Lessons from Lombardy

The pandemic has enabled people to look past race, creed, and culture to act responsibly

Nurses prepare for another  shift at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan, Lombardy, during the country’s lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic.  Paolo Miranda/Getty Images

Nurses prepare for another shift at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan, Lombardy, during the country’s lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic. Paolo Miranda/Getty Images

 

We stand in the midst of a full-fledged pandemic that has affected every component of our working societies: the economy, international trade, tourism and, above all else, our healthcare systems.

COVID-19, which is a novel infectious ailment caused by the SARS-coV-2 was first confirmed in the Wuhan region of China, and then proliferated to the Lombardy region of Italy

Amongst a myriad of issues the pandemic has caused in both China and Italy, in addition to rest of the world, the Coronavirus has, more intimidatingly, created a sense of fear and panic amongst populations in all regions of the world.

Considering that the COVID-19 is believed to have a mortality rate of around 2 per cent, it is fair to assume that it is not so much the severity of the associated symptoms, but its incurable and unpredictable nature, that has caused so much concern.

There is no vaccine.

Despite modern advances, we remain fallible; our scientific experimentation, on which we base our understanding of infectious diseases and pathology, draws upon precedents of which there happen to be none currently.

Our journey through the medical calamity that is the COVID-19 is akin to a hike through a forbidding mountainous terrain; the trek is usually a bone-jarring one, through piercing rocks, slabs, and is replete with uncertainty.

Beyond our immediate horizons, a cursory glance at the path ahead seems exceedingly difficult. Yet, it is within these moments of weakness that we resolve to maintain our nerve and look beyond the uncertainty.

It is undeniable that social distancing and hand-hygiene measures are bound to curb the risks of transmission of the novel virus.

The pandemic has, in effect, enabled people to look past race, creed, and culture to act responsibly (ironically, and quite ostensibly, by physically distancing themselves from others).

It is heart-wrenching to note that our trajectory, as it stands, doesn’t lag far behind Italy’s; with numbers hovering around 1,500, our progression bears close semblance with the disease course that Italy has seen.

There is no panacea that would cure the pandemic. As clichéd as it sounds, social-distancing measures, such as avoiding the need to unnecessarily leave our respective houses, are key.

However, the oft-ignored notion of maintaining our mental grit, amid the widespread hysteria, will prove even more instrumental in the battle. Although we hope that these measures will prove to be an elixir, a state-wide lockdown will be our last resort.

It is said very aptly that amid the outbreak of this pandemic, we awoke in a world detached from our presumed reality. A sudden swoosh, and Paris is no longer the city of romance, Milan is no longer a fashionista’s go-to hub, and Mecca is no longer a Muslim pilgrim’s haven for solace.

Our fabricated constructs of a social hierarchal ladder bear a significance so meagre, and essentially non-existent. Greeting our parents and our loved ones in person is no longer an indubitable act of compassion, but a grave sacrilege for which we atone by observing physical isolation.

Thus, physical distancing measures are instrumental in containing further spread of the COVID-19. On an additional tangent, it is equally imperative that we do not overwhelm our health services needlessly, and pay due homage to our healthcare staff, who valiantly wage a battle against the novel ailment.

I truly hope we do justice to their selfless devotion.

Talal Almas is a student of medicine in RCSI