Minju Jung By: Minju Jung
Doctoral Researcher in Politics and International Relations
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14 Aug 2020 : A few thoughts on my life now in the pandemic, the normalisation of the COVID-19 situation and Russia's ‘Sputnik V’

1.       It has been a month since I posted a diary piece on this blog. I am getting slow in posting. I started posting a diary piece from the beginning of the pandemic, to express my confusions and concerns associated with this pandemic. Therefore, my slow postings may indicate that I have found some rhythm and stability in the virus situation. But, my life has been still somewhere between ‘order’ and ‘disorder’. 

On one hand, I have managed time to spend doing things that I can in my flat (many of the activities were conducted virtually though). I attended seminars, did my research, and wrote short pieces of writings. I caught up with my friends, and made new friends. I finally started working out to maintain my health (I got the pain as a result of sitting on the chair most of the day). I also have been enjoying my summer holidays, from time to time (it sounds strange). Hence, it seems that I have been managing my life pretty well: I work, socialise and take a break. 

But, from another perspective, my life is closer to ‘disorder’, or in a positive sense, it goes in a flexible manner. There is no definite working time. I eat when I’m hungry, and meet up with friends and work out on an irregular basis. Even, there is no fixed period for my summer holidays. I have justified my procrastination by claiming that I am on my holiday. 

It seems that my life has been, on one hand, under my control, but on the other hand, passively driven by the current pandemic situations. So, it has been somewhere between ‘activeness’ and ‘passiveness’, and between ‘order’ and ‘disorder’. 


2.        The virus, which was born in the globe, spread across the globe and in the end, literally, swallowed it. It has become a cliché, but very true that the pandemic exists in every part of our lives. Nothing can be discussed now without mentioning or relating to the virus. But I think that its presence is not the same as before. For example, although I take the pandemic seriously and am keen to hear of its developments, I find myself not as much conscious of the virus as I was when it was passing the first peak of the curve. It is my shame, because I am aware that the impact of the virus is still huge. I am pretty sure that I am not the only person who may feel guilty about it (although it does not help decrease my shame). 

Here is a contradiction: despite the circumstances where we should constantly consider the virus, we are getting less conscious of it, in practice. It is similar to our attitude towards climate change and neoliberalism. We are worried about an increasing number of typhoons and record high temperatures across the globe, but we do not pay serious attention to addressing climate change. In addition, we are concerned about the exploitive working environments, but we are not much interested in finding an alternative to replace social systems based on neoliberalism. It may not be because we are ignorant of the impacts of climate change and neoliberalism. But, perhaps, it may be because they are deeply embedded in our lives, so we have become very used to the given environment. As a result, we have become unaware of these fundamental problems that we should address to improve our lives. 

Perhaps, we have a similar attitude towards the pandemic. We seem to regard the virus as a constant thing in our lives. Over the past few months, we may have become accustomed to the virus situation and have normalised it. We are getting paid less attention to how to address the pandemic, but more interested in how to manage our lives around the pandemic, by dealing with the knock-on effects of the virus. We work hard to deal with high numbers of unemployment, summer holidays, education ‘in the pandemic situation’, instead of making every effort to end the pandemic. Given the circumstances, some people still refuse to wear a mask and are not worried about going to the beach crowded with people. Although many governments are facing difficulties in dealing with the impact of the pandemic, many of them pay less attention to the WHO’s ACT-Accelerator, and contribute to the global project less than their economic ability. 


3.        On August 11, Russia has announced that they succeeded in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. It became the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive national regulatory approval. I consider that Russia’s speedy approval of the vaccine, even ahead of its Phase 3 trial, indicates Russia’s anxiety with its influence in international politics. 

In this sense, I found the name of the vaccine interesting, ‘Sputnik V’, which shows, in a very vivid way, that Russia’s intention to present their superiority to the US. Russia may have wanted to regain its influence globally by developing the vaccine earlier than the US, like when it overwhelmed the US in the space race in the 20th century. Russia’s development of a vaccine can be seen as an explicit evidence of a fact that health is political, and in particular, global health issues can be used as a means of power, or power itself. It will be interesting to observe how the vaccine goes in terms of both the medical and the political perspective. 

I do not know for sure whether ‘Sputnik V’ can end in success, because it has already revealed safety and effectiveness issues. But, I hope that it is a success and saves many lives.

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