Towards a New Normal

For the record, as of this writing, we’re at close just over 2.4 million reported Covid-19 cases globally, as reported by Johns Hopkins. The USA has a solid “lead”, with just shy of 760,000 cases – the Americans “win”. Remember when Trump said that the USA would be winning all the time, to an extent that the Americans would become tired of winning? I guess they might be now.

Here on the island, we have achieved some stabilisation.

Taken from our local phone app, this graph not only shows the total of reported cases, but also the recovered ones, and the resulting active cases. I find this information very useful, in fact, much more so than the total number of cases ever reported. It suggests the current strain on the health care system, for which the total number of cases is not an indicator.

Also, I don’t think the number of deaths is a reliable indicator, simply as it’s often difficult to determine the exact cause of a death. Covid-19 cases can be objectively determined by a test, while Covid-19 deaths are judgement calls.1 And many deaths potentially caused by Covid-19 are not even reported, such as in care homes for elders.

More specific data on active cases, as well as their severity, will be important for charting and controlling a path towards lifting the lockdowns.

The latest government news has the details related to the above figure. Note the hint to a possible second wave of the Covid-19 that could hit Mauritius.

This news post item says that the government is working on a plan to lift the lockdown after 4 May. Other countries, for example in Europe, have already started to do that. It remains to be seen what impact that will have on the further dissemination of the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead.

I think it’s prudent that Mauritius does not rush to lift the lockdown. Up to now, we have handled this quite well, and have avoided the devastation seen in other places.

In any case, we cannot expect to “go back to normal”, if this means to go back to how things were before the pandemic. We will not. It will be a new normal, ever vigilant as regards pandemic indicators.

In fact, that a pandemic as the current one would happen was never a question of if, but when, if you go back and listen to the relevant scientists. Maybe we were actually lucky with this one. Imagine the infection rate and characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, but with the death rate of Ebola. Now we – the global we – have the opportunity to prepare, not only for fighting pandemics, but also to decrease the odds of their occurrence in the first place, by changing the economy and our behaviour, and their ecologic impacts.

Animals have been, and will always be, carriers of viruses and bacteria potentially harmful for humans, and the needed changes are not just about the wild animal markets in Asia, but also industrial farming all over the globe. No, this is not a moral statement, but one of simple necessity, of applied reason.2 Apart from reducing the risk of future pandemics, and improving our arsenal to fight illnesses (think antibiotic resistance), bringing down industrial farming also would positively impact climate change – which is another looming calamity about which we will regret not having listened to reason and evidence. Maybe not my generation, but the younger ones for sure.

  1. Yes, I am aware that I am simplifying here. But I am not completely wrong. ↩︎

  2. Of course there are moral and ethical aspects as regards industrial farming, but that’s not my point here. I don’t eat meat anymore mostly for ethical reasons. ↩︎