- Death is an inevitable part of life.
- Death due to coronavirus is macabre in its awfulness.
- Stories of coronavirus deaths and funerals haunt my sensibilities of dealing with the death of a loved one.
- Coronavirus is rewriting the rules of death and burials.
It is like no other time. In the existing human consciousness, there are no parallels to make any real sense of the present reality of the world. From the time of its appearance in December 2019 to April 2020, it currently has the singular distinction of being the most important topic in almost every country of the world. The uniqueness of its ubiquity makes it once-in-a-century phenomenon that is indiscriminatory in its effect. Coronavirus, COVID-19. The pandemic.
It has also brought the bewildering realisation to its stark fore that despite huge differences, humankind shares the uniformity of pain. Social distancing is the new norm, but never before in the last hundred years, since Spanish Flu, has the world united in its sameness of affliction. A virus has one-ed the world.
The world will never be the same once it moves beyond the time of coronavirus. The unpreparedness of the most powerful countries to combat a new virus would remain a painful reminder of the skewedness of governmental priorities. Ideally, the new world would be different. Investment in healthcare would be enhanced. Science and medical research and development would be the top agenda. From being on alert to the next threat of weapons of mass destruction and updating already mind-bogglingly sophisticated weapons systems, there would be more attention on preparedness to deal with the next microbe that originating from a wild animal may have the power to unleash global destruction. Vaccines not more missiles would be the new slogan of the global business leaders. Ideally.
In the words of the global health expert Alanna Shaikh: “We need to make sure that every country in the world has the capacity to identify new diseases and treat them."
It is the disruption in the three main channels of global economy that has and will continue to affect it in unprecedented ways: demand, supply, finance. What has already begun and will continue to have a considerable increase is unemployment. Capital flight is another real and present danger. Bankruptcy and non-payment will be the words heard everywhere. Foreign Direct Investment will face substantial reduction. Richard Baldwin and Eiichi Tomiura, in an essay published on March 6, 2020, delineate that “the hardest hit countries account for the majority of global GDP, manufacturing production and exports.” Manufacturing industries will be affected globally.
A bleak future
CNBC reports that according to the International Monetary Fund, “The global economy in 2020 will likely suffer the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression this year, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The economic scenario is very, very bleak, to understate it.
On April 15, 2020, the confirmed number of global coronavirus cases is 1,981,239. The number of recovered patients is 486,622. The number of dead is 126,681. The last number is staggering in ways more than one.
In the USA, on April 15, there were 614,246 confirmed cases. The number of dead is 26, 064. In New York, 10, 834 people have died of coronavirus.
UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson underwent three-day treatment in intensive care ten days after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Washington Post reports: “For now, the bulk of the official global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is in wealthy Western countries. But that may start to change. The past weeks have seen the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in some of the world’s biggest, most congested slums. Public health experts fear that the volume of infections in parts of the developing world may be far greater than current official estimates.”
The Washington Post also reports: “The pandemic is already confronting some of the world’s poorest nations with their greatest economic challenge in decades. Income losses in the developing world are expected to exceed $220 billion, the United Nations warned.”
In Pakistan, on April 15, the number of confirmed cases is 6,217. The number of recovered patients is 1,446. The number of dead is 113.
As my family and I adjust to our lives in self-imposed self-isolation, my gratitude is immense even if it remains wordless. To be able to have social distancing while existing in material comfort in myriad ways, noting the March balminess turn into dry warmth of April, thinking about temporary unavailability of regular income, I have nothing but thankfulness for all I have. My son is home on an enforced break from his college in New York, my nephews’ schools and my niece’s office are closed. Our closeness has deepened, our togetherness is voluntary and spaced.
As I say my silent duas, my mind keeps going to all those who died because of coronavirus. The pain of the countless who live without even the basics, have lost their daily or monthly income, and exist like invisible beings is a constant on my mind.
Death is an inevitable part of life. Death due to coronavirus is macabre in its awfulness. Stories of coronavirus deaths and funerals haunt my sensibilities of dealing with the death of a loved one. Coronavirus is rewriting the rules of death and burials. Spending time with a loved one in their final moments is a universal rite of life. A proper burial is a given. Not anymore. Disinfected, put in sealed bags, cremated, buried, placed in mass graves, the dead have become indistinguishable. And a remote agony that does not end.
Graveyards in the world’s most developed countries are overcrowded with their dead. In Italy, morgues became overwhelmed with the number of dead, wooden coffins stacked up to be cremated, and mourners grieved in isolation. In New York, images of men in hazmat outfits placing coffins in mass graves became a global warning of the invincibility of coronavirus. Some graveyards in Iraq decline to bury the “contaminated” dead. Burials of Muslim coronavirus-positive dead take place in isolation without the due Islamic pre-burial procedures. Even in death, COVID-19 is an unadulterated display of the homogeneity of human nothingness.
In the time of coronavirus there are no last goodbyes. There are no final long hugs. The most unwell are given the best possible treatment, but they die alone. Their loved ones mourn for them without being able to touch their bodies, without having the possibility to be in physical proximity to them for the last time. Those last few hours of closeness to the earthly remains of the loved one become the last memento for a lifetime without them. Death due to coronavirus strips humans of their last meeting with their loved one.
To me that is the most painful aspect of existing in the time of coronavirus.