Is the pandemic ‘over’ in your country? In the rest of the world, it isn’t
- The early days of the pandemic were dominated by a chorus of ‘we are all in this together’, but that ended when successful vaccines were approved
- As uneven roll-outs continue, we now stand at an important crossroads. Do we continue to prioritise stock markets over food banks, and passports over humanity?
From the outset, it is important to distinguish the question of whether the virus has been brought under control from the question of whether we should be celebrating the end of the pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a contagious, highly infectious agent responsible for case counts and death tolls. It is a medical and scientific issue.
The first question – whether the virus is being brought under control by the arrival of vaccines – depends entirely on where you are and who you are.
The pre-vaccine days of the pandemic were dominated by a global chorus of “we are all in this together”, a chant that quickly ended as soon as the first successful vaccines were approved and it was realised that decisions had to be made about who would be prioritised for first doses.
The pandemic question has brought similar responses. Enormous bailouts have been administered around the world, although, in most countries, the lion’s share has gone to corporations and billionaires while a relative pittance has been used to directly benefit the essential workers who have kept our world afloat.
Despite their differences, the answer to both the virus and the pandemic questions is the same – to recognise that we are a global community, all living on a shared planet, and doing so with other species.
A virus first detected in Wuhan has proven more than effective in infecting political leaders in Mexico, workers in Auckland, and children in Mumbai all the same. The only way to truly control the SARS-CoV-2 virus is to ensure the health and safety, most notably through providing sufficient vaccines, of all peoples.
While figuring out how to control the virus was a necessary triage priority, the real battle is only just beginning as we figure out how to (re)build our societies, and to do so in hopefully more just, equitable and sustainable ways.
As vaccine roll-outs continue around the world, we now stand at an important crossroads. Do we, as we have, continue to worry only about the global jet-set elite, prioritise stock markets over food banks, and value passports over our shared humanity?
Or do we return to our now seemingly long-lost commitment to all be in this together and recognise ourselves as fellow members of the same species, value essential workers the same as hedge fund managers, and unite to defeat a common biological foe?
Medical doctors and scientists have done an unprecedented job of helping us to prevent the virus. It is now up to us, as fellow human beings, to truly cure our world. Vaccines can help prevent viruses, but only people can help cure societies.
Dr. J. Michael Ryan is an assistant professor of sociology at Nazarbayev University (Kazakhstan). He is the editor of “COVID-19: Global pandemic, societal responses, ideological solutions”, and “COVID-19: Social consequences and cultural responses”