A file photo of a health worker collecting a swab sample from a shopper for Covid-19 coronavirus testing in New Delhi. Photograph:( AFP )
In Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, nearly a million devotees are there. All of them are heading to the banks of the Ganga, taking a dip in the river during this time is considered auspicious but there are concerns
How will we remember the coronavirus pandemic? Surely, as a source of great hardships but in the larger scheme of things, the virus was a pivot. It didn't just change our lives. It turned it upside down.
We realised that home can be work and work can be home. Same for schools. Our mobile phones became the rudders of our life, our source of entertainment and our source of livelihood.
The pandemic taught us that meet and greet is over-rated. Is isolation any better? Not really, but the pandemic made us more flexible. More open to changes. They say the post-pandemic world will be different.
For us, yes. Things will be a lot different but what about the power brokers of our world? The politicians, the spiritual gurus, the athletes, etc. Will things truly change for them?
In most countries, politicians were first in line for the vaccines. The virus tested leaders and their credentials. What would their message be? How quickly would they act?
Some leaders simply did not have the answers and they were promptly voted out. There's one underway in Peru and this is the scene at polling booths. Massive crowds turned up because voting is mandatory there. Every citizen must vote. Co-morbidities and life-threatening conditions are not entertained as excuses. What a great sense of civic duty? Contrast that with Peru's pandemic response: 55,000 reported deaths and a health system in complete collapse.
Eighteen presidential hopefuls were in the fray and six of them ended up getting the virus. Maybe, these public rallies had something to do with that. Lockdowns for people, but rallies for politicians.
And it's not just Peru, it is election season in India as well. Every single political party has staged public rallies. Thousands of people attended these, right in the middle of a second wave. Elections are important, nobody is denying that but campaigning must be responsibly done. Right now, everybody seems happy working from home, except the politicians.
Keep the mask on, say the courts, even if you're alone in a car, because your car is a public space. No such rules for election campaigns, clearly.
Our second talking point is religion. It's given solace to millions in these tough times but it has also given us difficult scenes.
In Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, nearly a million devotees are there. All of them are heading to the banks of the Ganga. Taking a dip in the river during this time is considered auspicious but there are concerns.
And looking at these pictures, it is clear what those concerns are: no masks, no social distancing and one common body of water. It is a guaranteed super-spreader. Right now, India is hosting the biggest T20 league in the world, the Indian Premier League. It is being played behind closed doors. Only a handful of stadiums are hosting matches and even with such strict measures, a few players have got the virus. What if this cluster expands?
Remember, it's not just the players inside bio-bubbles, there is a huge support team, such as umpires, ground staff, broadcasters, etc. Just last week, 14 members of the broadcast team tested positive. So, here's the question? Is the IPL essential?
Depends on how you look at it. For the sponsors and the cricketing board, yes but in the middle of a second wave, the risks are just too high. Not just cricket, club football, basketball, baseball and others have returned. Some with limited audience. There's a reason they call it a bio-bubble. It is not iron clad. One let-up and we could have a full-blown crisis in Indian cricket. So, what's the solution here?
It's simple rule of law. What happened in Norway recently? The prime minister was fined more than 2,000 dollars. Because she hosted a birthday party that violated virus controls. The PM apologised and agreed to pay the fine.
This spirit must be replicated everywhere. Politicians must be held accountable for their massive rallies. Sports administrators must answer for staging these massive leagues. The virus infects without discrimination. So, our response too must be sans blinkers.