CoronaVirus and the Anatomy of Entitlement

Coronavirus, more specifically Covid 19, has cut a swathe through the world, infecting over half a million people, and being the cause of death of over 30,000 people – mostly senior citizens.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker is one of the scariest realtime maps you can come across. It has been tracking Covid 19 from early February – to be more precise, I noticed the map in early Feb, it is likely it was around earlier. earlier.

Animated map of confirmed COVID-19 cases from 12 January to 29 February 2020
By Metropolitan – Map base: BlankMap-World-Microstates.svgData: WHO daily situation reportsAnimated GIF: Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The virus had rapidly moved from Wuhan, China to the rest of the world – by over 7 million people from different countries, who left the region, most likely with the infection in them. Even if we assume that only 10% of those who left the region were infected, that is still an awful lot of infections across the world. Prof Hugh Montgomery estimates that on average a single infected person will infect up to 59,000 others.

For example, if you look at the figures in the United States :

India has been relatively lucky as far as the spread of the coronavirus is concerned. At the time of writing, it was 1024 cases, with 25 deaths. Most of these infections have been among the well-heeled population that can afford air travel abroad. And, in India, the reason for this outbreak has been the sheer irresponsibility of this entitled upper middle class and their refusal to obey basic quarantine instructions – senior executives, businessmen, students, holidaymakers, pilgrims, celebrities, tourists – many broke quarantine rules, infecting others.

While the numbers in India are still low, we don’t know because it is because of very low testing, or very low incidence. It is common for doctors to record the cause of death as cardiac arrest, even if the underlying cause is something else. For example, most sepsis cases are recorded as cardiac arrest (something I discovered when my father died of sepsis, and I began checking on other deaths due to sepsis). However, if there was a spike of people dying of either cardiac arrest or pneumonia, it would have been picked up by the data, or even journalists by now. So, i don’t think that India has been hiding cases – simply because it is an open society and things like this get out.

However, while I believe that it is difficult, if not impossible to hide things like excessive deaths in a country like India.Even a more ordered society like China could not hide the numbers for too long, despite its control on the media – both traditional and social. However, the one thing we are collectively good at covering up is the sheer irresponsibility and entitlement of the elite – the economically well of children of liberalization.

This is the cohort amongst us, which makes many of us cringe in embarrassment. The shallow entities that inhabit many of our gated communities, behave as though by pulling up the shutters, they have blocked the poor and dispossessed out of their universe. This is the group that is most likely to tell you ‘only people who pay taxes should be allowed to vote’ – forgetting that all of India is taxed on the most basic things – through indirect taxation.

Collectively this cohort are the most spoilt, most cossetted bunch – who think the world owes them a living. They assume that paying tax makes them owners of this country, and they, because of some magical superpower, are above the law. If they had only obeyed the basic instructions given by the government – on self-isolating – we would have been slightly better off than we are now.

The Indian Government is the other major culprit in this. Its lack of planning has been well documented. And as always it wakes up to the consequences of its action after the event. While the Indian government issued advisories and recommended self-isolation, it was lax in its implementation. Two days ago, the Mint reported that

Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has asked states to immediately strengthen surveillance of international air travellers who entered India between January 18 to March 23 as there appeared to be a “gap” between those being monitored for COVID-19 and 15 lakh arrivals during the period.

Oops sorry, we don’t know where 1.5 million people travelling in from all over could have gone, we don’t know who they met, and we don’t know who all they have infected.

This government is great on announcements and showmanship, it is terrible on follow-through and implementation. We have seen this during demonetization, the implementation of GST, and now during the Coronavirus.

And between these two smug and sanctimonious groups – all of India is facing a lockdown to flatten the curve. While people like me have the infrastructure to work from home and keep earning – those who need to be physically present at their workplace are sorely affected.

The lockdown is much needed to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the coronavirus in India. However, the planning that was needed to deal with the flow of essential supplies, migrant labour, and to prevent the economy from imploding is sorely missing.

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