Coronavirus. It’s everywhere. Not the virus. The news. Every website, every television channel and all the newspapers around the world are filled with the news about Covid-19.
News about its origins, its toll on humans and preventive measures have been discussed, dissected and disseminated. Its DNA sequence too is out, and scientists have traced its cousins too. Only the horoscope is yet to be written.
True, the virus is nasty. It can be deadly too. But a healthy person can overcome the infection. It is the speed and scale of the contagion that’s worrying countries and governments, spooking global markets and disrupting trade around the world. There’s even talk of a looming recession.
The wide coverage is the result of the pathogen’s ability to spread fast, and that is sowing panic. Yet, the world can’t have enough of coronavirus. All other news have taken a back seat.
The plight of refugees from Syria and their travails as they cross from Turkey to the greener pastures of Europe do not move us anymore. We don’t even remember Aylan Kurdi. The image of the toddler’s body washed ashore had seared the world conscience.
Many more Kurdis are making the perilous crossing. We don’t seem to care. Even the Delhi riots that killed 53 people are forgotten. We are more worried about a virus from Wuhan province in China.
Why are we obsessed with Covid-19? Fear. Yes, fear makes people irrational. And the fear of the unknown terrifies us all the more. And not much is known of the coronavirus.
Forget the genome sequencing, the connection to bats (or is it pangolin?) and the blanket coverage. There are still lingering questions. Will it will survive the summer? Even the modes of transmission are unclear; there are places where it has popped up without a source.
A vaccine is several months away. We can’t even predict the demise of the virus, that’s continuing to haunt us every day.
But I have a hunch. I think the next big news break will do it. Over the last 30 years as a journalist, I have seen this happen several times. It’s a pattern: one big news gobbling up another.
A major news break on something that will have far-reaching consequences will trip up the virus coverage too. Soon we will be poring over the new news: breaking it down, analysing every aspect of it. We won’t have time for the virus. Covid-19 will be history. Much like Sars, bird flu, swine flu and Mers.
When the next pandemic is upon us, we will look back in wonder and ask what was that coronavirus? I couldn’t wait to ask that question.