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FEATURES
COVID-19 and its impact on a Global and Societal Scale
by Catherine Domingo Ong

As of 11 March 2020, The World Health Organization has officially declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic. What started out as a fast-growing virus across mainland China in the last quarter 2019, the number of confirmed cases has skyrocketed to more than 118,000 in over 114 countries and death cases have been recorded to 4,291.1 While the outbreak has slowed down in China, infections have now reached the shores of Europe (especially Italy), South Korea, the United States and Japan, among others.

With travel bans slowly, but surely, being implemented as the number of cases and fatalities began to climb. Many are advised to postpone their travel plans in the meantime and stay indoors as much as they could, the billion-dollar tourism sector has been inevitably impeded.

The potential loss for international airline companies was estimated at around $63 billion to $123 billion for this year, according to the International Air Transport Association. 2 Hotels, restaurants and other sectors of the entertainment trade have also been struck by decrease in revenues, as less people brave traveling in these high-risk times.

Analysts have not anticipated the spread of the virus to grow so quickly, as the impact on global society and economy fluctuated in drastic and incredible proportions. According to Stephanie Segal, a Senior Fellow, Simon Chair in Political Economy, the damage is dependent on the containment of the virus and the government’s response to it.

China, unfortunately was one of the first to take the biggest hit of all. “Early indications of COVID-19’s impact on the Chinese economy are worse than initially forecast,” Segal says. “The official data confirmed a widespread slowdown in economic activity foreshadowed in low pollution levels and depressed shipping traffic, among other informal barometers. As COVID-19 spreads, China’s economic recovery will be challenged as demand from other countries drops as they cope with the virus.”<3

The implications on the financial market was also damaging, resulting in volatile energy prices and stock exchange rates. Segal adds, “Overall, the index is down about 17 percent from its record high on 19 February 2020. Amid the equity rout, investors have fled to U.S. Treasury bonds, leading to record low yields. Low yields translate into low borrowing costs for the U.S. government, but low interest rates may not benefit private companies or individuals (or even all sovereigns) who may find financial markets too risk adverse to extend credit in light of such uncertainty. The longer the virus spreads, the more economic and company performance will be impacted, raising concerns about debt sustainability, especially for highly indebted countries and companies, absent official support.”3

Renowned medical and scientific experts across the world are racing against time to study the coronavirus strain and its predecessors. When the outbreak began, medical professionals and health front liners risk their lives and their own health to care for the escalating number of patients, rendering hospital beds, medication, disinfectants, and especially face masks, to be scarce and often unavailable versus the surging demand.

As more information surfaces about the virus, the symptoms they appear similar to the common flu, which include fever, cough, body aches, chills, fatigue, sometimes vomiting and loose bowel movement.4 Incubation period of the virus in the human body was found to be between 8-14 days, without any manifestation of the aforementioned symptoms until the fever breaks out. If someone infected is asymptomatic, and had interactions with other people, it may cause a ripple effect of infecting them as well.

A cure is yet to be found. One of the closest scientists had to a discovery was when Australian scientists were able to recreate the virus on 31 January 2020, bringing them a step closer to developing a specific vaccine for COVID-19 and hopefully to prevent affected patients from worsening their conditions. As of this time, the vaccine for coronavirus is still a work in progress.5

In the United States, there is anxiety over the lack of raw materials to run testing for coronavirus patients, as their confirmed cases has exceeded 500,000 as of 14 April 2020.6

South Korean authorities have set up drive-thru testing centres in designated areas where the procedure can be done to the passengers without leaving their cars. Once a passenger has tested positive, they would be placed in an isolated area immediately and observed for necessary treatment.7

Cautionary measures are being implemented, such as encouraging “social distancing” or avoiding crowded areas to prevent further transmission and potential infection. In the Philippines, the COVID-19 confirmed cases has reached a total of 52 and three recent deaths, as of 12 March 2020. At 8 p.m. on the same day, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte held a nation-wide press conference, declaring Metro Manila to be on a 30-day “community quarantine” starting from 15 March to 14 April 2020. As for non-residents of Metro Manila they are restricted to limited or no entry, with the exception of people working in the area. The president also advised the citizens to not panic and to keep their bodies healthy and appealed to the public to obey what the government is suggesting for them to do.8

Classes have been suspended; however, lessons could still be conducted online through social media, video call, group chat or live streaming. Businesses, on the other hand, can still run by setting contingency plans into place, giving staff flexible work-from-home arrangements to still be able to complete their tasks through online work spaces, emails and other secure electronic channels. It is fortunate that we live in a digital age where technological advancements afford us alternative avenues to customize to our routines.

On the brighter side of things, there are testimonies of affected patients that have recovered and became well enough to tell the tale. Connor Reed, a British national who works in a school in Wuhan, China, narrates his experience, while detained in his apartment for 40 days, due to the government-mandated lockdown in Wuhan. He recounts getting the flu initially and then it evolved into pneumonia, which he hasn’t gotten before, and so he went to the hospital to be admitted. The more difficult after-effect of the situation for him is that he is unable to go out and socialize, as he has done so before contracting the virus.9

As of the time of writing, the oldest person to recover from COVID-19 hail from China. Zhang Guangfen is 103 years old and spent six days in a hospital in Wuhan from 1 March 2020. Her doctor credited her quick recovery as she had no prior health conditions aside from mild bronchitis.10

Incidentally, also from Wuhan, a female baby born in February was diagnosed at 4 days old. Her mother had already tested positive, contracting COVID-19, and was suffering from a chest infection prior to giving birth. The baby, named XiaoXiao, was rushed to the neonatal unit of Wuhan’s Children Hospital, put in isolation and received 24-hour care. Even if her heart was a bit weak, she didn’t develop any symptoms of the disease and antibiotics did not need to be used. After two weeks, 17-day-old Xiaoxiao became the youngest patient to have been given a clean bill of health and discharged from the hospital after treatment from COVID-19, without the help of antiviral drugs.11

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore has declared as of 14 April 2020 the number of active cases to be 1,158, and 9 reported deaths.12 Thanks to the country’s “all government approach,” as World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus relayed, the spread of the disease has still be under control. Dr. Tedros has praised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s efforts of regularly communicating to the locals through videos explaining the current situation and reassuring them.13

The strike of coronavirus is bewildering and panic-inducing at the same time. What makes this virus even more thwarting is the disruption in our daily lives, as human beings are essentially social in nature. We thrive on our interpersonal relationships, and express affection through handshakes, kisses, hugs and just being generally comfortable with touch towards the people we are close to and interact with regularly. That is why “social distancing” can be a difficult concept to grasp for some.

While health officials strongly advise us to avoid such gestures, or at least limit them, for the time being, it is always best to take precautions. We can do our part in helping fight the spreading of the disease. If you are feeling under the weather, or generally unwell, it will be best to rest at home. Those who are unwell are encouraged to consult their doctor and wear a mask. They should also refrain from attending classes, or going to work until the symptoms have cleared. It wouldn’t hurt to instil the importance of proper hand-washing for ourselves, building up our immune system by forming healthy habits of eating balanced meals and exercising, and practicing sanitation and good hygiene at all times.

Reference

  1. WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, (11 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020
  2. IATA Updates COVID-19 Financial Impacts -Relief Measures Needed, (5 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/pr/2020-03-05-01/
  3. The Global Economic Impacts of COVID-19, (10 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.csis.org/analysis/global-economic-impacts-covid-19
  4. Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu, (n.d). Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu
  5. Coronavirus Vaccine Now More Possible to Create After Australian Scientists Copied the Virus, (31 January 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.techtimes.com/articles/247120/20200131/coronavirus-vaccine-now-more-possible-to-create-after-australian-scientists-copied-the-virus.htm
  6. The US is struggling to test more people for the coronavirus. Now it's facing a shortage of the materials used to run those tests, (12 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-testing-may-be-limited-by-shortage-of-materials-2020-3
  7. Positive Vibes | Drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers spring up in South Korea Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd1zv_Bhedw
  8. ABS-CBN News: WATCH: President Duterte addresses the nation on coronavirus actions | ABS-CBN News Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj_K7vy1qNg
  9. Channel 4 News: Coronavirus survivor reveals what it's like to have Covid-19 (10 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9oqvJ3iXGI
  10. Coronavirus: 103-year-old woman becomes oldest person to beat disease, (11 March 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/coronavirus-latest-103-year-old-woman-recovers-wuhan-hubei-china-a9393991.html
  11. Newborn baby diagnosed with coronavirus completely cured in 17 days without treatment, (25 February 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/newborn-baby-diagnosed-with-coronavirus-completely-cured-in-17-days-without-treatment/news-story/81bf885375bca8e939a28d1c23b033d3
  12. MOH: Updates on COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019) Local Situation: Retrieved from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19
  13. WHO praises Singapore’s containment of COVID-19 outbreak, (10 March 2020). Retrieved from:https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1239509/who-praises-singapores-containment-of-covid-19-outbreak?fbclid=IwAR1VCd10HYzSXF21tqAywx2akLzti3xOKJpy99_nKBhTC8ct0vGuxjjS2Tw

 

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