Open Letter on COVID-19

Four Crucial Challenges for People and Governments

Bharat Dogra

The first and immediate challenge is of course the medical one. The best possible expertise, at the world level and at the level of various countries, should be assembled so that the best available scientific medical procedures and treatments are followed. Care should be taken to ensure that those with a strong profit orientation are not able to dominate the decision making and public interest is prioritized. Already there are indications of some cheaper, easier possibilities of treatment being ignored in favor of high profit, centralized solutions. Care should be taken to avoid this. Several senior scientists have raised a dissenting voice regarding the establishment response, or at least they have raised serious questions. Such voices of reputed senior scientists with a different understanding should be heard. Governments should mobilise both the public sector and the private sector to ensure that there are no shortages of essential protective or other equipment and medicines. Protective needs of frontline medical and sanitation staff should be adequately met. While a lot of attention is concentrated now on COVID-19 medical needs, all other life-saving and essential medical services and medicines should also continue to be available. Maternity and child-birth medical needs should continue to be met at the same level as before.

Secondly it is important to establish a balance between medical requirements/needs and other life-sustaining conditions so that both can be followed together. In fact, it will be possible to sustain only those medical norms for a longer period which are in keeping with other essential life-sustaining conditions. It is extremely important to protect food security and basic livelihoods. It is important to keep up economic activity to the extent and in ways so that basic livelihoods are protected and all essential, life-saving needs of people are met. Hence solutions of present crisis which disrupt life, livelihoods, and food security should yield place to those solutions which are in harmony with protection of livelihoods and access to basic needs. In fact, this view has been supported even by several senior scientists specializing in infectious diseases. To the extent that life, livelihoods and food security of a large number of poor and vulnerable people have already been harmed badly, high priority should be given to helping them.

Thirdly, this crisis period should serve as a wake-up call for wider environmental concerns as well as wider concerns of peace. The links of several zoonotic diseases which have proved very threatening in recent times can be traced to reckless deforestation and even more ruthless cruelty towards other forms of life including wild life. This should be checked. There are at least around 10 serious environmental problems, led by climate change, which are fast on way to endanger badly the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet. Wars and preparations for war are also a huge source of environment destruction, while weapons of mass destruction also endanger life-nurturing conditions of our planet. An infectious disease can perhaps kill a million people in a year, but an exchange of nuclear weapons can kill, in a much more painful way, twenty times this number or more in a single day or just a few hours, apart from endangering life-nurturing capacity of a much wider area with many more people. To prevent such destruction a very strong peace movement is needed, just as strong movements for environment protection, health and justice at all levels  are needed, and the mutual cooperation and coming together of these movements is also much needed. We need to be conscious also of the much bigger and wider crisis which endangers life-nurturing conditions for all forms of life on our planet. This is entirely a man-made crisis and tremendous, unprecedented human efforts are now needed to check this. The Save the Earth Now Campaign with SED Demand has called for most urgent action for checking climate change, for entirely eliminating all nuclear weapons and for universal declaration of next decade as Save the Earth Decade (SED). (See web-site for more details).

Fourthly, as we face the grim realities of a more difficult world, both people and governments need to more conscious and alert that the adverse situations are not used by selfish and powerful interests for their own agenda of super-profits or other narrow gains. There is increasing need for countries, particularly developing countries, to pool knowledge, scientific talent and resources to find solutions in terms of treatments and prevention of diseases which are not marred by high-profit considerations and so remain accessible at low cost to all people. There is a need also to ensure that adverse situations are not used to strengthen authoritarian and anti-democratic trends or divisive agendas. Unfortunately, there are already indications of such trends and so a timely warning should be voiced. There is clearly an even stronger need now for strengthening democracy and social harmony.  Our faith in the equality of all human beings and in fraternity of all people beyond all narrow divides and boundaries should be stronger than ever before, and certainly there is need for more kindness and compassion in everyday life.

The writer is a freelance journalist and author who has been involved with several social movements. Some of his recent books are ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’, ‘Man Over Machine’ and ‘Earth Without Borders’. He is Convener of Save the Earth Now Campaign and SED Demand,



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Apr 7, 2020

Bharat Dogra

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