The Corona Conundrum

By William J. Furney

For all the advances in science and technology, we are beaten by a simple bug. Over half a year since suspected bat-vectored novel coronavirus made its name on the world, taking over 685,00 lives in the process, our top scientists cannot work out how to stop this killer microorganism that brought planet Earth to a halt. 

All kinds of nations are racing to get off our world and explore a brave new one — Mars — even, last month, the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation not entirely known for its space ambitions. This is what happens when locust-like humans gobble up limited resources, destroy the environment and imperil everyone’s lives. Who will be the first to strike the equivalent of oil on Mars and dominate? And which of us is the real pathogen, human or virus?

It’s just as well there are billions of planets in the galaxy. 

Back down on our pale blue dot, we’re screeching to an economic and lifestyle halt all over again. The predicted second coronavirus wave may be striking countries all around the planet, and some may be going through a third mass outbreak of the newly emerged pathogen. 

Every time I see the gormless Dr Tedros spouting out on the TV from his comfy virtual press conferences in affluent Geneva, my blood pressure rises. The World Health Organisation chieftain, who is not a medical doctor but a doctor of philosophy in community health, whatever that is — the first in its history — has single-handedly destroyed his once august body tasked with protecting the health of the world, and has done precious little to stop the virus’ spread. In his kowtowing to the cruel dictators in Beijing who shoehorned him in the top spot, he may even have facilitated it. 

It’s no wonder the United States has revoked its membership of the WHO — along with the more than half a billion dollars it gives it each year, the single-biggest donor. 

Yet ridiculed Tedros, who as health minister in Ethiopia was accused of covering up epidemics, inexplicably remains in his job. 

Boris Johnson, who nearly perished with his own bout of corona, doesn’t know what to do — apart from launching the vastly overweight UK on a fat-busting exercise, as he himself said last week he was “too fat” and had struggled with his weight for ages, and that it probably did not help in his fight with the virus. 

His de facto, default make-it-up-as-you-go policy defines everything he does, causes misery to the people of the United Kingdom and confounds people everywhere. The former journalist is not, after all, known to be big on the details, leaving those troublesome elements for others to work out. 

New dad Boris thought Brexit would be his biggest deal, but it turns out his real battle is not with leaving the European Union but with a bug that almost slayed him.

No one needs wonder why Boris’ approval rating has been plummeting, not only because he was consumed by Brexit early in the year and late to implement a corona lockdown but because those measures were this week reintroduced in parts of northern England — and last weekend Brits’ holiday plans were plunged into disarray when a sudden quarantine on arrivals from Spain was announced, even from far-flung Spanish islands with no cases of corona. 

The government of Pedro Sanchez was aghast as it tried to rescue summer, and its flailing economy, following one of the harshest lockdowns that went on for months. Ministers in Madrid pleaded with their counterparts in London to reconsider so Brits could come to their favourite holiday spots without having to quarantine on their return and potentially get into trouble at work, insisting regional outbreaks were being controlled and that the country was safe for tourists — all, so far, to no avail. 

Other countries are considering their own quarantine restrictions from arrivals where corona is starting to bubble up again — the predicted result of easing or lifting of lockdowns and people starting to mix again — and so it is likely to go for the rest of the northern hemisphere summer and elsewhere, as with lockdowns being imposed now in parts of Australia and cases soaring in Tokyo, while Mexico and the United States struggle to get their mammoth infection rates under control amid gargantuan death tolls. 

A viable coronavirus vaccine will not be available until at least next year, according to what various research bodies private and public are saying (or in about a month, if you believe the Russians or Chinese — and would either controlling, authoritarian nation be likely to share or use the untested doses as leverage, and would anyone want them anyway?). And while we can’t work out how to survive on our own, exhausted planet, we’re full-throttle heading off to another. 

Like exhausted rats, fleeing a quickly sinking ship. 

Can the last person to leave Earth please turn off the lights? (If there’s any power left.)

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