Hardly a day goes by without hearing the word “Coronavirus” from people all around us. Scrolling through social media applications, there it is; switching to a different TV Channel, there it is. Since the pandemic unleashed hell on our planet in the form of deaths, threat and rumors, Coronavirus is the new controversial celebrity. And NO! Corona beer is not linked to Coronavirus outbreak.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is an umbrella term for a group of lethal viruses that can cause diseases like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and now, in early 2020, after December 2019 outbreak in China, The WHO (The World Health Organization) named the novel coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) that is causing the disease called COVID-19. (CO stands for corona, VI is for virus, D is for disease and the 19 is for 2019, the year the disease first appeared in China.)
Coronaviruses are named after their appearance. When examined under electron microscope, one can observe they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.
WHEN? WHERE? HOW?
“In late 2019, somebody at the now world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, was infected with the virus from bat in the form of delicacy” is what almost every single person has fixed in the mind but there is uncertainty about this story. The fact that the virus has infected a tiger in a New York zoo shows how viruses can move around between species. Scientists say it is highly likely that the virus came from bats but first passed through an intermediary animal like the other coronavirus – the 2002 SARS outbreak – moved from horseshoe bats to cat-like civets before infecting humans. One animal implicated as an intermediary host for novel coronavirus is the Pangolin, “the most illegally traded mammal in the world.” Another possibility is that a descendent of the virus attacked a human and then adapted in the human body as it was passed to others. Scientists are trying hard to unravel it because “Knowing how a pandemic start is the key to stop the next one.”
First COVID-19 case was in mid-November in Wuhan, but the government did not act up and was in denial for a significantly long time. On 30 December, Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan, sounded the alarm and released evidence online. Li was punished for “spreading rumors” and died from the disease five weeks later. The samples in labs of China were destroyed and all the information was hushed up until 20 January, when the situation went out of control and videos of people dropping on street of Wuhan got viral, did China admit that the human-to-human transmission of virus was taking place and confirmed about the cases happening in the city. By then, the disease had already travelled across the world and it was a little too late!
Symptoms of COVID-19
Early symptoms include:
- Wash handsoften with soap and water/ an alcohol-based sanitizer every now and then.
- Practice social distancing or stay at least 6 feet away from others.
- Cover your nose and mouth in public by wearing a mask.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Coronaviruses can live on surfaces for several hours. Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch often, like doorknobs, tables, light switches, faucets, sinks etc.
- Self-quarantine: Stay home.
- Call the doctor if you have a fever, cough, and trouble breathing as soon as possible.
- Follow your doctor’s advice and keep up with the news on COVID-19.
There is no cure or vaccine for this coronavirus yet but scientists are working on it and development of an effective coronavirus vaccine has gathered pace this week as the clinical trials of potential vaccine on people were approved in Germany and also launched in the UK.
The havoc it created!
As of April 23, 2020, 183,803 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 spreading all around the world with 2,601,774 confirmed cases, touching every continent except Antarctica. This was a pandemic spreading like fire causing global concern, well before the World Health Organization finally declared it one on 11 March. However, 674,413 people have recovered from the illness.
Throughout the history, no natural disaster or war has killed such a large number of people all around the world ever before. As terrifying as it is, it took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide, but it took less than week for the number to double from 500,000 to one million!
As of 23 April, The state of New York has more confirmed cases than anywhere else in the world with 15,000 deaths in New York City alone.
Spain has more than 213,000 confirmed cases – the second highest global figure – while Italy has the second highest death toll of more than 25,000.
US, by far, has the largest number of cases with more than 840,000 confirmed cases that is more than ten times the number of cases reported in China. UK has more than 18,000 deaths. Spain, Italy and France or the worst-hit European countries have death tolls up to 20,000 and still rising.
Governments across the world have halted flights, locked down cities and towns and urged people to stay at home. From Argentina to New Zealand and from Saudi Arabia to South Africa, cities were shut down, restricting people from leaving their houses except for essential services. India told the country’s 1.3 billion residents to stay at home and has more than 23,000 cases and more than 700 deaths.
More than 4.5 billion people – half the world’s population – are estimated to be now living under social distancing measures to slow the pandemic. (according to the AFP news agency)
The UN World Food Program has warned that pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering from acute hunger.
The changes made by the crisis:
The long, hard battle against the novel coronavirus will be won sooner or later but a lot of changes have already occurred that nobody signed up for but now the future that lies ahead of us is different than the version we had in our minds before we stepped into this unpredictable pandemic.
Stroll down the memory lane, did it ever occur to you that you will be asked to isolate yourself for your safety as well as of your loved ones for so long? Ever imagined that you will get the vacation from school or work that you have been craving for since forever and still not be thrilled about it? Who knew thousands of lives would be lost and thousands will be on stake all over the world in such a short period of time?
There are more than a million confirmed cases and the outbreak is yet to reach its peak across the emerging world but apart from the tragic human toll, coronavirus has also caused incalculable damage to the social, economic and political conditions all over the world. A wave of changes is going to shape our world for years to come. There is one thing, however, that almost all health shocks have in common: they hit the poorest and the most vulnerable the hardest.
Prevention is better than cure ergo no more greetings!
While preventing the unbearable consequences of getting infected from the lethal virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all the people to go for an “Elbow bump” over the handshakes while greeting but now it has altogether narrowed down to no greetings seeing the level of crisis as it unfolded in front of our eyes. People have been asked to maintain social distancing or maintain 6 feet distance from all the other people and have been asked not to leave their houses except for essential needs like groceries and medicines.
Politicians across the spectrum responded to the novel coronavirus and as a result the 2020 presidential primaries have been pushed into uncharted territory. Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming, as well as Puerto Rico have postponed their primaries with more expected to follow. However, in Wisconsin they went on as planned to the dismay of many on April 7.
Campaign events for 2020 candidates have been halted and Donald Trump’s campaign has shifted all current events online to avoid huge crowd and switch to virtual ones.
Economy/ international relations
According to the International Monetary Fund, the world should be prepared for the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.
Unemployment in the U.S. has reached staggering numbers with the speed of light. More than 16 million people filed weekly jobless claims over a three-week period in late March and early April. As the pandemic continues and the business remains shuttered, it is getting worse especially for the U.S. labor market.
A big shift has been observed in the stock markets that can affect the value of pensions or individual savings accounts (ISAs). Dow Jones Industrial Average, the FTSE and the Nikkei have already seen huge falls.
Central banks have slashed interest rates in many countries to make borrowing a little cheaper and help in boosting economy. Demand for oil has been hit hard due to the lockdown driving the price down. The price of Brent crude (the benchmark used by the whole world) dipped below $20- the lowest level seen in 18 years.
One virus could affect the economy to the extent of a full-scale meltdown that it is difficult to predict how long before they can recover to pre-crisis level. “The changes could be immense but also unpredictable” said the analysts. We are witnessing an event that is the deciding factor for the reshaping of the international relations and relations among the states.
To battle the outbreak, even the most democratic and liberal societies had to restrict civil liberties and close their borders for foreseeable future.
A lot is dependent on how the national economies would withstand the crisis and the performance of governments in tackling the threat. China has quelled the outbreak while US President Donald Trump underestimated the seriousness of crisis in the early stage resulting in a full-scale crisis in the US. The official figures from India are far less grim than in West, keeping in mind the total number of people residing in the nation and the percentage of those who are affected among them, but as it is a developing country and India’s doctor-patient ratio (0.7 physicians per 1000 persons) is behind the WHO prescribed ratio (1:1000), there is anxiety that a much worse condition is likely to be seen in future if things are not handled with utmost seriousness and care. The wealthiest powers in the world will somehow turn things around to keep the economy ticking even during the crisis and compensate for the loss by resuming economic activities quickly afterward but in developing or poor countries there is no such masterplan and the deprivation risk is driving people onto the street, protests and much more that have their own shortcomings. The widespread social unrest in countries where a social safety net is missing for those losing their jobs due to crisis have threatening repercussions. Countries like Russia and Turkey would be hoping that their measures are strong enough to spare them the lethal consequences resulting in accelerating deglobalization in the wake of crisis.
The European Union, in the year when it wanted to show solidarity for Brexit, has been sorely tested and is far from feeling the heat now. The G20, chaired by Saudi Arabia, struggled to make itself heard. The global system appears somewhat weakened due to the crisis and not being able to manage the crisis is raising questions on legitimacy granted to the international institutions.
In the wake of the pandemic, few industries have fallen as far and as fast as tourism as an after-effect of the lockdown and isolation. Due to the technological revolution and globalization, the travel and tourism industry used to bloom as a cherry tree, the revolution fueling one billion trips a year- is now helpless. The airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tourism and online travel agencies (OTAs) have been hit hard by the pandemic. It would take a while before the travel industry can get back to its feet. Although China has started to overcome the plummeting air-travel demand six weeks (42 days) after the lockdown in Wuhan.
The World Travel and Tourism Council projects a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue. As on April 2, British Airways is poised to suspend 36,000 staffers.
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 advisory, the strongest of the department, also known as Do Not Travel advisory for all the international travel since March 31.
But Andy Atkins-Kruger, Group CEO at WebCertain said that “I’m absolutely convinced that travel will bounce back faster than anyone believes. I believe that consumers will surprise us with urgent desire to get back to travel, seeing their annual holiday as a right to keep their lives on track and will be prepared to pay for it.”
People headed to stores for panic-buying and decided to stock up the moment they heard about the lockdown. Sales of several products like sanitizers and medical face masks rose at least 50% higher on Amazon.
“When people are in need of things to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, merchants should follow the Golden rule and not money” said Adam Garber, the Public Interest Group’s education fund consumer watchdog.
Closed schools and offices
The pandemic has resulted in a significant change in educational systems worldwide. Keeping in mind the safety of people as a priority has led to the closure of schools, universities, colleges as well as offices.
According to Education week, at least 55.1 million students have been impacted due to shutting down of schools. Tele-schooling and online classes have been adopted so that there is no academic loss reshaping the way global education is being delivered. The offices are also adopting “The work from home” strategy for the safety of workers. Meetings are being held online by video conferencing. As a result, shares in technology companies like Zoom have shot up. The demand for online shopping has soared and on the other hand Amazon’s share price has hit new highs.
There is a possible bandwidth shortage in near future, as people when at home, use internet heavily. Internet breakdown is highly predicted by the tech experts. Especially for a country like India where average internet speed is close to a MEGABYTE = 8 MEGA bits/second and this is when nearly 30% of the active internet connections are using the internet and now that more than 500 million users use it together the effective speed is likely to get affected. Some countries have 5g infrastructure as well as full functionality of the same but for a country where one of the highest 4g download speeds is close to 21 megabytes per second that is below the lowest when compared to international standards (Some of the lowest 5g speeds, on cellular network is close to a 100 megabytes/second), the shortage may take place.
Fear and anxiety
With day-to-day life at a standstill, anxiety and stress around the disease and heightening of the same in the future is a very big concern according to Dr. Anne Maria Albano, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University. What all the people need to understand is keeping a check on anxiety and taking care of yourself is the productive approach while letting the stress overpower leads to the problematic outcomes, exaggerating the risks to your health as well as the people around you. There is a growing evidence of increased prevalence of psychological problems (stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse) and feelings of burnout among medical professionals all over the world
We are all grieving for loss of something be it income, mental health or even just normalcy and we only have each other. Whatever one has lost be it major or mundane, the feelings are real and valid but when this is all over, we will rejoice and celebrate together until then we must stay strong and together. After all, if we are surrounded by our loved ones (family), have food in our tummy and roof over our head we’re umpteen times luckier than the others stuck alone or hungry in this pandemic. We are all in this together! Stay home and stay strong.
Wildlife roaming free while humans isolate
While humans are self-isolating, animals are taking this opportunity to roam all around the urban areas like never. In Northern India, a herd of deer was caught on camera on the streets of Haridwar while a wild boar spotted in the center of Barcelona, Spain.
This year will almost certainly see a much lower toll for roadkill by cars and trucks, which – in the UK alone – annually takes the lives of about 100,000 hedgehogs, 50,000 badgers, 30,000 deer and 100,000 foxes and many other animals. There is a growing call for a global ban on “Wet markets”. Dolphins were seen on the coast in Mumbai, India after a long time. Except for the animals getting infected like a tiger at Bronx Zoo and some strays going hungry, wildlife all over the world are finally seeking a little relief.
The crisis not only throws light on the fundamental reality but also lays bare the reality about where the power lies, what the people treasure and what they fear. The haunting cases are the proofs about how broken the system or society is. There are countless examples in that area from all around the world like policemen firing people for being outside during lockdown, people threatening the frontline healthcare workers who are fighting against the pandemic like soldiers on the borders, risking their own lives and many more. This rip opens the fabric of reality. We can see the glimpses of the possibilities and the kind of world that lies ahead of us.
But there are always two sides to a story- the loss and the gains always coexist.
Mother Nature is healing!
One silver lining to the current global crisis is the environmental relief like better air quality all over the world due to the drop in pollution because of the lockdown and bringing emission of smoke from industries, vehicles, factories etc. to a halt, giving the planet much-needed respite. China, Italy, UK, Germany and many other countries are experiencing a fall in Nitrogen dioxide and Carbon dioxide of as much as 40% which is, for the moment, temporary. Seismologists reported lower vibrations from “cultural noise” with less human movement calming down the planet. The price of oil has slumped almost two-thirds since last year. This is potentially good news for the climate because oil is the biggest source of the carbon emissions heating the planet and disrupting weather systems. Now it is all on humans to make sure when the global economies resume as before, we do it right this time and not let pre-coronavirus level of harmful emission and environmental conditions return. It is a wake-up call for us.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, regularly disinfecting the surfaces like the sink, doorknobs etc. in homes and the whole building in the offices as a protective measure and as a result, people have now developed a habit of maintaining better hygienic conditions among themselves that is going to help in the long run.
Quality time with family and some serious realizations
Spending time with family members has become the most common practice followed by everyone like never. The old days of playing indoor games like Carrom, Chess, Ludo etc. with the family are back. and the realization of the extent of things we have been taking for granted- the company of our friends, self-company, work-life, the fresh air we used to breathe in and the right to move freely. People are feeling sympathetic and finally helping others, some by lending essentials to neighbors while others donating money.
COVID-19, a deadly but in a way truly democratic virus propelled by the conviction that all men are created equal and should be equal irrespective of the cultural, social or economic differences.
The Conspiracy theories spreading with the spread of the virus
Pandemics have always been the breeding grounds for the conspiracy theories from anti-Semitic hysteria during Black Death to the present pandemic of COVID-19. We hear about conspiracies all the time but digging deeper comes into play when it comes to keeping a check to differentiate between the information and misinformation. The world is in danger as the number of coronavirus infections or deaths due to COVID-19 are continuously rising at a very alarming rate but in addition to that, the pandemic has been accompanied by an infodemic of half-truths, misinformation and conspiracy theories that have been spreading virally especially through social networking sites that are as harmful as the virus itself. The credibility and source of information plays a significant role. The mere fact that the myth that COVID-19 is less dangerous than seasonal flu was deployed by the US President Donald Trump himself shows the extent of harm it can cause worldwide. New conspiracy theories are flooding all over the internet out of which some make sense while others are bizarre pieces of misinformation. There is a theory that tells that COVID-19 is nothing but a weapon made by China to meddle with the economies of all the different nations and become the superpower while the other theory blames COVID-19 on the 5G broadband system, claiming 5G alters the DNA and immune system of people and helps the virus to thrive!
There is also another strain of this theory that secret messages about 5G and coronavirus were hidden in the design of new notes in the UK. This story was originated in early March when Thomas Cowan, an American physician, proposed it on YouTube video and people believed it and they started setting 5G towers in UK on fire and threatening the broadband engineers. Although 5G relates to bank notes and viruses as much as the fairy tales are related to Zoology- not at all, yet the conspiracy theories are strong enough to stimulate the vulnerable people out there. It is in the list of those stories that are senseless enough to open the eyes of the readers/ listeners that there is no ultimate check for such pieces of information before they reach people so questioning the sources and logic is a necessity.
The coronavirus pandemic is nothing but a test. It is a test of medical capacity, religious faith, strength and endurance. It is a test where all the humans stand who take whatever they want from the glorious planet and give a little thought to what they leave behind. It is mother nature’s way of reminding us “Who is the boss”- once in a century, a pause button is hit and then reset, we resume our lives again but when will we learn? When the lockdown will be finally lifted, do you think you will be able to get out of your home the way you used to, before witnessing the pandemic? Will human beings be able to put this loss behind them and move on with their lives or are they now stuck with this bad taste in their mouths forever?
Do not forget to check our next post about more interesting and jaw-dropping conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus pandemic.