COVID-19 PANDEMIC: SOME HEALTH CARE RELATED AND POLITICAL OBSERVATIONS

Prasad V //

The whole world population is fighting with Covid-19 pandemic.  The number of infected people has already reached multi-million.  The death rate due to this illness is unexpectedly high in advanced capitalist countries of Europe and America. 

Neither any specific medicine is available for the treatment of this disease nor is any vaccine developed till now.  The world population as such has not developed acquired immunity as the infection is totally new to the world.  These have made the pandemic a real threat to the humanity.

On 2019 December 8, the World health organization has reported the first diagnosed case of Corona infection from Wuhan of China.  The first death happened on December 27.  The virus was isolated on December 30th from a patient’s throat swab.  On January 12th, the Chinese scientists have made the genetic structure of the virus which has been informed to the World Health Organization.  As Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, this virus was named as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) following that. 

From the speed at which the infection was spreading in Wuhan, it was clear for the world by then that the virus is highly contagious.  Further in order to manage illness it is necessary to have large number of ventilators, oxygen supply and intensive care unit setup.  This is in addition to the large number of beds required for treatment in isolation wards.  But except some of the developed countries like the South Korea and Germany, the remaining capitalist world has not made any preparedness for facing the situation.  In the main the administrations of the advanced capitalist countries failed in front of the spread of the epidemic, the Italy, Spain and United States of America being the worst affected.  England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Russia etc. following the same path. 

From the threat the American President Donald Trump has made on the Indian administration for the import of Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine it is clear that how much the US administration has become frustrated.  Both these drugs are basically anti-malarial drugs and have not proved its effectiveness in treatment of Covid-19.  More than that, these drugs were having cardiac toxicity as side effect.  As a large number of people died out in this pandemic was already with co-morbidity of cardiac problem, there is high probability that these drugs may add to that.  Still they have decided to indiscriminately use the same medicine.  Thus, the USA has proved beyond doubt that they are a superpower only in question of weapons and policing.  When coming to the question of even protecting their citizens from a pandemic, they are much behind many capitalist countries including some emerging ones.  The condition of the most advanced European capitalist countries also is the same.  We have to examine the factors that led to such a situation. 

The Covid-19 Further Established The Bankruptcy Of Neo Liberalism

In those countries where the policies of neoliberalism was implemented in healthcare, depending on its degree, the people’s life was made further bitter.  United States as well as some of the European countries, are examples to this.  From 1990 onwards, many of these countries were trying to continuously destroy whatever was existing in the healthcare system in government sector due to the said policies.  This particular outlook consider that the market and market only will solve all the problems.  But the Covid-19 outbreak and the response to it shows that, the markets may not solve the problems at all.  On the other hand, in many situations, the market may prevent any meaningful response to pandemics like Covid-19.

The United States as well as other capitalist countries were maligning their state sector particularly the healthcare delivery system for the last four decades in order to privatize that.  Because, according to the mentors of capitalism there is no alternative to neoliberalism.  The bankruptcy of neoliberalism is very clear if we compare the responses as well as the results of the action of both China and USA to covid-19 crisis as both became epicenters in succession. 

In the beginning when an unknown pathogen has infected their population, China took steps those were unknown hither to in history to contain the spread of the pathogen.  During the entire period, the US administration was demonizing the Chinese attempts.  After the meticulous work of months, the pandemic came to control in China particularly in its epicenter Wuhan.  On the contrary, the United States approached the issue non-seriously.  Later they are paying for it.  Its people are dying without any treatment in thousands.  Many people don’t have even the money for treatment.  Why because, in America mostly it is the private hospitals that run.  For the middle-class population there is an insurance system in operation.  The hospitals have to assess the economic condition of the patient first.  This includes the assessment of the insurance policy also.  The reports from there shows that the doctors are supposed to treat the patients only depending on the nature of coverage got to the patients from the insurance companies.  In Covid-19, infected patients have to pay up to Rs.  35 – 40 lakhs for treatment in private hospitals there.  Naturally, large number of patients avoid any treatments at all.

Putting the politicians like President Trump in the so-called wealthiest economy of the world into shame, now the concerned people are trying to mobilize donations in order to pay for hospital bills.  This is the ultimate result of making the entire system subservient to market.

Another question that may come in this regard is that, why the US administration is trying to develop a hostile attitude towards China through its media and influence all over the world? It is very clear that the American administration and system is now exposed in front of its own people.  Now they want to put the blame on somebody else.  Through this they can save their face and someway justify the inadequate health care delivery system in USA. 

The responses made by the WHO and its top officials in different times make it clearly evident that the response to pandemic by China was much superior to that of the US.  This is due to the presence of a huge state-run health care delivery system that has been built up long back with the socialist system.  It is worthwhile here to look into some of the responses made by the WHO officials in this regard.

“In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history,” states the report of the WHO mission of 25 international medical experts which toured to China to examine the COVID-19 epidemic in February 2019.  “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic.”

“If I get COVID, I’m going to China,” said Dr.  Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General and head of the agency’s COVID-19 mission.  “They know how to keep people alive.”

“What I saw was a tremendous sense of responsibility, and of duty, to protect their families, their communities, and even the world, from this disease,” reflected Aylward.  “I left with such a deep sense of admiration for the people of Wuhan and for Chinese society in general.”

Categorically rejecting the charges that China spread the virus to other countries, WHO Director-General Dr.  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “[China’s] actions actually helped prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries.”

“I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of coronavirus, not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” said Tedros, as he is known.  “In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.”

In any well-established capitalist country, even if the leader or the head of the state wants to save the population from such type of a pandemic due to humanitarian considerations, they are helpless.  Because they have to abide by the law of capitalism which stands for maximum profit in any situation.  In this case they have to depend upon the pharmaceutical companies as well as the chain of private hospitals for treatment.  But these institutions will work only for their profit.  This makes the condition of the people worse.  Even a capitalist country like Spain understood this matter.  That is why they have decided to nationalize the private hospital system even if temporarily.

Even the response to pandemic is guided by the insatiable appetite to profit is clear from some of the responses by capital.  The U.S.  as well as its drug companies are making all efforts to profit from the crisis, looking for getting a monopoly over potential treatments like drugs and vaccines.  The California-based drug company, Gilead Sciences, has developed a drug that could possibly treat COVID-19.  They have entered into a legal battle in order to prevent any Chinese company from utilizing the product or using it for treatment.  Even after that the share price of Gilead Sciences was skyrocketing due to the probability of making a fortune out of the covid-19 treatment. 

In another incident, the U.S.  government has offered “large sums of money” to a German medical company for exclusive marketing rights to a potential COVID-19 vaccine, igniting wrath of even the German government.

Coming again to the reaction of Trump to China, it is a general principal that the right wing politicians try to find the solution to the problem by blaming some minority, that also often a weak minority, or some other people and fanning up a majoritarian sentiment.  The irresponsible American politicians are now pushing the responsibility of the pandemic to the Chinese.  They are making extremely hostile comments like ‘Chinese virus’, ‘Chinese Communist Virus’, etc.  The very same response we can see in India also.  The Modi administration has also tied its best to communalize the spread of disease in India by charging upon a particular community implicating that they are spreading the illness.  For the people’s life is concerned such type of right-wing politics is a hell.

Global Health Expertise: COVID-19 Exposes Cooked Up Report

The US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security compiled a chart showing ratings from the 2019 Global Health Security Index, which was circulated at the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.  This was an assessment of 195 countries’ capacity to face infectious disease outbreaks.  The first in ranking was the USA followed by United Kingdom.  While the South Korea was ranked 9th China to the 51st position.  All African countries occupied the bottom. 

The Covid-19 proved that the first and second ranks in the chart – the United States and UK where the worst performers in response to the pandemic.  Both the countries failed to do widespread testing as required by the WHO.  Why to say that, both of them failed to provide with adequate number of materials, even mask.  Even in both these countries the security necessities of the health workers were not even satisfied.  Many of the Asian countries like China, South Korea, Singapore, etc. performed much well compared with the UK and USA.  China and Cuba again came to the forefront of worldwide fight against the pandemic.  Both of the countries sent teams of experts to different countries.  This shows in clear-cut terms, how these charts and reports are being made about the expertise of different countries.

The Kerala Model And How It Worked

The only State in India where the government has approached somewhat seriously the management of the Covid-19 pandemic is Kerala.  This attempt has given hitherto broadly good results also.  But attributing the entire credit of the same to the present government is with narrow political motive.  One has to be careful of that.  On the other hand, the good results obtained in Kerala is to be seen in the backdrop of the high literacy rate and superior health care delivery system in existence in comparison with other states.

Kerala was the first state in the country to report a Covid-19 virus case in late January.  Further, the state faced another potentially disastrous challenge – a disproportionately high number of foreign arrivals as there are millions of Keralites working all over the world particularly in the health care which has a high potential of interaction with Covid-19 patients particularly from European countries.  But the state has taken up that challenge.  Screening at airports was tightened, and travelers from nine countries — including Covid-19virus hot spots such as Iran and South Korea — were required to quarantine at home starting Feb.  10, two weeks before India put similar restrictions into place.

The state where the influence of the renaissance was deep, and the Left has been in power for many years since 1950s has invested comparatively better in public education and universal health care.  Kerala has the highest literacy rate and benefits from the best-performing public health care system in the country.  It tops India’s rankings on neonatal mortality, birth immunizations, life expectancy and many other health indicators.  Along with the system of hospitals, the availability of specialists at primary-care facilities is better compared with other states.  Further it is to be added here with emphasis that without the higher literacy rate and system of universal education that is existing in this state, the achievements in the healthcare system were not possible.

The strength of its health-care system allowed it to follow the WHO’s recommendations on aggressive testing, even as central agencies maintained that mass testing was not feasible in a country like India.  Through the first week of April, Kerala had conducted more than 15,000 tests.  By comparison, Andhra Pradesh, a much more populous state with a similar number of cases, had carried out nearly 8,000 tests, while Tamil Nadu, with more than double the number of cases, had done more than 12,700 tests.

It is to be kept in mind in this situation that, in recent decades both the left and right governments have tried their best to dismantle the health care delivery system that has been built through decades of struggle of last century.  But due to people’s opinion mobilization and their consciousness as well as movements, the governments failed to dismantle that. 

Since 1990 onwards in Kerala also there occurred huge investments in private hospital services.  In order to serve the private hospitals, both the left and right governments have tried to discredit its own public health care delivery system.  Even though there are so many large private hospitals in Kerala, the moment of calamity proved beyond doubt that none of them could do anything for peoples benefit.  It is only the government system of hospitals and health staff that has taken up the challenge.  Without such a system no government could function effectively in such calamities is the fact.

Cuba: An Example Of International Solidarity

A country that has come in the attention of the world people by its attitude towards the pandemic is Cuba.  The tiny socialist country, Cuba developed its economy and healthcare delivery system by fighting the illegal and inhuman embargo imposed upon it by the United States of America.  The loss that has been incurred to Cuba due to the embargo is considered to be near to 1 trillion dollars.  That is equal to their 14 years of GDP.  Still they have not given up the fight.  The US tried their best to bring Cuba under their control.  Each and every possible game was played for that.  They had to fight the continuous dengue fever outbreak in 1980s without medicines at all.  Still the Cubans believe that the dengue attack was caused by the United States.  In fighting that they have developed the interferon Alpha 2B (IFNrec), an antiviral recombinant which was instrumental in saving the life of thousands of people in China in Covid-19 pandemic.  The western countries failed to know even about the medicine because of the embargo.  Cuba was not having the right to market the medicines in the west due to that.  But even after that, today Cuba is sending the medical teams to dozens of countries as well as medicines and equipment.  In this way Cuba is playing openly their politics of international solidarity.

Nobody can fight a pandemic individually.  Neither a village nor a province nor a country alone can fight a pandemic.  In the present-day world where hundreds of countries are linked in hundreds of ways, only an international response can fight a pandemic like covid-19.  That needs a culture of international solidarity and fraternity.  The culture of hatred that is today dominating in the world due to the right-wing politics has no future in this regard.  One can see that the present world leaders like Modi and Trump trying their best to utilize even a pandemic situation in order to attain their intolerant interests by propagating the politics of hatred against different types of minorities.

In the United States, presidential election is approaching in November.  Regarding the management of Covid-19 is concerned, present president Mr.  Donald Trump is an absolute failure.  He cannot approach the American public in this way as he is completely exposed in front of the US public due to his irresponsible attitude as well as foolish statements.  But right-wing politicians like Trump usually solves the problem by creating sentiment against some type of minorities by putting the responsibility upon them.  Today the United States is trying to malign China in order to achieve that.  Like that, when the leaders like Modi and Trump are playing this narrow politics of selfishness, a small country like a Cuba is emerging as a concrete example of international brotherhood and solidarity.  Here lies the historic importance of that country representing the future.

Further, the American and European culture of recognizing only individual freedom without any control has nothing to do with fighting an international pandemic.  The necessary conditions for humanity becoming victorious in such pandemics are, a publicly owned health care delivery system, educated population, the culture of international solidarity and opinion mobilization against inhuman conditions of life imposed by present day capitalism.

As a result of its socialist economy and health care based on that, Cuba has a higher life expectancy than the United States and lower infant mortality – two basic symbols of quality of a country’s health care system – despite being a beleaguered island whose economy and resources are severely limited by the 60-year strangulation of the U.S.  embargo.  Cuba produces more doctors per capita than any other nation and is a world leader in preventive and primary care medicine.

Usually more than 50,000 Cuban doctors serve in over 60 countries.  In times of crisis, Cuba’s health care workers are always on the front lines.  As Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla tweeted recently, quoting Fidel Castro, “In international relations we practice our solidarity with actions, not with beautiful words.” Cuban Medical Brigades treat Covid-19 patients worldwide now.  On March 22, a group of 52 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Italy to treat patients in Lombardy, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak.

Cuba has a long history of sending doctors around the world to serve in disaster areas, since the revolution.  They sent a medical team to Chile after a terrible earthquake that killed 5,000 people.  Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1990, Cuba has flown 18,000 affected people to Cuba to be treated and cared for.  They have also undertaken massive nationwide blood donation drives to support international disaster response efforts.

In 2005, Cuba created the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade, a voluntary force of Cuban doctors who specialize in providing medical care in situations such as epidemics and natural calamities.  The doctors now fighting Covid-19 in Italy and somewhere else are part of this group.  Henry Reeve was a 19th century American soldier, a former Union Army drummer boy who in 1868, at age 18, joined the Cuban Army of Liberation in their war against Spain and died in battle eight years later.  The World Health Organization gave the Brigade the prestigious public health award in 2017 “in recognition of its emergency medical assistance to more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries affected by disasters and epidemics”.

During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, Cuba sent over 460 doctors and nurses to lead the fight in West Africa against the disease.  The Henry Reeve Brigade represented the single largest medical operation on the ground in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. 

When a British cruise ship was stranded in the Bahamas in mid-March 2020 with over 1,000 people onboard, including five confirmed Covid-19 cases and many other passengers and crew showing symptoms, Cuba was the only nation to extend the hand of friendship to the stranded people.  Every other nearby Caribbean nation, including the U.S., refused.  While most passengers flew back to the UK, those not well enough to travel were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.  The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, “These are times of solidarity, of understanding health as a human right, of reinforcing international cooperation to face our common challenges.”

Neoliberalism And Its Underlying Relationship With The Newer Viral Diseases

The results of the human interaction with nature is summed by the great leader of the proletariat Frederick Engels one hundred years ago.  The contradictions between an exploitative, short-term relationship of humanity to nature and the long-term problems that would inevitably engender is outlined in his “The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man”. 

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature.  For each victory nature takes its revenge on us.  Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first.  The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centers and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries.  When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, making possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy season… Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside of nature—but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage of all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly”.

This approach is essentially different from the mechanically materialistic outlook the bourgeois revolution held till then.  While for bourgeoisie the relationship of humanity to nature is one sided, for Engels, it is a mutually interpenetrative relationship.  For that reason itself humanity has to be extremely careful in dealing with the nature.  Due to its insatiable profit motive, often the bourgeoisie forgets that.

As the new crisis we are dealing with has its origin directly from the nature, let us examine some aspects of that.  The track through which the Covid-19 virus reached the humans from animals is exactly not known to us still now.  Without knowing that each country is putting the blame on other country initiated by the USA due to the pressure from its internal politics.  But the relationship of the pandemic with meat production practices where profit is the only motive due to the imposition of the principles of neoliberalism goes unnoticed.

Here we are clear that the Covid-19 virus has come from the animals to the human.  This is not the first time the viruses are transmitted from animals to humans.  If we examine the history of last one century, most of the diseases that has become the massive killers were viral diseases spread in this way.  From Spanish flu to Asian flu, the Hong Kong flu, AIDS, Nipah virus, Swine flu, Ebola virus, Covid-19, etc. are all examples to this.

Modern industrial farming, with enormous facilities, housing thousands of animals and birds, creates favorable conditions for the viruses, which these species carry to combine and develop variants which can then cross to humans.  The flu family of viruses has shown this repeatedly.  The spread of cultivation into areas which were previously habitats for wild species also brings us into contact with new, deadly diseases.  Ebola, for example, is carried by a species of fruit bat, which when deprived of its usual habitat by development has a habit of taking up residence in palm oil plantations.  Invasions into the bat’s territory for palm oil production correlates with the major Ebola outbreaks.

The point here is that the newer infections like the present Covid-19 outbreak are not caused by local failings but are an inescapable part of the way that global agribusiness concerns go about their business.  Along with many others, this subject is well studied by Rob Wallace who wrote his ‘Big Farms Make Big flu’ which is a celebrated work.  As Rob Wallace commented in his said book, ‘they are the inevitable result of ‘an ecological system built on growing money first.’ As Wallace suggests, rather than naming the diseases after the species we think they came from, like swine flu or avian flu, we should call them after the multinational that owns the facility they developed in.  It would at least show where the real fault lies.

Part of the interview with Rob Wallace as seen in ‘Marx 21’ is given below which explains the basic understanding well:

You have been researching epidemics and their causes for several years.  In your book ‘Big Farms Make Big Flu’, you attempt to draw these connections between industrial farming practices, organic farming and viral epidemiology.  What are your insights?

The real danger of each new outbreak is the failure –or better put—the expedient refusal to grasp that each new Covid-19 is no isolated incident.  The increased occurrence of viruses is closely linked to food production and the profitability of multinational corporations.  Anyone who aims to understand why viruses are becoming more dangerous must investigate the industrial model of agriculture and, more specifically, livestock production.  At present, few governments, and few scientists, are prepared to do so.  Quite the contrary.

When the new outbreaks spring up, governments, the media, and even most of the medical establishment are so focused on each separate emergency that they dismiss the structural causes that are driving multiple marginalized pathogens into sudden global celebrity, one after the other.

Who is to blame?

I said industrial agriculture, but there’s a larger scope to it.  Capital is spearheading land grabs into the last of primary forest and smallholder-held farmland worldwide.  These investments drive the deforestation and development leading to disease emergence.  The functional diversity and complexity these huge tracts of land represent are being streamlined in such a way that previously boxed-in pathogens are spilling over into local livestock and human communities.  In short, capital centers, places such as London, New York, and Hong Kong, should be considered our primary disease hotspots.

…………………

What is the role of multinational companies in this process?

Planet Earth is largely Planet Farm at this point, in both biomass and land used.  Agribusiness is aiming to corner the food market.  The near-entirety of the neoliberal project is organized around supporting efforts by companies based in the in the more advanced industrialized countries to steal the land and resources of weaker countries.  As a result, many of those new pathogens previously held in check by long-evolved forest ecologies are being sprung free, threatening the whole world.

What effects do the production methods of agribusinesses have on this?

The capital-led agriculture that replaces more natural ecologies offers the exact means by which pathogens can evolve the most virulent and infectious phenotypes.  You couldn’t design a better system to breed deadly diseases.

How so?

Growing genetic monocultures of domestic animals removes whatever immune firebreaks may be available to slow down transmission.  Larger population sizes and densities facilitate greater rates of transmission.  Such crowded conditions depress immune response.  High throughput, a part of any industrial production, provides a continually renewed supply of susceptible, the fuel for the evolution of virulence.  In other words, agribusiness is so focused on profits that selecting for a virus that might kill a billion people is treated as a worthy risk.

In short, one important domain that developed along with the agricultural business is meat business.  Large farms of cows, sheep, chicken, swine, rabbit, etc. has been opened in different parts of the world.  With the further development of the fast food culture which bases itself or non-vegetarian products, a big push has been given to the above said business.  Along with the emergence of fast food chains, the production of meat also came under big capital.  How to produce maximum meat with minimum cost is the natural logic of capital in this domain also. 

With the introduction of neoliberalism and globalization in the beginning of 1980s, the centers of third world where the production can be done most cost effective has turned to be the centers of big farm production.  It is in this period, many towns of China also have emerged as centers of meat production and business.  But it is not confined to China alone.  More or less the same condition is there in the United State also.  More than that many of the big capitalist firms that is operative in China in big farms is owned by the US and European capital.  So, this is the essence of the problem.

Covid-19: The Lessons From Spanish Flu

The influenza pandemic, known as the Spanish Flu, killed 50–100 million people worldwide, hammering an already helpless population at the culmination of World War I in 1918–20.  Recent studies show that 40% of the deaths were due to starvation and lack of nutrition leading to deterioration in immunity of people.  That should have been a lesson to all leaders who think that such a pandemic can be fought out with lockdown alone.

One century latter more or less the same condition we are facing today in India.  With the sudden declaration of lockdown in India, tens of thousands of migrant workers had to travel five hundred to thousand kilometers by walk from Delhi to their native places in UP or Bihar.  These workers were also fearful of the pandemic.  But their point is that – why we should die without food; it will be better to die with the near and dear ones even with the infection than dying out of hunger in Delhi.  Independent India has never seen such a type of mass travelling after the bifurcation of the country, when lakhs of people migrated from India to Pakistan and reverse.  In the slums of Mumbai like Dharavi also we have witnessed the same condition as the people stood in queue for 3 hours for one-time food.

The basic problem is that the government of India’s approach towards poor people is simply inhuman.  There is an undeniably inhuman upper middle-class section also in our society who play a part in opinion mobilization.  These are reflected through the general attitude of the governments towards poor people.  The government thinks that by keeping the lock down for some weeks, the infection can be eradicated at one stroke.  But it may not be like that.  The experience from the Spanish flu teaches that.

During the outbreak of Spanish flu, the infection spread in three waves – 1918, 19 and 20.  The first wave was less challenging with least number of deaths; but in the second and the third wave, the death rate was high.  The second wave was extensive in its spread also.  The lucky ones have got the infection in the first wave.  They have developed an immunity.  The second wave has not affected them.  Many new people were affected in the second.  That wave was having highest rate of mortality.

Covid-19 infection also can happen in similar way in multiple waves.  The pathogen is an RNA virus which can undergo mutation very fast by which it can withstand unfavorable conditions for it.  Already information of covid-19 is known that at least three strains of viruses are there.  Further mutations are again possible.  In such cases earlier drugs may not respond at all.  More than that, already infected people can be again affected.

In order to avoid such eventualities, the virus is to be continually monitored and studied.  That will only reveal the probable mutations that is happening in the course of the virus spread.  Further the only tool by which the epidemic can be contained is by doing extensive tests and isolating those who are infected.  Unfortunately, India under its extreme right-wing leadership remains as the place in the world where number of tests per 1 million population is the least.

The UN report some days back warned another aspect which is again applicable to India the maximum – Unless swift action is taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, the Covid-19 crisis will push 25 crores of people to the brink of starvation.  The report further says that already stretched health services in developing countries are likely to be overwhelmed, while a global recession will disrupt food supply chains.  This will worst affect the people working in the informal economy as well as the refugees and displaced people numbering about 79 million.  Rising unemployment will reduce people’s purchasing power, driving more into hunger.  While unofficial reports warn that the number of people in chronic hunger could double to more than 1.6 billion as a result of the pandemic.  We have to see that, it is in this general condition, the government of India thinks to fight the crisis without any spending at all.

Covid-19 Virus Made All Religions And Human Gods Irrelevant

With the Covid-19virus pandemic spreading from human to human, country to country, most of the religious assemblies and worships world over are shut down.  The holiest of all places for Catholics, Vatican, is also affected by Covid-19.  Apparently, the Pope who can connect with god is not able to do so now.  He has not been able to lead us to any wonder drug revealed to him by divine intervention.  Instead, the Vatican is reeling from fears of a viral outbreak and the Pope is not appearing in front of people.  Everything has been stopped in Mecca.  Pilgrimage to Muhammad’s burial site in Medina has also been halted.  Quite possibly, they will stop the Hajj as well.  Numerous mosques have cancelled Friday prayers.  Clerics are no longer claiming they will go to the mosques and pray before Allah to save people from the virus.  Brahmin priests in Hindu temples are moving around wearing masks.  Even in some temples, they have put masks on the idols of gods and goddesses also.  Many temples are shut.  Other temples have also put in restrictions to devotees. 

People who would otherwise run to their nearby temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship to seek protection from illnesses and diseases have only hospitals and isolation centers to go.  The facts as they stand now are clear: diseases are not cured by Allah, God or Bhagwan; diseases are cured by scientists and doctors.  Human beings are not saved by mystical powers but by other human beings with knowledge.  Religious people are no longer waiting for kindness from their respective gods; they are waiting for a vaccine.  If anyone can cure, it’s the scientists, who are busy researching for a vaccine, a cure.

Still worst is the condition of human gods.  There are many Hindu human gods all over India.  They were treating many ailments and middle-class population were flowing to them.  Most of these gods have amazed huge fortune out of the fraudulent cures.  Now most of these gods have closed their shops.  They are fearful of the spread of Covid-19virus from the devotees.  In short, the Covid-19 virus have made all the religions and all the human gods equally irrelevant.

People’s Movement Against Neoliberalism And For Socialism Is The Solution

Thus, the conditions favorable for origin and spread of the pandemic is created by capitalism is said above.  The solutions offered by capitalism particularly in this period of neoliberalism are insufficient and can aggravate the crisis.  Like any other pandemic, Capitalism nurtured the whole crisis.  In general, as healthcare under this system is directed by profit motive, is bound to be inadequate.  In particular, capitalist globalization and neoliberalism strengthened all its anti-people attitudes. 

Naturally, we must start from an analysis of present globalization and neoliberalism.  These policies have further deteriorated the wellbeing of the vast masses.  So long as powerful people’s movement is not developed in order to control the big pharmacological companies and hospital chains that control the present-day health care delivery system, we cannot bring a more humane setup even under capitalism.

In the absence of people’s movements, neoliberalism is the general tendency of capitalism itself.  Naturally, any class and mass movement that confines the goal of the movement within this capitalist system cannot ultimately succeed.  That movement should keep its long-term objectives very clear.  That cannot be less than establishing a new system.  A social system- Socialism – that will offer better conditions of life and well-being for vast majority of the population.  Socialism is a system of total planning.  Planning based on the necessities of the people depending on the development of the productive forces.  Such a system only can protect the interest of the people for long time.

Socialism will restructure society.  An economy in which all resources are allocated according to need, instead of ability to pay will be established.  With the means of production under workers’ control, we would be able to quickly increase production of these products in an emergency.  The entire healthcare industry would be run legitimately by doctors, nurses, employees, and patients there.  That would be drastically different from the current system in which wealthy capitalists make the major decisions in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturing firms, and insurance companies.  Such a system would allow for every individual concerned to obtain testing and treatment in appropriate way in such necessities.  So, the direction to the solution lies in class and mass struggle with a long-term objective of change in system and to defeat neoliberalism for the short term.

Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 1/ May ’20)

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