COVID-19 is a biological phenomenon that, like the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, came as a surprise to the vast majority of the world’s population, quickly infecting people. Within a few short months, it became known as a global pandemic. The pandemic was caused by the specific SARS-COV2 virus. COVID-19’s impact on animate entities, specifically humans, is vast and multifaceted from biological, socio-economic, political and geographical impacts. Measures were quickly made globally to lock down, preventing the spread of the virus and the deaths of millions of people. India was at different stages of lockdown for most of the remaining months in 2020, until the conclusion of Unlock 6.0 at the end of November, with the final removal of restrictions.
COVID-19’s resurgence in India has inundated India’s public health system, leading to severe shortages of medical equipment and hospital bed space for infected patients. Between February and May of 2021, cases rose significantly. “[T]he number of new cases per day has gone up from 11,794 in the first week of February 2021 to over 414,000 as of 6 May 2021.” Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have used the metaphoric literary device of a “perfect storm,” to describe this resurgence. Arguably, the resurgence has three main causes; with the most significant being how the virus has adapted and mutated, causing more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus. Low vaccination rates across India have prevented herd immunity, creating a higher likelihood of transmission and increased mass gathering events, which allow the virus to spread easily. Higher transmission and increased mass gatherings are seen as the other two significant causes of India’s COVID-19 resurge.
Aptly, The WHO has used the metaphor “perfect storm” to describe the aforementioned causes and their impact on how quickly COVID-19 was able to resurge, and cause irreparable damage to individuals, families and communities throughout India. Furthermore, this essay will examine how the CODU lens illustrates the thesis argument that the metaphor “perfect storm” aptly describes India’s COVID-19 resurgence situation by comparing them. The CODU lens refers to the complexity, observability, dynamicity and uncertainty of a given phenomenon and its impact on animate and inanimate entities. Please note little references are given because information about COVID-19 is widely accessible and considered common knowledge.
According to Collins Dictionary perfect storm is defined as “an unusual combination of events or things that produce an unusually bad or powerful result.” For this essay, the definition for storm will be “a violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow,” as defined in the Oxford Languages Dictionary. An atmospheric perfect storm is a complex phenomenon. Just like a snowflake, no storm can be the same. Each storm has a different makeup of the elements that feature in the chosen definition of a storm- different severity, different structure and different purpose. Each storm has a differing impact on both animate and inanimate entities.
Atmospheric “perfect storms” are easily observed. First, they are observed using scientific equipment by researchers, analysts and scientists. Their equipment is highly complex, but can be used to measure the composition of a storm, its severity, and predict a storm’s pathway, therefore estimating the potential impact on both animate and inanimate entities. Next, the storm is observable by its impact on the animate and inanimate entities. Animate entities nearby will be able potentially see and hear these storms, while inanimate entities will experience a storm by how the storm damages it, impacting an inanimate entity’s future condition. Finally, the storm is observable through the use of modern technology by people who choose to view video or photographic evidence.
As a biological phenomenon, the structure of an atmospheric perfect storm cannot be observed. There is some uncertainty in predicting storm patterns because of what we know from physics and mathematics and how they influence storms. Only a certain number of possibilities exist for each with their own probability, as to how an atmospheric storm might develop. Although meteorologists typically use the same data, their interpretation of weather data to determine how a high or low air flow might eventuate into an atmospheric storm may show different outcomes from each other and the events that occur.
Due to climate change, this is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Especially as once in a certain time period, events like once in a hundred-year events, which previously may have not come into fruition on a given historical timeline, are becoming more prevalent. The impact of an atmospheric perfect storm is hard to observe because of how different areas prepare and respond to disasters.
As mentioned in the introduction, COVID-19 is a biological phenomenon. Its development as a virus to a global pandemic is heavily complex, as evident by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison previously referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “once-in-100-year crisis.”
The COVID-19 pandemic influences a number of key entities. Animate entities that are involved are humans, animals and as a microorganism, the virus itself is considered an animate entity. Inanimate entities are the surfaces which the virus transmits to humans, and when examining the pandemic as a historical event that has a far-reaching impact. For the efficiency and clarity of this discussion, only the impact COVID-19 has an animate entity will be discussed.
As an animate entity, COVID-19 is a virus structure that is heavily dynamic in its ability to mutate, which has caused strains such as the Delta strain that exhibit an increased infection rate. Therefore, as a result of its high mutation rate, the virus structure is also complex and uncertain. Virus strains take a significant amount of time to study before behaviour patterns are truly known. The more information that is uncertain about a strain, the more targeted and cautious an approach needs to be because its impact on human entities is not fully known.
Observing the impact COVID-19 has had on human entities is difficult. The virus impacts each person differently and therefore, symptoms are hard to observe, even if an infected person does appear symptomatic, and categorized as COVID-19 without testing. Biologically, each individual infected has a different relationship with the virus, making COVID-19 and its impact on human entities very dynamic and uncertain. Depending on the strain, the infected person’s overall health, and the individual’s demographics, determines how severe the virus’s impact will be. Furthermore, a country’s development will impact their response and ability to access medical equipment. These all influence the number of covid cases, infection rates, people’s ability to be vaccinated in a timely manner, the level of medical care they receive, and whether they die from the virus.
The COVID-19 virus has had a complex relationship with animal animate entities. As a biological phenomenon, transfer of the virus from the infected animal to humans is unobservable. Experts rely on observing the behaviour of animals and of the virus in animal populations. Because of the virus’s ability to mutate and adapt to be able to be spread to humans, it is highly dynamic. It is still uncertain what animal transferred COVID-19 to humans. Experts are still debating whether it was transferred from a pangolin, a bat or another animal entirely.
COVID-19’s interaction with non-animates is not complex. The virus is transferred to a surface by an infected human entity transferring virus spores. Typically, it is not known that the virus has transferred from a human to a surface until after unexplained cases start to occur and are investigated. Its interaction with the surfaces is also dynamic. Depending on the surface exposed, the ability for the virus to transfer onto people is different. Much is still uncertain about COVID-19, its associated variants, their ability to interact with surfaces and therefore the circumstances around transmission and infection rates in people.
A perfect atmospheric storm can be compared to the conditions that caused the pandemic’s resurgence in India with multiple similarities and some differences. Both atmospheric storms and COVID-19 are highly complex in nature, even though an atmospheric storm is considered a meteorological and naturally occurring phenomenon. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is a naturally occurring biological phenomenon. Both are complex because of their makeup, structure, severity, purpose and ability to be dynamic and uncertain.
Atmospheric storms and COVID-19 differ in observability. Atmospheric storms can be observed in different contexts, like by scientists using scientific equipment. The public in the general area of the storm can witness and hear the storm and because of modern technology, people can observe storms via photography/video evidence in other parts of the globe. The COVID-19 virus structure like atmospheric storms can be seen using scientific equipment, but unlike atmospheric storms, its genome can only be seen in laboratory environments under certain conditions and not by the general public. The virus’s structure like atmospheric storms as a natural phenomenon cannot be observed without using scientific equipment.
Atmospheric storms and COVID-19 as natural phenomena both have high levels of dynamically and uncertainty. Atmospheric storms tend to last for fixated, short periods of time and therefore, are slightly more predictable than COVID-19. As a virus, its continued existence is determined by people rather than nature. When herd immunity is reached, the virus will be virtually eradicated while atmospheric storms cannot be controlled by human interference and therefore their existence will continue.
Both atmospheric storms and COVID-19 have had the ideal conditions to create the unusual occurrence of once in a hundred-year unpredictable events. The definition of a perfect storm dictates both unusually bad and powerful results. For COVID-19, the reference to the significant negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing result as COVID-19 has created powerful, global change biologically, socio-economically and politically. Atmospheric hundred-year weather events do cause powerful impact, but only to an isolated or specific areas. COVID-19’s powerful impact compared to that of an unusual hundred-year atmospheric weather event is significantly higher because of the amount of people and how adversely they have been impacted.
Overall, the metaphor of a “perfect storm,” is appropriate to describe India’s resurgence. The virus is extremely complex with multiple strains, some with increased transmission levels, which means the virus is difficult to observe and very dynamic. Due to how quickly the virus became a pandemic, and the lack of time experts had to study it, its mutation rate and the way symptoms appear in infected patients, among other factors, means that much about COVID-19 is unknown or uncertain. The complexity, lack of observability, high dynamics and uncertainty, along with low vaccination rates, the high number of mass gatherings and the new, more contagious variants of Covid-19 have created the ideal conditions otherwise referred to as the “perfect storm,” for the resurgence of COVID-19 in India.