Apologies in the time of the great pandemic

As I write this essay, more than 100 people on Guam and almost 1.5 million people around the world have died from the virus. Many who died were lonely and afraid, unable to touch the hand of someone they love as they took their last choking breath. In America, a bewildering state of anger and fear reigns after a still unresolved presidential election. The future seems dark.

In a world yearning for love, the coronavirus has exposed our false securities. Money, power and technology in the hands of those reluctant to work well with others has brought our planet’s richest nations to their knees

Youthful observers for time immemorial will remark about the varied ways that various countries have responded to this pandemic. Our world’s inability to work together will, I fear, be quite evident. For all our flamboyant hyper-connectivity, we have been made plainly aware of the disjointed, mistrustful and chaotic world order that has thus far thwarted efforts to flatten the curve.

In a time of personal darkness, the melancholic Minnesota poet Bob Dylan confessed, “In the fury of the moment I can see the master's hand… In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.” Dylan observes that we must accept pain and vulnerability as our human legacy.

The molecular reality is that the 50 nanometres SARS-CoV-2 virion is bigger than we are. In this hour of our greatest need, humanity is challenged to accept the salvation of humility.

According to Yale public health scholars, quarantine is one of the most ancient, most effective and most abominable methods of controlling communicable disease outbreaks. While in recent times the use of quarantine has been more humane and scientifically based, the historical association with exile and death and the morally negative connotation of sacrifice of a few for the benefit of others remain a reason to avoid quarantine as a default public health measure.

Quarantine and isolation are the most intrusive of public health powers. These harsh actions involve deprivation of an individual’s liberty in the name of public health. Although these civil liberties are protected by both universal a