Coronaversary: It’s about fatigue, monotony and helplessness
On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. A year on, the end is nowhere in sight
It’s sometime in March last year that we started getting a clear picture of the danger that the novel coronavirus — that originated in China — posed to the world. The World Health Organization (WHO), having being in denial early on, had finally declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11 2020, with most of the countries entering into the first phase of lockdown soon after.
A year on the coronavirus is still making the headlines. The pandemic has raised more questions, and offered very few answers. The talk is about the many vaccines developed, their usage and the after effects, the new emerging variants of the virus and continued lockdown. There have been more than 110 million cases so far, and more than 2.6 million deaths — and these are only the reported figures, there are many countries that aren’t reporting cases or don’t have ability to conduct mass testing.
And then there is Germany. Having been hailed as one of the major success stories during the first wave, it has since frittered away that reputation and is now among the worst affected countries. For the last few weeks it has featured regularly (and prominently) in the top 10, both in terms of cases — more than 2.5 million — and deaths (close to 75,000).
The country has been in lockdown since last November, initially dubbed as “lockdown light” but subsequently having more stringent controls being imposed owing to an increase in numbers. While the restrictions did help being the incidence rate down the advent of the new variants — Britain, South Africa, Brazil, you name it — ensured the lockdown period kept on increasing. The country is possibly on the threshold of a new phase of the pandemic, apprehensive of a third wave. The fact that the vaccination campaign has not gone according to plan has made things worse.
Expectedly, there have been criticisms from various quarters. The cinemas, theaters, concert, opera houses, sports arenas have remained closed. There are continued restrictions on large gatherings. The travel advisories don’t exactly make for an impressive reading. The people have become palpably restless. In fact implementing the lockdown measures has been tough for authorities, with many getting desperate and flouting rules. That said, fact remain the virus situation is not yet under control. Far from it.
Early this month the Angela Merkel government, following elaborate discussions with all the state governments, agreed to increase the lockdown to the end of March albeit with gradual relaxation — a step by step easing strategy with an automatic cancellation in case the numbers go up again.
„Wir bauen eine Notbremse ein“ (“We are installing an emergency brake”) Merkel briefed the media as regards the gradual easing of the lockdown. Since then similar headlines have been making the rounds in the German media.
Deutschland lockert sich (Germany is loosening up), Deutschland Öffnet langsam wieder (Germany is slowly opening up again) or Deutschland macht (vorsichtig) wieder auf [Germany opens again (carefully)] are headlines that make for an impressive reading. They give the reassurance that things are slowly but surely getting back to normal.
However, that moment of hope is soon followed by a realization, that there’s still a lot of time before things get back to normal. Dritte Welle ist da (Third wave is here) is the new headline doing the rounds even as both Jens Spahn, the Health Minister and Lothar Wieler, the President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reiterate the pandemic is not over yet, that the numbers have been too high for too long, while urging people to maintain caution.
It will be some time before one can take the mask off while jogging or taking a stroll in the park. It will be a few months before the non-essential stores open and one can go shopping and choose the product on site, and not online.
It will be a long time before travelling becomes the same again, and one can go on holidays sans any apprehension. And it will be a few years before that bloody mask goes permanently off your face. Until then, a mix of caution and responsibility is the only alternative.
Even as the “Lockdown Syndrome” completes a year it’s psychological impact has been much more detrimental than its perceived physical impact. Besides ensuring ennui the continued lockdown has also resulted in a fatigue setting in. There’s a recurring monotony, a general sense of helplessness and the awareness that the end is nowhere in sight.