COVID-19 Pandemic – Resetting the World
Updated: May 20, 2021
Our world as we know it is changing in ways we didn’t see coming. Changes that are altering healthcare delivery, the economy, work and learning spaces as well as human relationships within and across borders. No thanks to Covid-19, a zoonotic virus that found its way into a human host and altered history forever. Little did we know that a looming health concern in far away Wuhan China will have its play across the globe and change the norm of our lives.
Covid-19 is also named SARS-CoV-2 acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus-2. This name stems from the morphology of the virus as well as the characteristic respiratory difficulties it causes. Covid-19 infection was first documented in Wuhan China when recurrent cases were encountered by health workers in December 2019. Though SARS-CoV-2 is a novel virus, it belongs to a family of Corona viruses that have been around for a while. In fact, there are many types of Corona viruses however, they mostly affect animals. Only a few of these are known to affect humans, primarily through cross infection from animal sources. Corona viruses known to have infected humans and caused notable mortalities in the past include the SARS-CoV which reportedly originated in Guangdong China in 2002 and the MERS-CoV which originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Both are known to have caused varying degrees of respiratory illnesses and mortalities. Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) as well as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are all strains of the Beta Corona virus.
One becomes infected with Covid-19 when contact is made with an infected person’s nasal or oral droplets which is released when they cough, sneeze, yawn, sing or talk. These droplets are also contagious when contact is made with surfaces where they land. Research suggests that virulent droplets can remain contagious for up to 72 to 20 hours depending on the surface type. Infection with Covid-19 has five known presentations which varies from person to person. A person can transit from one phase or presentation to another or recover fully in one phase. These include asymptomatic presentation, mild presentation, moderate presentation, severe presentation and critical presentation. The severe and critical phases cause a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). An infected person with ARDS requires external breathing assistance via the use of a ventilator to breath and be able to provide enough oxygenation to the body to avoid worsening disease and death. Having too many patients in this state overwhelms the health system because of the unprecedented number of people requiring ventilators and specialist care. You will find more on the symptoms and presentations here.
The notion that a virus can cause such a large disruption to our daily lives has led many to conjure conspiracy theories linking Covid-19 infection to the advent of the 5G network as well the beginning of the antichrist. Quite preposterous you may say nonetheless, this virus has shown how something seemingly insignificant can wreak havoc far and wide. Some countries have already admitted to underestimating the virus which unfortunately has led to dire consequences such as we see in the United States and Italy. Those who rose up to the challenge quick enough have made considerable progress in curbing the contagion - South Korea and Norway being good examples. Still, the number of newly infected persons as well as number of deaths continue to rise globally with the United States of America, Italy and Spain being the worst hit. Currently (11/04/2020), there are over 1.7 million cases worldwide with more than one hundred thousand deaths recorded. Sadly, the number of infection and mortality continue to rise daily.
So far, experience and available research has shown us that our best shot at beating Covid-19 in the first instance is to do seemingly simple things relating to hygiene and social consciousness. From the trajectory of spread of infectious diseases; we either allow the virus take its natural course whereby, people develop natural immunity to the virus or require medical intervention (which will overwhelm the health system and cause many deaths) or spread out the rate of infection to ‘flatten the curve” by limiting spread of the disease so that less people get infected at the same time and are at better odds of receiving urgent medical care consequently, have a better chance of survival. This appears to be the viable solution until a cure or vaccine is available.
The World Health Organization (WHO) along with other health bodies have recommended guidelines towards curbing the spread of the virus through different preventive measures, you will find them here.
Whilst these recommendations appear simple, they have proven to curb the spread of Covid-19 infection in places where they have been conscientiously observed. A vivid example is in Wuhan, China where the virus originated. The province has since recorded zero incidence rates among the local population and has gone ahead to gradually and cautiously restore normal activities.
Centuries ago, the bubonic plaque, tuberculosis, Spanish flu and cholera (to mention a few), killed people in the millions and altered history indelibly. Those were dark days when the world had little going in terms of scientific and technological advancement. Thankfully, the world has since evolved with advancement in medicine, science, technology and commerce. Surely, history mustn’t repeat itself in our time. No one wants to imagine what is sure to happen had we no ventilators and intensive care specialists who have ensured that critical patients are kept alive to survive the infection. Hopefully, we will emerge from this pandemic with mortalities and loss that pale in comparison with what history portends.
Remarkably, significant patterns are beginning to emerge as we observe how nations, communities and organizations respond to the pandemic - giving us insights on how leaders, politicians and health organizations handle this dire crisis. The true values and character of politicians and world leaders are becoming apparent. Healthcare systems and facilities that are paltry are having their secrets out in the open and seeing a pressing need for change. In countries with emerging or less developed economies the direct and indirect effect of the pandemic is projected to cause even more devastating outcomes; here, curbing the pandemic is even more complex.
Already, countries in Africa are having to weigh between enforcing a lock down and allowing their many citizens who rely on daily income cautiously go about their daily business. India, a population of over 1.3 billion citizens where a sizable number grapple with unfavourable living and work conditions offers another example. In these places, strictly observing the lockdown rules is simply unattainable. Already its poorest citizens are returning en masse to their rural regions in order to avoid the hardship that is bound to follow. In these countries, means of disease prevention and economic support must be sought and implemented for the overall good of the people.
It’s not all bad news with this pandemic as it is becoming apparent that some newness is emerging, and these are good things. For one, it appears that the world is resetting itself and mother earth is purportedly “breathing better” with remarkably less air pollution along with its consequent effect on global warming. Possibly, mother earth is finding a way to heal herself. In addition, people are finding the time to reflect on the most important things in life that have hitherto been neglected. In essence, humans are also resetting their minds - reflecting on the importance of relationships and finding new meanings to life.
The world is seeing the need for solidarity rather than division while at the same time, individuals are made to play their role in ensuring their wellbeing and those of others by behaving responsibly and adhering to preventive and safety guidelines. Everything we know as the norm is being challenged and I hope we are the better when it all passes. I am hopeful that humanity will emerge stronger and better. Stay safe for indeed better days are coming!
Dr. Anne Olowu is a Public Health Physician and Health Promotion Expert. She is founder at AnneAide Consulting and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.