Covid-19 — what we must do, immediately!
We are in the middle of a hideous pandemic. It has cost the world between ten and fifteen trillion dollars so far — and disrupted the social lives of billions of people. And it has not peaked yet. But help is in sight: the first vaccines have been developed (in record time!), so there is a chance that, in a year or so, our lives could return to some form of normality. However, we cannot let our guard down. There are two things we need to do. Urgently.
1. Urge people to accept vaccination
Fortunately there are vaccines to combat the current Covid-19 pandemic, and they are quite likely to prove effective. But they need to be taken, and taken widely. It is not clear that this will happen. A vast campaign of disinformation had led a large number of people to be sceptical about vaccination. It is possible that a quarter to half of entire national populations will not agree to take the shot, and the world will remain a dangerous place.
I know we cannot force people to undergo an intrusive medical procedure. On this point the governments of most European countries, and the USA, agree. There are thoughts about paying people to get vaccinated. $1,000 per person. That would cost hundreds of billions (and still be worth it).
There is a simpler solution. Issue a badge that confirms that you have been vaccinated, that you are (hopefully) immune and not a direct danger to other people. Let those people decide with whom they want to interact and whom they wish to avoid. Of their own free choice. If people step back when you address them, if they pull up a mask, it may encourage you to take the step and join the community of pandemic combatants.
You get the badge after you have received your vaccination, together with an immunity passport validating it. This is an assurance to your fellow citizens. It does not discriminate against anyone. Without the badge you may not be able to enter all restaurants and bars, it might impede international travel. But that is acceptable. As a child and young adult I was not allowed to travel to different countries without proof of smallpox inoculation. A few decades later the horrible disease had been completely eliminated from the face of the earth. Imagine if there had been groups of people who had refused to take the measures that were mandated. We would still have untold suffering and millions of people dying today.
2. Ban wildlife trade at wet markets
I have written about this fairly extensively. In summary: Most great pandemics — Plague, Smallpox, Leprosy, Influenza, HIV, Anthrax, Ebola, West Nile, Lassa, Lyme, Zika, SARS, MERS — came from microorganisms carried by wild animals. The previous (2002–2004) SARS virus originated in horseshoe bats in China’s Yunnan province, as did the current SARS-CoV-2.
“Wet markets” are places where vendors sell fresh meat, usually slaughtering wild animals —bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, meerkats, civets, porcupines, turtles, rats, mice, snakes, pangolins and dozens of other species — in the presence of customers. Wet markets are the perfect breeding grounds for disease, and have been the direct source of most of the recent pandemics.
Clearly, if we wish to avoid regular global disruptions by pandemics, we need to close down wet markets that deal with wild animals — all over the world. China has the greatest number — followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico (get my point?).
There are tens of thousands of wet markets world-wide. The ones that deal with wild animals need to be all shut down, every one of them, rigorously and without exception. To compensate vendors, whose livelihood may depend on wet markets, we need to give them an alternate supply of protein to sell to populations that are used to fresh meat. Build clean modern chicken, pig, cattle or goat farms, where the people can work under hygienic conditions — and in fact earn more than they would by trapping exotic animals and bringing them alive to market. We have hundreds of years of experience in health control in traditional animal husbandry.
We need to make wet markets with wildlife trade hideously illegal, and we need to make countries and governments directly responsible for the implementation of the ban. They have to be threatened with the stiffest of penalties if any exotic animals in uncontrolled markets are discovered. We should use economic sanctions and travel restrictions, make it extraordinarily painful for any country to continue endangering the rest of the world.
Define wet markets with wild animal trade as biological warfare which must be forbidden. That, incidentally, would in the process do wonders for wild life on planet Earth.