Pandemic citizens of the lost world | By Qamar Rafiq, UK


Pandemic citizens of the lost world

ENGINES of injustice and racial in equalities powered by Covid-19 working nonstop to grind nations and ethnically diverse communities.

The brand factor of Covid-19 has sent chills deep down the spine of international trade, global diplomacy, social and health care systems simply for being guided by politics, not science.

The harrowing scenes unfolding on our television screens, hospitals running out of oxygen and overwhelmed crematoriums characterise the heart-breaking dilemma of “Pandemic citizens of the lost world”.

Similarly, the detrimental impacts of Covid-19 has not only magnified structural problems within our social and economic systems but also exposed the fictional narrative of inclusive global leadership and public health policy to Fight Pandemic.

There is “the devil in the details” but I dare say the world’s richest nations are stockpiling a big portion of vaccines and have wiped their hands clean of any responsibility.

The rich nations which comprise 14% of the world’s entire population have secured 53% of the best vaccine’s production lines.

On the other hand, public orders to stay home, travel bans, restrictions on meeting elderly parents and the closure of non-essential stores as well as gyms, cinemas, museums and even places of worship characterise the scale of brutality.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officials have said that the Covid-19 outbreak has caused more “Mass Trauma” than World War-II and warns of its lasting consequences.

These “forever wars” result in an unprecedented rise in domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, drug addiction and mental health problems which have alarmed public health bodies and law enforcement agencies.

Unfortunately, the degree of trauma and exhaustion experienced by the front-line workers, research scientists, public policy experts, shows our fight was not against the virus, but it was against the clock.

In reality, every piece of inequality including economic, gender or ethnic have been exposed in this story of loss and shame.

In fact, it seems to me, we have slaughtered kindness, to manufacture the doctrine of “Vaccine Nationalism” which has raised many serious questions.

Why almost all of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will pump into only rich nations? Why does the Moderna vaccine go to super-rich countries exclusively; it is not even being offered to developing countries?
Why nine out of ten people in poor countries may never be vaccinated at all in their lifetime? I am short of my words to recount, how Covid-19 has rewired cultures, borders and relationships to transform the world posing an existential threat to vulnerable communities.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the global economy has shrunk by 4.4% in 2020 and this decline is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The impact of Covid-19 even in the developed countries is ravaging.

For instance, 10 million people in the UK are now waiting for surgical procedures, including the number of 100000 patients whose joint replacement surgeries were cancelled during the first COVID-19 wave.

In addition, Cancer charities have reported nearly one million women in the UK have missed potentially lifesaving NHS breast screening due to Covid-19.

Furthermore, 1.3 million immigrants have left the UK, the mass migration recorded since World War II due to a pandemic outbreak.

Despite the shocking situation in the UK, we are fortunate as a nation to have substantial resources and a world-class healthcare system to tackle the outbreak.

There is no doubt, the stressful events, scarce resources and growing infection rates have paralysed the developing nations.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of people who are much less privileged and living in deprivation of basic health-care needs in such countries.

One can only imagine how it might be when the virus darkened the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of Congo where healthcare is already significantly ineffective.

At the same time, rampant Covid in countries such as Pakistan, India and Brazil show signs of mutation which could evolve into even more dangerous variants. Infection rates are still increasing globally and disrupting every business of life.

Even the mask mandate could not provide any help to 272 million international migrants who faced difficulties returning to their home countries due to increasing travel restrictions.

In response to the blindness of the virus to politics, race and geography, many countries are turning to cyber-tech procedures to formulate the movement of their citizens, installing surveillance tools typically reserved for counterterrorism and espionage.

As one of the Pandemic citizens of the lost world, I still hope that rich countries open their eyes, to end “vaccine apartheid”.

We should not forget this disease is borderless and even rich countries are not immune to new variants emerging beyond their borders.

In this doomsday scenario, we need basic human compassion as well as robust vaccine programs to end the pandemic.

The millions upon millions of people who are “ultra-vulnerable” may die without a piece of bread but many more may die deprived of human compassion.
—The writer is senior columnist based in UK.

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