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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/28/20

A Covid-19 Update and an Unusual Consequence

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Message Arshad M Khan

It has to have been a different Christmas season this year. The spirit of Christmas, of goodwill, giving and sharing, may still reside in hearts but in muted expression when the key word that we will remember always is of course ... isolation.

Covid-19, the culprit responsible for all this, gave us a holiday season surprise in a new variant -- a different version of the virus. The UK reports a rapid increase of cases linked to it in London and southeast England. Scientists have identified changes to the spikes on the virus and other parts, which allow it to spread more easily although it does not affect the severity of the disease.

Evidence so far suggests the change is unlikely to affect vaccine efficacy. One can only hope it remains so, and life returns to some form of normalcy.

The EU, which has reported over 335,000 Covid-related deaths, has been quick off the mark. They have delivered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to all 27 member states and commenced vaccinations on Sunday. It has contracted to purchase more than 2 billion vaccine doses.

An unusual consequence of the epidemic is the treatment of activists jailed in India by the Modi government. Father Stan Swamy is an 83-year-old Jesuit priest who has long worked for Dalits, formerly called untouchables. Suffice to say their treatment in Indian society leaves a lot to be desired for they are the bottom of India's caste hierarchy.

At a Dalit rally in Bhima Koregaon village (located in Maharashtra in India's west) on January 1, 2018, sixteen activists, lawyers and poets were arrested. Father Swamy was one of them.

He suffers from Parkinson's and is unable to hold a cup without spilling the contents because of hand tremors. He therefore uses a sealed plastic drinking container with a straw. His jailers denied him his sipper and straw.

Outraged his supporters called for flooding Taloja jail with sippers and straws and #SippersForStan began trending on social media. Fortunately for the Jesuit priest the cumulative effect of the campaign secured him a sipper and straw.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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