Relook needed at responses to Covid-19

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Where is the science in shutting down entire economies? – column by Prof. Madhav Nalapat

Leni Riefenstahl was a German filmmaker who in the 1930s was entranced by Adolf Hitler and by implication his noxious prescriptions for society. She served as a propagandist for the Nazi Party, and in 1935 produced the “Triumph of the Will”, documenting the Nazi Party convention at Nuremberg the previous year. This had been held after Hitler had been given charge of the German government in 1933 by a cabal of highly placed influentials, who were nervous at the possibility of a seizure of power by the Communist Party. They regarded the “Austrian corporal” as easy to control, and did not take seriously his rantings about war, bloodshed and conquest. Within a year, Hitler and his henchmen had seized complete control of the government and had either cowed into submission or sent into concentration camps those who had opposed him.

The German Communist Party, interestingly, had been following Stalin’s line that the Social Democrats and the Nazis were “not antipodes but twins”. The Social Democrats, who together with the Communists could have taken control of Germany and kept the Nazi Party at bay had they worked together. Instead, much of the aggression of the Communists were directed towards the Social Democrats, who had shown great courage in resisting Hitler and his psychotic agenda. By 1935, both the Communist as well as the Social Democratic Party had been broken up by Nazi thugs, many of whom had since 1933 become part of the machinery of the state. The infatuated Riefenstahl chose not to look at the underside of the rock that she fancied Hitler to be, and called his ascent to power the triumph of the will.

People walk on Westminster Bridge in the mist in London, Britian. (Photo by Stephen ChungXinhuaIANS)

That it was, accompanied by generous dollops of luck as well as the reality that the greater the misfortunes undergone by the German people, the greater was the appeal of Hitler and his simplistic slogans. Fortunately for the rest of the world, in Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the UK and the US had a pair of leaders who early on had understood the menace that the Nazis represented to human civilisation. The Nazis dealt with the Dutch the way the latter had dealt with the Indonesians, the French in the manner that they had themselves treated the Vietnamese, and the British with the same superior condescension that Whitehall was treating the people of India. The mass killings and genocidal impulses of European colonisers in Asia, Africa and South America were replicated in 20th century Europe during the early phases of the 1939-45 war.

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This was before 1943, the year when the combination of American weaponry and Russian bravery had begun to prevail over the German armies that had earlier been swarming across Europe with apparent ease. In their wake was the SS and the Gestapo, killing machines that were put into use by Hitler and his associates, most harshly against the Jewish inhabitants of Europe and the Roma, who still suffer persecution and discrimination across Europe despite the decades that have gone past since the murderous sway of Hitler and a people, nearly a third of whom somehow were in thrall to an individual who had from the start of his career in public life made no secret of his intention to convert Europe into a slaughterhouse.

People wearing masks walk in London, Britain.(XinhuaLi Ying)

That Hitler had the will to power and to implement his toxic plans was undoubted. What seems equally clear is that several of the present crop of heads of government (they cannot by any definition be called “leaders”) have lost any will that they may have had to ensure that the people they are presumed to serve be subjected to policies that generate progress rather than regression. That SARS2 was lab created seems difficult to deny, although the worthies in the US and Europe who assisted in the development of “gain of function” techniques in Wuhan and other locations in the PRC continue to do so, eager to escape blame for their role in the catastrophe that the combination of SARS2 and the WHO-approved responses of governments to the novel coronavirus has brought upon so many countries.

Science is based on fact, and statistical analysis indicates that the Omicron mutation that is now spreading across boundaries is much milder than its Delta predecessor. That those who catch the virus have either no or very mild symptoms. This has been pointed out most insistently by the South African experts, who first isolated the strain only to be punished for it rather than appreciated. Hospitalisations of those who have been afflicted by the Omicron mutation are much fewer than was the case with Delta. And yet there is a barrage of scary news about Omicron, and warnings of possible doom from the present leaders of the two countries that showed the wisdom and the moral courage to confront Hitler in the previous century.

Among the reasons why Joe Biden is fast becoming the principal cause of the present downslide in the fortunes of the Democratic Party is his decision to retain Dr Anthony Fauci as his principal medical adviser, despite the latter’s role in supporting those in the US who funded and in other ways assisted the Wuhan virological facility to develop SARS2 from a harmless to humans natural form of the novel coronavirus. Outsourcing nuclear waste or noxious plants to other countries has long been a practice of some countries, although questions need to be asked about the morality and ethics of assisting research designed to make a virus more transmissible and deadly to humans than it previously was while still in its natural state. President Biden may not be upset that several of his medical assistants are complicit in the development of SARS2 although possibly not in its dissemination, but a goodly portion of voters in the US must be looking askance at such tolerance.

There has been much talk of “following the science” where the unprecedented WHO-recommended response to SARS2 is concerned, but where is the science in shutting down entire economies, with several units closed down permanently as a consequence of the WHO-recommended shutdowns of entire countries? Vaccines have been shown to be less than a preventive to infections, while even in 2021, countries such as Germany that imposed severe lockdowns since the advent of the Omicron mutation have fared much worse than countries such as India, which refused to get stampeded into shutting down the economy and confining citizens to a form of house arrest in 2021 in the manner that had taken place the previous year. The obsession with vaccines has been led by those (including some leading lights in the Biden administration) who unsuccessfully had earlier attempted to develop a vaccine for AIDS but finally had to return to therapeutics. Had equal attention been given to therapeutics as was bestowed on vaccines almost entirely developed out of government-funded R&D, by now SARS2 would have been simply an irritant rather than the killer of so many people and many times more jobs.

Science demands a relook at the strategies suggested in 2020 to fight the pandemic in the context of the immense collateral damage that these have caused. For a disease that is mild (certainly with Omicron) in almost all cases, is it better to accept the risk of infection in the manner that we do with colds or the flu, but continue working, or to punch huge gaps in the manpower required by making each person who has tested positive stay at home for two weeks? Such measures have plainly failed to halt the spread of the virus, despite their economic and societal cost. At least in the western world, fear seems to be the dominant emotion so far as SARS2 is concerned. Those in the PLA who factor in the Atlantic Alliance as a military rival will be pleased at the effect that SARS2 has had in substantial sections of society on both sides of the North Atlantic.

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