Global Impact of Covid-19
Anmona Handique Mahanta
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
And an unprecedented pandemic of Covid-19 continues to rise! The toll has been ascending every single hour at a much faster rate showing no sign of descent in its trajectory, sweeping off the entire world with fear, anxiety, infections and deaths. For the first time in history, next to 2009’s H1N1 swine flu virus outbreak, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has left no stone unturned paralysing the normal routines and shaking the global economy. Close to almost 4,00,000 cases with a death toll close to 20,000 as on March 24, this virus, first identified in Wuhan, Hubei province in China in the month of November,2020 has become the biggest challenge that is grappling the entire world with uncertainty and anxiousness with 195 countries and territories affected. With time, Covid-19 confirmed cases has shown an exponential growth, especially since mid-February, with Italy acclaimed to be the new epicentre of the virus and recording the highest number of deaths outpacing China. At present, there are more than 60,000 confirmed cases in Italy.
Current pro-active measures!
From Asia to the Middle-East, Europe to the United States, borders have been tightened, quarantined measures have been adopted, lockdowns for days have been imposed, shops and restaurants have limited their scale of operations, employees are grounded with work from home culture and messages are publicly announced to maintain the trend of self-isolation and social distancing as much as possible. These are some of the common crucial measures taken by the most affected developed countries which are now being followed by some of the developing nations across the world to narrow down the spread of Covid-19 transmissions from person to person.
The pandemic on a rise in the developed nations!
Despite all these measures and precautions, the pandemic is not yet stabilized rather it has scaled up at a much faster rate in the recent days. Today, the USA occupies the third rank among the worst hit nations next to Italy with close to 50,000 confirmed cases; Spain, the second worst hit European Nation coming close to 40,000 followed by Germany and France, UK soar to nearing 7,000 confirmed cases, and Japan being another most developed nation is seen at an increasing pace from 900 to near about 1130 confirmed cases, so far. And it is quite uncertain, the situation could go adverse with time as the spread of transmission shows no sign of mercy. Out of all, after China, it is Italy and a few European nations that invaded stage-4 of the Covid-19 cycle, while many other European nations along with countries like the USA, the UK in Stage-3, while a developing country like India is anticipated to be on the verge of entering Stage-3 with its current dominance in the stage-2 cycle. Surprisingly, next to Italy, a whopping number of cases are being reported from some of the most developed nations like the USA, the UK with Spain, Germany leading the chain. Considering Japan, a country with the highest number of oldest populations in the world, the rise in infection rate is also a distress and a matter of concern in the coming days.
Every day we see the new cases in these countries changing in an hour with slight improvement in the recovery rates and unfair death rates. And here comes the question to why? Are these measures sufficient enough to deal with the current situation where the confirmed number of cases are increasing every minute and spreading across the world like wildfire? What these nations have been still ignoring that even the WHO experts have strictly called for execution? It is indeed a matter of concern as strikingly, at the same clocking hours we can see some remarkable achievements in an Asian country, achieving a drop in the number of confirmed cases which used to be another hotbed of Covid-19 a month ago.
South Korea’s model that won over Covid-19!
Yes, it is the country of South Korea which with its spearheading efforts has proved to be efficient enough to control the spread with reduction in the number of infected cases. It was barely two months ago, when South Korea started the execution of mass-scale testing criteria when it got its first four COVID-19 cases the very same day as in the USA (Source-Reuters). In the beginning of the corona outbreak, South Korea was one of the worst hit countries next to China. With its briskly vetted test centres across the country initially, it placed an army of 1,200 medical professionals on board and used smart concept to conduct the tests covering a large chunk of the population and analysed the test results in quick time. Model of drive through testing sites was adopted and still on process to detect as many cases as possible at the earliest. Thousands of people are tested daily by their Health officials, enabling the nation to test 20,000 tests per day with around 633 testing sites including drive through clinics and pop-up facilities and testing centers set up in front of the infected buildings (Source-Washington Post, 17th March, 2020). It is because of their quick response to the outbreak with intensive testing and monitoring even to the asymptomatic cases, that has helped the country to tackle the new cases which has reduced to only 74, down from 909 cases (as on 29th February, 2020) that happened to be on a single day. South Korea, a country with 50 million population has tested today around 3,00,000 people which amounts to more than 5,700 tests per million inhabitants. With its outstanding innovative stance at the right time, as also acclaimed by WHO, by now, the country is producing 100,000 kits per day and is in talks to export to 17 other foreign nations (Source-https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/world/asia/coronavirus-south-korea-flatten-curve.html). In fact, South Korea has already exported around 51,000 coronavirus medical kits to the UAE and is currently on demand in the world as a provider of Covid-19 medical supplies (Source- Arab News). Sources reported that with its well implemented testing regime, the country can serve as a role model of hope to rest of the countries especially at the time of soaring cases in Italy and Spain followed by other developed nations which are crawling on the verge of terrible infected cases.
The basic mistake of other nations!
“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded … test, test, test”- the recent outburst of the Director General of WHO, who has criticized the countries on their uncontrollable rise in confirmed cases not prioritizing the importance of testing and turning a blind eye till the eleventh hour. So, is this the major gap between South Korea and the rest of the countries in dealing with this pandemic? Are these nations not aware of the cost of being this careless in the wake of this global issue? Or being the most privileged nations with the world class health facilities they are on the hope that with mere precautions and ignoring the real solution they can tackle it? Ignorance was then and yet on process, despite the awful scenario of Italy, who is failing to cope with the weight of the pandemic each day.
Yes, the process of mass scale testing has been neglected by these countries and is a matter of concern for the citizens due to the much delayed and fragile approach of their respective governments. Testing in these countries are yet carried out on limitations on certain criteria, which is very low as compared to the rate in South Korea. Either people with severe symptoms or those hospitalized are being scrutinized and the rest are devoid of test even with mild symptoms. For instance, in the USA, medical staff waited till the last minute until the infected cases skyrocketed and hospital beds got overcrowded which made them set stringent testing criteria for the citizens. (Source- https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/17/south-koreas-coronavirus-success-story-underscores-how-us-initially-failed/). Off late, US has carried out around 1 lakh tests. It has also been reported that many states of US have replicated the model of South Korea’s pop-up facilities but the processes are carried out unevenly with US being able to grab only a fraction of what South Korea has achieved so far, as already the virus has invariably spread to many major cities. (https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing). While in UK, the scenario is similar, where only around 100 tests were conducted per day with tight testing criteria, catering only to the symptomatic persons and suggested self-isolation to the ones with mild symptoms. The UK so far have tested around 60,000 people and now, hopes to expand to 250,000 tests per month (Source- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/17/testing-for-coronavirus-what-being-done-in-uk) . On the same note, a developed nation like Japan has done only around 14,000 tests so far (as on 21st March) with respect to the rising number of cases. (Source-ourworldindata.org). But again, the exercise of South Korea is absent in this country too. Today, Japan has near to 1,500 confirmed cases with around 41 deaths. But sources pointed out that lesser tests conducted is the reason of Japan’s lesser number of confirmed cases, despite its close proximity to South Korea and China, and having the highest oldest population in the world (Source-http://theconversation.com/coronavirus-in-japan-why-is-the-infection-rate-relatively-low-133648). Hence, every nation especially the badly hit ones, should take the model of South Korea as a lesson in this utmost hour of epidemic, ignoring the ignorance as also suggested by a few Experts and strongly warned by the Director of WHO to all. Although, it is late comparative to what South Korea did, but in the long run to control the spread before it gets out of hand, it is the only way out and that is “test and early detection and deporting to specialist centers, thereby, making rooms for the anticipated patients in the hospital with respect to their conditions scaling down the cases to minimum and then zero”. And this is what South Korea exactly executed which is also been followed by Taiwan, adopting mass scale testing procedures in the right time narrowing down the cases to a much stable state. Taiwan records around 215 cases (as on 24rth March) with 2 deaths only.
Probable repercussions could be!
Hypochondriasis (fear that existing physical symptoms may be the result of an undiagnosed disease) and food insecurity could be some of the probable repercussions in the near future leading to more chaos. Yes, it is a global pandemic of 21st century that has grappled the world not only with infections but also with the underlying anxiety either while going through the isolation cycle or denial to the right approach when experienced with mere symptoms. Because that hidden fear can make anyone go through delusion of already being infected while catching cold or a cough, as the virus is communicable. In fact, it is another fear of suspicion on others, caught with the mildest symptoms for we do not know who the carriers are! We as citizens still continue to access supermarkets for groceries or other such public platforms that are inevitable for daily use and needs. But again, we do not know who the carrier is once we are out of the house. As such, test is the utmost need of the hour.
Food security including essentials is indeed a great matter of concern, as we can see the long queues that’s happening terribly in the most developed nations after the shortage of sanitizers, masks and toiletries. Although, now in US, Canada time slots are restricted as per age categories but yet, there is no restriction on purchasing amounts. Every Government should immediately take necessary steps to stop these hoarding tendencies of the citizens to save food security and timely availability of the essentials like sanitary pads, and toiletries at these crucial phases before it turns into another catastrophe. Examples from South Korea and China can be taken regarding self-production of important essentials to meet up the gaps which would also help to boost the economy of the small businesses/retailers which are currently at risk with a declining economy.
Covid-19 is a battle like any battle we fought when there was an epidemic, in the history and we can definitely, defeat it, if the Governments take the righteous decision and civil awareness is alert and awake to combat the current disaster. A country like India with 1.3 billion population should also be ready and prepared by now with the efficient health care facilities first, that we are deprived of today, and absence or lack of its availability at the right time can cause us a great cost for life.