The Rapidian

When will the COVID-19 pandemic disappear?

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When will the pandemic end? Science and religion help to bring answers.
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Written by Aly Mageed, M.D., Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

To say that our lives have dramatically changed over the last few months is an understatement. Globally, we currently have more than 4.3 million people infected with the virus and more than 290,000 who lost their lives in a matter of a few short months. Thirty million people have filed for unemployment in the USA, the largest number since the Great Depression. An artificially supported stock market lost close to 15% of its value, billions around the world are under stay at home orders; the changes go on and on. We are all anxious, afraid, or confused, looking for understanding, possible solutions, and leadership that can navigate us through these uncharted territories.

Everyone is asking when will it end? I will try to offer two answers to that difficult question. The easy one first, the word of science. As many experts profess and I agree, we could expect an ease in the number of cases once we have an effective vaccine and an effective treatment that can save at least upwards of 95% of the population at risk. I personally think we need both, but at least one of these two conditions must be met. Realistically, I believe the timeline we are looking at will be 12-24 months, and most likely around 18 months.

If this answer does not satisfy you, then let us try a more complex one, the religious approach. I believe that God is in full control 100% of the time. It is He who either brought this pandemic up or allowed it to occur. But why?

To answer that, let us examine what the world looked like a mere four months ago. We had a world controlled by an extremely wealthy handful of people. According to an article by David Leonhardt and Yarna Serkez in the New York Times on April 10, 2020 depicting how America will struggle after Coronavirus, the GDP in US (the world largest economy/roughly a quarter of the world’s) rose by 80% during the period 1980-2020 (adjusted for population growth and inflation). During that same period, the after-tax income for the bottom 50% of the population, the GDP rose by only 20%, that for the middle class rose by 50%, while that for the top 0.1% rose by 420%. The bottom 90% of households paid $12,000 annually to the top 1%. The top 0.1% of the population owned 20% of America. To make things even worse, the rich in America live on average thirteen years longer than the poor.

In addition, there is a huge racial gap. White wealth is now ten times that of blacks (it was seven times in 1992). There are more than ten million imprisoned people in the world with more than 2.2 million in the US alone, with a majority being of poor and ethnic minority backgrounds. There are also additional hundreds of thousands of prisoners of conscience.  There are billions who are living below poverty lines, living in tents, unsanitary conditions, and without running water. So far, this year alone in four short months, four million have died of hunger. Billions are illiterate and billions more are living under economic slavery conditions.

Autocracies are spreading, exclusionary ideologies and tougher immigration policies predominate political rhetoric. The list of injustices and inequalities can go on and on. Good people from all faiths and good people with no faith would agree that this is unsustainable. I hope that we would all agree that something needs to change.

Now comes the current pandemic and everything has changed, or did it? Did we learn any lessons? If God turns the switch off tomorrow on the COVID-19 crisis, would we behave any differently or would everything go back to how things were?

I believe that we, ourselves, hold the key to unlock the end of the pandemic. We just have to demonstrate to God that we learned the lessons and are making sincere efforts to progress and change. We cannot allow these injustices and inequalities to be the new norm, yet again. We either accept or reject this pandemic. If we accept it, we must learn what we need to do to get rid of it. Surely with every hardship there is ease. The ease will only come if we benefit from the hardship.

Even if we can develop a successful therapy, vaccine, or both, unless we have the resolve to change and demonstrate that we learned the hard lessons, I believe God will throw our way another even more insurmountable challenge.

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