Travelling in the shadow of coronavirus

Written By: Kartikeya Sharma WION
Dubai Updated: Mar 04, 2020, 10:14 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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The world neither has a vaccine nor the ability to track all the individuals who could be affected by the virus bringing me to the conclusion that like SARS the world may have to learn to live with coronavirus

Last year when I landed in Dubai, I felt that it was the most challenging assignment. We were organizing the first edition of WION World Summit and the Pulwama attack had taken place. We had to reorganise our content and the whole guest list as national sentiments were very raw and the country was aghast at the brutal killing of Indian soldiers by terrorists in Kashmir. The summit was a challenge, but it ended on a pleasant note. It was a success. 

The second summit this year started on a smooth note, but now I am dealing with a bigger challenge - coronavirus. 

I also had to travel again and could not recuse myself as my plane landed in Dubai. My luck was such that within 12 hours of landing, UAE was declared as a "hot spot" of the virus - a place which should be avoided by travellers. In both the airports, Delhi and Dubai, I did not see immigration and security officials adequately protected or prepared for the epidemic. 

At least 70 per cent of the travellers were without masks and half of the elderly weren’t adequately geared to meet the possibility of an infection in a crowded place like an airport. Inside the plane, I saw people fiddling with the masks as if they were a play thing.

I felt that maybe as a journalist I was overreacting to the situation which should be taken calmly but I was informed by my wife back home that hand sanitisers and face masks have disappeared from the shop shelves.

I almost felt like telling her to fill the house with essentials for a month, but I did contain my panic and said that it would be better if we start ordering supplies home rather than going out to densely packed necessity stores.

The bottom line is that when the world was reacting to coronavirus, India and many other countries and people at large were more tuned to local and domestic agendas. There was awareness about the killer virus, but people failed to gauge the depth and scale of the epidemic as it felt remote. After landing in Dubai, I was told that the schools are on extended vacation and UAE too is facing a similar challenge.

UAE is a small place to manage. India will not be able to behave like China which is not a democracy. Life looks unaltered in New Delhi and Dubai but what has entered our ecosystem is a huge challenge. This is not to say that I wasn’t noticed. I was absolutely nervous and felt that everyone moving around me was a potential coronavirus victim.

It still did not deter me from going about my business in the city of Dubai. The only difference I felt was how difficult it would be to manage a city like Kolkata, Mumbai or Delhi in case tough measures are required. We neither have Artificial Intelligence or robotics or to put it simply the discipline to manage people in an organized way.

The world neither has a vaccine nor the ability to track all the individuals who could be affected by the virus bringing me to the conclusion that like SARS the world may have to learn to live with coronavirus. 

It is a leveller. Even, the 25th floor of a plush building is not safe from it. Though the view is beautiful from my window but deep down in my heart, I know that I’m as vulnerable as the gentleman going about his business down below.

That’s the hard reality of this epidemic and it should bring every section of people together so that we can stand as one to fight it. India will need to discover its inner strength and override the sectional tension it is witnessing today.

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