In the Chinese astrological Year of the Rat, an unprecedented plague and public health crisis has descended on the human race and world population.
It is an unseen and silent enemy. A virus which does not discriminate against race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, social class and status.
Like all other organisms, COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus – named for the crown-like spikes on its surface – has only one singular objective and relentless driving force which is to survive and thrive in a living host.
The question on everyone’s mind across the world is when will this global pandemic come to end? When will we have access to a viable vaccine and effective cure?
To understand that, we need to first delve into a scientific analysis.
According to New Scientist, coronaviruses have extraordinarily large single-stranded RNA genomes – approximately 26,000 to 32,000 bases or RNA “letters” in length. Coronavirus particles are surrounded by a fatty outer layer called an envelope and usually appear spherical, as seen under an electron microscope, with a crown or “corona” of club-shaped spikes on their surface.
They replicate their RNA genomes using enzymes called RNA-dependent RNA polymerases, which are prone to errors, but genomic analysis so far suggests that COVID-19 is mutating slowly, reducing the chance of it changing in order to become more deadly.
There are currently no vaccines or specific drug treatments for coronaviruses but efforts to develop a vaccine are underway and HIV and Ebola drugs are being tested in people with COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun a trial of the most promising drugs including the long-used antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, a new antiviral drug called remdesivir and a combination of two HIV drugs called lopinavir and ritonavir. The HIV drugs will also be tested in combination with an antiviral called interferon beta.
As we have all seen, this is a deadly virus for which there is no vaccine and no cure - so far. It replicates very quickly and is more contagious than the common flu by at least three times. And it kills more readily with close to 5% death rate - climbing as I type this - as compared with the less than 1% for the common influenza.
Health authorities worldwide acknowledge that the virus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan which sold wildlife and exotic animals for human consumption. It is believed to have jumped from an animal – the bat – through another intermediary animal – widely thought to be the scaly pangolin – to human hosts.
In other words, this virus originated from mother nature itself. It is an organism and originated from organic sources. Some people believe, although this is a controversial view, that the coronavirus and its devastating effects and potential to decimate the world’s population is mother nature’s way of healing, rebalancing and restoring itself.
There has been some recent evidence that suggests this theory may in fact be plausible. The level of pollution all around the world has fallen dramatically. The level of greenhouse gas emission is now lower and we now have a slight reprieve in our fight against the climate emergency. This is an unintended consequence of the global pandemic that has cast a spotlight on the polluting nature of fossil fuel-driven economies and given us a glimpse of what a cleaner and greener future may look like.
Whether we subscribe to that polarising view is now immaterial because our attention and focus are trained on combating this deadly virus and saving lives and livelihoods.
We are facing unprecedented times and challenges like never before.
The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the global financial market and economy, and nearly brought it to a standstill as more and more countries are compelled to close their borders and instruct their citizens to stay at home. Amid this calamity, we see heroic efforts to protect and preserve humanity.
Many sectors have been critically impacted, predominantly the tourism, hospitality and services industry. And we are all reeling from the double whammy effect of an economic meltdown due to this crisis and poor consumer sentiments.
The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, declared this as the most severe crisis since World War II. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
All around the world, the COVID-19 global pandemic has claimed not just lives but also jobs and livelihoods.
And it has also struck the heart and core of the way we live and interact with one another, and dramatically transformed our outlook and sentiments about the immediate and distant future.
The interconnected and symbiotic global economy is facing the greatest turbulence in recent memory and history as stock markets crash and rebound again with constant unpredictability. Many companies are compelled to re-invent their operational and organisational structure, and deploy mitigation strategies ranging from work from home arrangements and team segregation to no-pay leave and even pay freezes and pay cuts.
Some of you who are reading this belong to industries and sectors which are all trying to keep afloat amidst this phenomenal public health and economic crisis. Your jobs are on the line and your company is undergoing a sea change in order to weather this perfect storm. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game. And we all have to adjust and adapt to the new normal.
My dear fellow beings, our resilience is being put to the ultimate test. We must muster our courage and strengthen our spirit to rise to the challenge, and face this turbulence head on. This is the time for us to unite our efforts and persevere as a collective force of change for good and recovery across the world.
If we all band together, join hearts and hands, and make painful sacrifices to “flatten the curve” together, we will pull through this, and emerge stronger and more unified than before.
Back to questions, “When will this global pandemic come to end?” and “When will we have access to a viable vaccine and effective cure?”
What I envisage is this. Not for another year at least. And not until many more - millions - have perished, tragically. This is one of the rare times that I hope I am gravely wrong.