Hope you are at home and staying safe. And are free of any symptoms.
But, heaven forbid if you tested positive with the coronavirus, wouldn’t you want to get treated? Well, it turns out a 60-year-old Nepali man in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh did not. The man is a member of the Tablighi Jamaar. He made a rope by tying up his clothes in a line and used it to escape out of the window of the isolation ward he was being kept in. No prizes for guessing that he is our Covidiot Of The Day. This modern-day Rapunzel’s attempt to escape was foiled, however. Authorities found him three kilometres from the hospital and brought him back. The man is suspected to have caught the coronavirus at Tablighi Jamaat’s gathering at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi recently.
Ever since the Tablighi Jamaat-linked cases began coming to light, a lot of people have been talking of 'superspreaders'. So who exactly is a superspreader? Let us tell you. Superspreader is our Word Of The Day. A super-spreader is an individual or an organism who is highly contagious and is capable of transmitting a communicable disease (knowingly or unknowingly) to an unusually large number of uninfected individuals. The word was first used in 1907 for an Irish cook, May Mallon, in the United States, who was infected with typhoid but showed no apparent symptoms. You might have come across the more popular name she is referred to as: Typhoid Mary. Mallon became responsible for multiple outbreaks of typhoid in New York as she moved to cook from one family to another. Every time there is a pandemic, people speak of superspreaders. It is the same with this current pandemic too. In the case of Covid-19, Patient 31 of South Korea is referred to as a superspreader.
The Covid-19 epidemic is testing us as a society, bringing out the worst in a lot of people. Take India’s badminton star Jwala Gutta, for instance. She has been targeted on social media (surprise, surprise) as ‘half-Corona’. Why? Because her mother is Chinese. While the abuse against Jwala was on social media, an Asian-origin man in New York City wasn’t as lucky. He was yelled at and sprayed with air freshener by a racist co-passenger on the New York City subway, who suspected him of carrying the virus. Why? Only because he ‘looked’ Chinese. This kind of outrageous racism has also been on the rise in our country, especially against Indians from the Northeast and Tibetans living here. If only hate could drive out the coronavirus, some parts of India would have been free of it by now.
The coronavirus-related hate is not being targeted only at people, by the way. The Jammu and Kashmir government is proposing to chop down lakhs of trees to slow the spread of the virus. The trees being targeted are not Chinese (small mercies), but Russian poplar. The theory here is that the female Russian poplar contributes to the spread of large amounts of pollen, which could help the spread of Covid-19.
There is a big catch to this theory – there is no scientific proof that chopping down the female Russian trees has anything to do with the virus. Also, the outbreak of epidemics in the past have been sparked directly by deforestation.
In 1997, large tracts of the Indonesian rainforests were burned down to make way for agriculture. The trees that were lucky to survive the fire could not produce fruits and the resident fruit bats, carrying a deadly virus, made their way to the Malaysian orchards. It was then observed that the pigs in the orchards were falling sick, presumably because of having eaten the fallen fruits that were already infected after being nibbled on by the bats. It spread from the pigs to the pig farmers and the workers in the orchards. By 1999, 265 people had developed severe brain inflammation and 105 had died, making it the first known outbreak of the Nipah virus. Maybe this is where director Steven Soderberg got his idea for the source of the virus in his 2011 cult hit Contagion, which we have spoken about in DailyOh earlier.
Here's the scene from Contagion to help refresh your memory:
Now blame games are not limited to us commoners, but also reaches beyond. Take the White House. In a tweet, US President Donald Trump blamed the World Health Organisation for the global Covid-19 pandemic. With this, WHO joins the government and people of China on Trump’s list of conspirators against the US.
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
Now while there is growing noise about WHO being hand-in-glove with China and resulting in the coronavirus reaching this level, a pandemic, experts say the real blame for how badly the US has been affected by Covid-19 may actually lie closer to Trump than he thinks. Trump spent weeks rubbishing Covid-19 as the mere flu, and then his administration sat back all through the emergency response. Now, the US leads the world in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. That is, if we ever get to know the real number of cases in China. We all know China's love for secrecy, after all.
Trump has a long and complicated history with the United Nations. While he, for a long time, opposed globalism and criticised the multilateralism at the core of the United Nations, there was a time when he said he was “a very big fan of the United Nations and all it stands for”. It's been a while to that time. This was in 2005. In Trump’s words, “I am a big fan, a very big fan of the United Nations and all it stands for. I cannot speak as to what has been happening over the last number of years because it certainly has not been good, but the concept of the United Nations and the fact that the United Nations is in New York is very important to me and very important to the world as far as I am concerned.”
There is always a “but” when it comes to Trump.
But hey! He did acknowledge his fanboy status, and publicly at that. To give you a context, this was long before he became the POTUS and was a leading Manhattan realtor back then. He wanted to build a 90-storied residential complex opposite the UN headquarters in New York. Obviously, the UN officials in their 39-storied headquarter complex were not quite happy, and the then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, spoke with Rudy Giuliani, the then Mayor of New York. It is supposed to have happened behind the scenes, during a night at an opera. That was the end of Trump trumpeting his love for the UN. It is said that he has been bitter ever since.
Speaking of dissonance, that’s what Sonia Gandhi found from journalists because of her suggestion that the government cut all advertisements to media houses during the Covid-19 epidemic. The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) ‘deplored’ Sonia’s idea. They suggested it may be tone-deaf, saying it could demoralise journalists who are out, on the ground, gathering vital information on the epidemic and risking their very lives to do so.
Now Sonia Gandhi's suggestion has a bit of irony in all this. The first person who probably used the government as a way to control the media was none other than her own mother-in-law, India's former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. During the Emergency years, Indira's government targeted media houses that criticised her by cutting the number of ads given to a newspaper. This would hit the paper’s revenues, which in turn would pressurise it to toeing the government’s line. Basically, if you're critical of Indira and her government, you don't get ads.
But as history has shown us, it is not really the best way to deal with the media, and the Emergency remains the darkest period Independent India had to go through.
Now from all this heavy news, let us take you to Tollywood. Tollywood star Allu Arjun turns 37 today. Allu Arjun gifted his fans the first look and the title of his upcoming film — Pushpa — that is set to release in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and Kannada. The film is supposed to hit the screens by the end of this year or early next one... but then, like everything else in our lives these days, the release date will also be dictated by when this coronavirus finally leaves us alone.
But Allu Arjun's fans are on cloud nine today, thanks to the return gift their star gave them: Pushpa. Did you know Allu Arjun is an ace photographer too? We have to thank Tamil actress Trisha for letting the cat out of the bag. Her video call during the lockdown with Rana Dagubatti and Arjun last week revealed the Ala Vaikuntapurramloo star’s secret Instagram handle. The private account has nearly 250 followers and 755 posts. Take a look.
We wish Allu Arjun a very happy birthday and hope you take his lead and connect with longtime friends on video calls. What could be a better way to spend time during the lockdown?