image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Corona Virus Threat Across National boundaries

     It will be impossible to ignore the topic of the corona virus for the next few months. The infection is affecting our daily lives in so many ways. It is a global disease and also one of the biggest economic and social challenges in modern times. It can have political and trade consequences regarding flow of people and trade. The consequences will be far reaching.

The virus is called corona due to its crown-shaped structure. The most recent global invasion by the new strain of corona virus has been sensationalised on TV screens like a science fiction movie. Maybe for the right reasons to prompt timely action by governments. However, these viruses have always been with us for a long time. According to one source, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all coronaviruses has been placed at around 8,000 BCE. There have been eight outbreaks of coronavirus-related diseases in recent times starting in 2003 with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, none of those earlier outbreaks have caused so much disruption and global concern as this new strain of the virus, COVID-19. The reasons are not entirely clear.

There are all sorts viruses and bacteria in the air. Some single cell organisms like bacteria can be seen through powerful microscopes but a virus like corona consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat and can only be detected through transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Some organisms are good for human beings but some cause infections of all sorts. We are told that they are found almost everywhere. To quote a source: from the poles to the equator, deserts, geysers, rocks and the deep sea and are adapted to extreme conditions. They are important for human health and in many other ways, serving to ferment foods, treat sewage, produce fuel, enzymes and other bioactive compounds. They are a vital component of fertile soils. In the human body microorganisms make up the human microbiota including the essential gut flora.

However, there are also the pathogens, that is, bacteria, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease. Global infections like the corona virus remind us that such diseases cannot be stopped by national borders or social or north-south divides. Like the climate change and other natural or man-made disasters, we are reminded that such challenges to human survival need global solutions.

Due to increasing population, fast travel, mass migrations and instant communications, humanity is brought together physically and socially in the shrinking global village. Truly, the human race has become one despite all the diversity and social divides. In recent times, the impression gained is that man-made and natural global threats to human survival have increased. There is a sense of pending doom as we see the world ablaze or drowning in floods on our TV screens.

Yet, human beings have survived for thousands of years because there is a fine balance in nature. However, it clear that over indulgence and selfish modern human behaviour is disturbing the environmental balance and nature is reacting in its own way. It is a question of developing a deeper understanding of how the system works and harmonising our life-style, including simple food, hygiene, exercise and social habits and responsibility, accordingly. For a Sikh, understanding of and abiding by Hukam as taught by Gurbani, can also be interpreted in that sense.


Gurmukh Singh OBE