By Sushil Kutty
It speaks a lot that human beings are by their very nature courageous. True, but also true is the fact that human beings are foolhardy and brave. Like, how many of us continue to wear the mask, which in the heyday of Covid-19 kept the novel coronavirus bottled up, in a manner of speaking, and saved tens of thousands of vulnerable human beings?
Masks continue to be in the inventories of chemists & druggists worldwide, at least in the cities. But head village-ward and they have disappeared from the shelves. Villages are where Covid-19 is a distant memory. Fact is, human memory is short and this is not because the virus has been mutating at a virulent pace though it’s also true that because it is mutating at breakneck speed, it has become unrecognizable, even in the lab.
Confused? Don’t be. Covid-19 has not gone anywhere. It is very much there, alive and kicking in some or the other part of the world. For instance, India reported 109 cases in “the last 24 hours”. That said, the biggest proof that Covid-19 has called it a day were in the pictures of Parliament where both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Health Mansukh Mandaviya were seen mask-less, and Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman had read out the Budget minus the slip of cloth.
A couple of continents, and two and a half oceans away, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the only one in a mask at President Joe Biden’s ‘State of the Union’ address for which the socialist Democratic Senator is garnering thousands of ‘likes’ on Twitter. Sanders is one of the oldest members of the US Senate and must know a thing or two on longevity that other politicians don’t know or do not care to know.
Meanwhile, the situation in China is back to being opaque. The novel coronavirus in its home country had made a vicious comeback and one Washingtonian epidemiologist of Chinese origin termed it the end of China as we know today. His Nostradamus-like dire prediction appears to have sunk because the World Health Organization didn’t give it credence any more than Deepika Padukone would give to pictures of hubby Ranveer Singh in the buff!
Bernie Sanders was trending on February 8, the only one to wear a mask. Sanders’ cautiousness is being praised. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes credit for the fast attrition of Covid-19 numbers not only in India but wherever India-made vaccines went courtesy the large heart of Modi-the-Vaccinator also known as the ‘storyteller’.
In fact, Modi’s storytelling prowess is compared to grandmother’s tales and, sadly, Modi beats all the grandmas hands down.
But back to square one, and the news is Covid-19 infection rates are continuing to dip, but are also fluctuating. Sanders must be keeping a studious eye on the virus and must have noticed that the United States saw a rise in cases in January which is pinned as “holiday season”. At least one news report noted that people are taking fewer precautions, and “too hell” with the latest Omicron sub-variants.
This, even as the WHO issued updated guidelines on isolation period, clinical management, and Covid-19 treatment. And the WHO did not take its eyes off “mandatory mask-wearing”. The WHO has asked human beings to keep up their guard and honour and humour the mask by keeping on wearing it.
Does anybody care? Nope, not when leaders of the “free world”, supposed to be the best among world leaders, aren’t impressed and ignore the WHO guidelines on Covid-19 like the proverbial plague. And ‘yatha raja, tathapraja’, millions of the common people are also ignoring the guidelines and “roaming freely in public places without masks”.
Suffice to say that not everybody is a Bernie Sanders. Videos of the 81-year-old in a mask are going viral on Facebook and Twitter. “Bernie Sanders is the only person wearing a KN95 mask at the #StateOfTheUnionAddress. Respect that man – Bernie Sanders thank you,” the Washingtonian epidemiologist of Chinese origin Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted. “Honestly Bernie is a saint in his dedication to protecting others.”
One fellow on Twitter reacted and lauded the lawmaker’s “sense of awareness for himself and also for others”. Another tweeted “noted that as well! 1000 people in an enclosed room. Good for Bernie”. Yet another tweet read “I saw a couple of others with masks, but by far most people were unmasked. I wonder what testing protocols they still have instituted.”
Ironically, President Biden in his State of the Union address spoke of the “threat of the virus not yet over”. A total of 535 lawmakers were inside the chamber of the House of Representatives and all the lawmakers had been asked to attend wearing a K/N95 mask by the White House. There were no such orders given to parliamentarians of our nation in this event-packed Budget session. (IPA Service)