The Price of Unpreparedness
The coronavirus is still wreaking havoc and there are no signs it’s stopping soon. Humanity’s resilience is being tested to the hilt.
The deadly pathogen arrived swiftly and stealthily like the proverbial thief in the night stealing lives and ruining dreams. Like a powerful earthquake, the COVID-19 crisis struck violently and shook the foundations of our socio-political and economic institutions. If the shaking does not stop soon, the said institutions might collapse with us trapped under the rubbles.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unfolding tragedy affecting the whole world. Pandemics, like other disasters and tragedies, natural or man-made, are inevitable. They happen when they happen. Some of them can be predicted by science, but some are hard (if not impossible) to predict.
Like an earthquake, a pandemic cannot be predicted. We know that both may occur but it is difficult (if not impossible) to predict when or where. All that humanity can do is to prepare in case they do happen. The question we should ask now is – Were we ready when the current health crisis broke out? Unfortunately we were not! The coronavirus caught the world with its pants down.
We were sufficiently warned by scientists and epidemiologists. Papers were published and books were written about the possibility of a pandemic as deadly as the coronavirus occurring. The Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, all happening during the first 20 years of the 21st century were telltale signs that outbreaks of infectious and deadly diseases are happening more frequently. They were all ignored and humanity is now paying the price for not heeding the warnings.
It wasn’t information we lacked but something very basic for surviving calamities (or at least lessen their damage) – preparation.
For earthquakes, we usually conduct earthquake drills to at least learn what we should do should an unpredictable earthquake occurs. What about with pandemics? What preparations did countries put in place for infectious and deadly diseases? With the way the coronavirus events unfolded in different parts of the world, it is accurate to say that not a semblance of preparation was made… except probably in South Korea.
Experts explained that South Korea’s efficient response to the coronavirus crisis was informed by their experiences and the data they gathered from the country’s MERS outbreak in 2015. The National Geographic reported that in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak aforementioned, the country’s lawmakers laid out the legal foundation for a comprehensive strategy for contact tracing. This is crucial in containing the virus and in preventing further spread. They amended an existing law that gave their health authorities the power to collect private data from both confirmed and suspected patients even without warrant. They also built up their diagnostic testing capabilities.
The South Koreans were, somehow, prepared. They had a plan should another MERS occur. Probably, the rest of the world had none. The South Koreans and their leaders knew what to do while the rest of the world was clueless as to how to deal effectively with the pestilence.
The South Koreans learned their lessons from a previous disease outbreak (MERS). This time they were prepared. Conversely, the US and most European countries have seemingly forgotten about the 1918 Spanish flu. Perhaps because that was a century ago. They (and other countries) assumed that just like the Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, any other outbreaks could easily be put under control. They were all wrong. The coronavirus is a testament that “assumption is the mother of all f*** ups.”
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The citizens and leaders of his country learned this the hard way. The US owns the dubious distinction of the country with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The US and other wealthy European nations being rendered seemingly helpless by this deadly pestilence is an irony. The said countries are among the wealthiest in the world (with the US on top). They also have the most advance science and technology and the most number of Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Chemistry. So, what happened?
The answer is simple – they were not ready for the onslaught of the coronavirus.
The deaths and sufferings we are witnessing in different parts of the world are the price we pay for our unpreparedness.