Staunton, October 26 – Like many other peoples past and present, Russians mistakenly think that something like a vaccine will allow them to return to a world exactly like the one that existed before the pandemic, a mistake that opens the way to chaos and confusion once they recognize that there is no going back, Igor Yakovenko says.
Pandemics have swept across the world many times, although not that recently, the professor at the Russian State Humanities University says. Humankind has always won; but as many prefer to forget, societies have never been the same afterwards as they were before (ng.ru/stsenarii/2020-10-26/9_7999_crowd.html).
That is even more likely to be the case now not so much because there are more people in the world who may be infected but rather because they are increasingly interrelated, travelling from one place to another and thus subjecting themselves and ultimately others to germs that they would have avoided in the past.
People also are engaging in more large collective activities than they did in earlier decades and centuries, and those too promise to spread the pandemic and multiply its impact this time around. No vaccine by itself will be sufficient to end this. Instead, people will have to change their ways of life – their travel and more generally “their social hygiene.”
That isn’t something many want to accept. They are increasingly angry that they have to accept restrictions to fight the coronavirus. What they refuse even to consider, and what governments that focus only on vaccines play to, is that many of the restrictions in travel and contact are going to have to remain in place for a very long time, perhaps in some cases forever.
If one examines the great pandemics of the past, all of which occurred before the advent of modern vaccines, people had to change their behaviors and societies became very different because of it. Now, many foolishly think that vaccines will preclude such changes, Yakovenko says.
But they fail to see that the coronavirus is the first and unlikely to be the last pandemic-generating virus and that, if people and governments go back to where they were before the COVID-19 outbreak, they will be able to live just as they did. If they try, the tragedy of 2020 will be repeated again and again.
This is all the more likely, the Moscow scholar says, because global warming is continuing, the shift away from fossil fuels is happening at different rates in different places, and globalization will continue because all the major countries, however much people complain about this, are dependent on international markets to survive.
It is time to face up to the difficulties of the future, difficulties, Yakovenko argues, are not going to disappear even if a highly successful vaccine becomes available.
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