The town of Oran in Camus’ text is a breeding ground for an epidemic. The money-mindedness of the townspeople, and the culture of working, living and dying in the same manner, described as “feverish yet casual,” along with the shallow social interactions, create the ideal atmosphere for a plague to settle in just as comfortably as the people in the town. The sense one gets is that of indifference towards health, both mental and physical, as everyone’s “chief aim in life… is ‘doing business.’” It is easy for readers to imagine such a tragedy as an epidemic striking Oran without its inhabitants noticing its severity and gravity, as they don’t seem to be the type of people who notice the severity or gravity of anything. The author has, thus, used this passage to set the town of Oran up as an easy target, but not an unpredictable one.
Similarly, COVID-19 can be seen as a symptom of the larger structural issues in our world. A new report by the UNEP called “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic Diseases and How to Break the Chain of Transmission” addresses how much of the human activity in recent years has laid the foundations for the current pandemic, which is very similar to what happened in Oran. The rapid urbanization, advancements in the expansion of cities and increased industrialized agriculture have been considered to be some root causes of the pandemic. While many people are quick to address symptoms of the pandemics – e.g., close contact for COVID-19 and rats for the plague – root causes remain largely ignored. Further outbreaks will continue to occur unless we address the underlying phenomenon. For some reason in both Camus’ text and the real world, we seem hesitant to, for that would require a 180 shift from our comfortable lifestyles.