Post-lockdown Covid-19 prevention philosophy

Published on: July 24, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic over coronavirus causing an illness known as COVID-19 which has spread to all the countries of the world. The novel coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. More than 14.8 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide, including more than 614,000 deaths. South Asia is home to one-fifth of the world population with meagre health facilities. Nepal stands at a critical stage during this crisis as it is located between India and China and is highly susceptible to incidents originating from its immediate neighbours. In Nepal, there are more than 18,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, among which more than 12,000 have recovered and death tolls to above 45.

Amidst this pandemic, the government has decided to end a four-month-long lockdown considering the decreasing number of COVID-19 infected cases in the country. As no cures have been found to treat COVID-19, the post-lockdown situation should follow with two philosophies: Self-preservation and sense of altruism. Self-preservation, in this case, is a behaviour or set of behaviour as a precautionary measure from coronavirus to protect oneself. WHO and the Nepal government have been disseminating information about the precautions from coronavirus. The simple techniques such as avoiding the close contacts (physical distancing), washing hands, using masks, covering the mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces aids to self-preservation. But human as social animals, cooperative nature of human beings are inalienable, which leads to the perverse effect to the self-preservation in the post-lockdown scenario.

Hence, the second philosophy of the post-lockdown situation, the sense of altruism, comes into effect. Altruism is an ethical doctrine which asserts that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. It has been a primary virtue of medical practice over several years. During this pandemic, as WHO has rated COVID-19’s global risk of spread and impact as “very high”, every individual must act in benefit for others after the end of lockdown as well. The infected people must stay in isolation with the utmost care and help the concerned authorities for her/his contact tracing. The people who have come in contact with the infected person must stay in self-quarantine for more than two weeks to prevent the spread and impact. Social distancing, as a sense of altruism, is one of the core element to prevent the spread of the virus in the upcoming days.

Moreover, these important philosophies of the post-lockdown situation in Nepal and the present case of a global pandemic, these principles were and currently have been principal to the health workers and security officials. Their selfless act of duty to save the people from the effect and spread of the pandemic has been heroic. Hence, it is the altruistic morale of one individual which is necessary for self-preservation and other from getting infected, and as a respect for the altruistic behaviour of the health workers and security personnel to fight the pandemic together.

Furthermore, this philosophy to fight COVID-19 in the post-lockdown situation comes with a question of “At What Cost?” Economists are certainly of help to analyze the cost but that will not be all. At present, this pandemic has staged the dual responsibility between state and individual. While safeguarding the two pillars of this model, self-preservation and sense of altruism, to ensure the control of spread and impact of the virus, individuals should sacrifice the personal freedom and rights for the goodwill of the community as a whole, and thus, it is the responsibility of the state to protect the citizens from this whole crisis. In the situation of a global crisis and for Nepal in the post-lockdown situations, as mentioned by Thomas Hobbes, “Social Contract” between the government and the citizens strengthens for both the parties more than ever. It was not about the violation of the human rights of an individual by a state due to nation-wide lockdown, rather it was the responsibility of an individual towards the state and fellow citizens, and state’s responsibility to protect the citizen.

Finally, for this model to work in upcoming days, it must be able to capture the basic mechanism by which COVID-19 spreads in a set of interlinked equation. For this context, the population can be subdivided into various groups under age, sex, occupation and so on to detect the basic mechanism and vulnerability. Also, the Nepalese citizens should be able to capture the underlying dynamics of the effect of the pandemic on other sectors such as employment, industry, and trade, then essentially predicting the impact for the next day or week due to the pandemic. However, this model for public health is most important today than at any time in human history. It is the very responsibility of an individual citizen more than that of state to make this model successful and fight coronavirus pandemic after the end of the lockdown as well.

Disclaimer: The article was originally published in The People’s Review Weekly.

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Manish Jung Pulami is a PhD candidate/Research Scholar at Department of International Relations, South Asian University in New Delhi, India.

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Manish Jung Pulami

Manish Jung Pulami

Manish Jung Pulami is a PhD candidate/Research Scholar at Department of International Relations, South Asian University in New Delhi, India.

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