The Politics of COVID -19: Stories from Mongolia

By Solongo Otgonbayar

The COVID crisis, it goes without saying, is one of the worst that we have encountered in our lifetimes so far. It has cut swathes all across the globe, affecting each and every one of us. So far, the vaccines are still in the pipeline, hence, we still have to bear against it. Personally, I probably haven’t been hit that hard by the consequences of the pandemic in comparison to many others. I still have my job though unsure about how I’ll be able to keep it till the end of this year; some of my co-workers have been laid off, and my work hours have been nearly doubled. It’s not just the uncertainty of the economy that is looming over us. Months of quarantine and social distancing have taken a toll on our mental health. 

Apart from that, travelers and students studying overseas are facing great inconveniences; some of them are still stuck, unable to return home. In my home country Mongolia, due to the international travel restrictions and long public holidays, most Mongolians flocked to the countryside, which isn’t bad on its own. However it has led to littering and polluting the countryside which isn’t very welcoming. I’ve also observed that people are not shopping as much as they usually do, which may be due to the social distancing norms, but I feel that the financial crunch that so many of us find ourselves in could be another contributing reason, in the wake of the virus. 

These are truly exigent circumstances. And they say that times like this, hard times, either bring the best or worst in us. A lot of us have been the former – we have donated money, volunteered or done our bit to help combat the virus and help people. However, some of us have also caved in to fear- which has driven us to spread rumors and hatred – it is not rare to find people on social media exchanging insults and blaming each other for the spread and origin of the virus. 

This blame game isn’t just limited to online conversations between individuals. COVID has been politicized. Nations, states and leaders are trying to turn the situation in their favor, which is appalling because the one big lesson to learn from this pandemic is that we are all interconnected; what is happening thousands of miles away also affects us, and our actions and decisions affect everybody around us- near and far. The whole world is an interconnected web, and so we must empathize with one another, act responsibly; someone else’s problem is also our problem, and our problem is also their problem. This should have been the response. But I feel that the opposite has happened. Having said that, we still have time. In fact, we are anything but close to getting out of this COVID conundrum. Cooperation, on the international and societal level, is very much the need of the hour. None of us know when the virus will be over and how it will be over, but we know for certain, that the only way to deal with it is by acting together.

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