Humanity United in Fear

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The coronavirus epidemic is certainly the curse of globalization. The proximity of individuals, through travel, has its blessings and its dangers.

In historic times, many pandemics had devastating impacts on certain remote societies but they were contained because of a lack of movement of people. Thus, past pandemics were contained and people living in other parts of the world were not affected nor even informed of the misery that had befallen members of humanity in another region.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has followed closely the patterns of the Black Death or the Pestilence, which broke out in the 14th century in Central Asia and spread to Europe, peaking from 1347 to 1351. The Black Death killed 30 percent to 60 percent of Europe’s population, reducing it from 475 million to 350 million. It is believed that the virus was carried by rats traveling on Genovese merchant ships.

Coronavirus has emerged from China, believed to be carried by bats. And since modern transportation moves faster than Genovese ships, the spread of the virus has been nearly instantaneous globally.

The world, which until so very recently had been divided into many enemy camps, is united by the necessity to combat this global threat. Italy, a NATO member country, received medication and medical teams from China to combat the outbreak. The humanity of mankind is forced upon the population of the globe by overwhelming natural disasters.

Today no country is immune from the virus, which has spread to 138 countries around the world.

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Many major nations which had developed mutually-assured destructive weaponry have been rendered helpless in front of this calamity and they need each other by default.

The Black Death created many religious social and political upheavals in Europe and affected the course of European history. The shock and fallout of the current outbreak will affect the course of current human civilization, hopefully without a similar number of victims.

Today, the pandemic is on everyone’s mind and it has isolated and frozen societies.

Every group and every individual is stunned and pondering ways of survival.

Diasporan Armenians, concerned as they are for their safety, naturally also think about Armenia, which is in the neighborhood of one of the epicenters of the pandemic, Iran.

As the outbreak was spreading at alarming rate in Iran and China, life was unusually calm and under control in Armenia, until a foolhardy action was taken by one irresponsible woman in Vagharshapat, where the seat of the Armenian Church, Holy Echmiadzin, is located.

Topics: Coronavirus

A resident of that city of 45,000 avoided the medical authorities and even lied that she was healthy when she returned from an Italian vacation, infected with the virus. She organized an engagement party, which resulted in 18 people infected out of the 28 nationwide, at that time.

At this time, the entire city of Vagharshapat is in quarantine. At this writing, the total number of infected people stands at 72 and unfortunately, the number is rising. Surprisingly, no infections have been reported yet in Karabakh (Artsakh), where presidential and parliamentary election campaigns are under way, scheduled to take place on March 31.

The Armenian parliament adopted a bill declaring a 30-day state of emergency, running from March 16 through April 14, which has been postponed to a period between 50 and 65 days after the end of the state of emergency. The purpose of that referendum is to change a single clause (168 a) of the constitution in order to do away with seven judges on the Constitutional Court who had been left over from the old regime.

Incidentally, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has also proposed a bill passing judgement on the performance of the previous administrations over the last 30 years.

Armenia has been handling the current crisis in an orderly and reasonable fashion. Preventative measures are being taken throughout the country. The public health system seems to be under control, medications are available and testing is already in progress. Many news outlets have been interviewing ordinary citizens, who all seem to be unalarmed. They are stocked with food and provisions and no price-gouging has been reported.

At this time, there are 300 citizens in quarantine at the Golden Palace Hotel in the resort town of Tsakhgadzor. The first patient infected has recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

Armenia has been relatively spared from the worst, but yet, there is no guarantee about the future, as the country is located in a high-risk region.

Armenia was looking forward to a very brisk tourist season and a robust rate of economic development. These hopes will certainly be dashed. Trade with Iran stands at $400 million annually, which will no doubt also suffer.

Prime Minister Pashinyan seems to be on top of the situation. He is broadcasting regularly on his Facebook page new developments. Both he and his wife, Anna Hakobyan, have tested negative for the virus. Hakobyan had been part of the entourage of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. An individual in that entourage has tested positive. In addition, Pashinyan himself had been in the proximity of an infected citizen returning from Italy to the southern city of Meghri.

Dr. Arsen Torosyan, Armenia’s health minister, is on the TV screens reporting on the development and advising people to take preventative measures.

As fear rages on the horizon, humanity is caught in a crisis. Armenia will share whatever challenges the rest of the globe faces.

Coronavirus has the scope and devastating effect of the Black Death. Let us hope that at least the victims contracting the virus will not suffer the same grim fate, as medical science has made tremendous strides since then.

The fear induced by this virus may silence the threat of a nuclear Armageddon.

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