Source: Pan American Health Organization

Everyone knows by now that COVID-19 is a highly contagious infection caused by a coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

But reading a lot of articles from many different sources, I found out that the coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s, and in 1965 the first ones that effect humans were identified. In fact, SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh coronavirus known to infect humans. Furthermore, genomic comparisons suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the result of a recombination between two different viruses, yet researchers are unclear as to how this occurred.  

Every piece I’ve read stresses that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus. They say the evidence points to bats, and in particular, a species of the genus Rhinolophus, as the reservoir of the SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

But one additional caveat: the same viruses have been found in Malayan pangolins. Under what conditions did the virus jump from a bat, to another animal, and then humans? It seems obvious that we are at the crossroads. For answers, perhaps right now we should be looking more closely at behavioral science rather than the actual biological science?

Should we be asking another question too? If the scientific community has known since 1965 that coronaviruses can infect humans with life-threatening infections, why weren’t we paying closer attention?  Have other motivations diverted necessary funding away from science, thus allowing COVID-19 to develop and spread?

The failure of Neoliberalism is staring us in the face. As the economic ideology of capitalism, it is no longer viable (if it ever was). It has depleted our public services, turned our education and healthcare into profit-driven businesses; its practises include underpaying workers, and favouring profitability over human security and well-being.  Xenophobia and inequalities between people and countries are tolerated. The situation of the migrants is a poignant example.

On March 31, the respected UK economist Simon Mair wrote: “Where will we be in six months, a year, 10 years from now? I lie awake at night wondering what the future holds for my loved ones.”

I do too. I personally feel that our world society needs changes, and the changes need to be definitive and global.

Simon Mair continues:  “Small changes won’t cut it. Corona Virus, like climate change, is partly a problem of our economic structure. Although both appear to be “environmental” or “natural” problems, they are in fact socially driven.

Yes, climate change is caused by certain gases absorbing heat. But that’s a very shallow explanation. To really understand climate change, we need to understand the social reasons that keep us emitting greenhouse gases.

Likewise with Covid-19. Yes, the direct cause is the virus. But managing its effects requires us to understand human behaviour in the wider economic context.

Tackling both Covid-19 and climate change is much easier if you reduce non-essential economic activity. For climate change this is because if you produce less stuff, you use less energy, and emit fewer greenhouse gases. The epidemiology of Covid-19 is rapidly evolving. But the core logic is similarly simple.”

Even if I don’t agree with the policy and pronouncements of certain world leaders… unless they are actively committing acts that harm the people right here and now, I think I need to let the comments pass. Our immediate need is to get through this world crisis with as much fairness and as few casualties as possible.

Simon Mair concludes: “What is the economy for? The key to understanding responses to COVID-19 is the question of what the economy is for. Currently, the primary aim of the global economy is to facilitate exchanges of money. … What COVID-19 is throwing into sharp relief is just how false our beliefs are.”

But how do we turn focus away from profits and get it back to the people? We can start in our own backyards.

Yucatan Giving Outreach is active with as many relief programs as they have volunteers and supplies to expend. Other private groups and individuals (such as the San Lucas church in Merida) are also bringing hot meals to desperately poor people, and while staying within the isolation requirements, they are doing what they can to provide emotional comfort…. I believe Mexico’s federal, state and municipal authorities are also doing their best. I think it is important to remember that our elected officials are human beings just like us. I’m sure not one of them ever expected to have a pandemic during their watch.  We need to hold them accountable, but we also need to support their efforts to improve the situation by not criticizing their every move.

Mexico is a great nation mainly because of its people. We have endured decades of neoliberal policies and practices, and the poor have grown poorer. The fact that infrastructure and amenities improved during the PRI and PAN terms is a fact, but if the majority of the country’s citizens are too poor to use them, where is the fairness in that? Lopez Obrador is far from perfect but his principals are in the right place. And anyway, like him or not, he is who we have and that will not change for five years. Pulling together is more important now than ever, for all of us. 

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado is a local writer and educator. She is author of “Magic Made in Mexico,” “Circles” and other books and she blogs at changesinourlives.com.