people mostly alone. Most who die are the elderly with co-morbidities and such people though loved have less to do in a livelihood dominated society. The same is in the West where the elderly mostly died and in old people's homes where they had no economic and even social functions. So no matter what we think, evolutionary biology wise, older deaths are far more tolerated. In our society even more so hence not seen as a threat.
The corona pandemic has shown a few lessons which we should learn. They include the fact that humans are fundamentally selfish, whether individually or collectively. The denial of vaccines by the rich countries to the poor is an excellent example. India's political push even when it costs lives is another. Lack of concern by the young towards the life of the elderly is very telling and is a very significant example. That those who have no economic purpose are less lamented is certain and its economics which is going to decide how we shall act as far as the virus is concerned.
The pandemic has taken many of the necessary fictions about human behavior and shown them to be false or what they actually are. Human beings will be dominated by economics and neither politics nor social values will determine social behavior. Corona may go on but so will whoever needs to economically.
Dear virus, meet the economic being.
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