Novel coronavirus pandemic and some considerations
Novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, which has not been previously unidentified in humans, has already turned to be a pandemic affecting more than 590000 in more than 190 countries. Till date, total global death toll is more than 27000, with the highest number in Italy, followed by Spain, China, Iran, France and the USA. What is more, novel coronavirus--a new strain but a type of a large family of Coronavirus-- is much stronger than usual corona virus, has higher multiplication rate and is infecting rapidly with increased death tolls around the world. If infections of this virus continue in the days ahead, situations will undeniably worsen. Under such a context, it is really a cause of serious concern for all across the world.
Of course, pandemic is not new in the world. Indeed, the globe has experienced pandemic and epidemic diseases for numerous times in the history. In 165 AD, the Antonine Plague -- one of the ancient pandemics -- severely affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy and killed over five million people. Some other notable pandemics and epidemics include cholera, tuberculosis, Smallpox, Typhus, Ebola virus disease, MERS, SARS, Zika virus disease and HIV/AIDS. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of people in different areas of the globe were died on account of such pandemics or epidemics. The recent most novel coronavirus, which initially affected Wuhan, Hubei province of China in 2019, has in the mean time made Europe its epicentre and is affecting other regions.
Different countries, organizations and individuals have already taken various steps, which are broadly preventive and reflect social-model approach that requires social response and medical treatments rather than medical-model approach that refers to only medical treatment of a disease, to fight the outbreak of highly contagious corona-virus infections, which spread from person to person by infecting nose, eyes or mouth through cough, sneezing, touches, etc. of infected persons. Measures taken so far can be rendered from public health perspective as primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.
Usually, primary prevention indicates prevention before its occurrence, secondary one refers to early diagnosis and treatment to prevent from getting worse, and, finally, tertiary one indicates giving treatments to and management of a patient severely affected by a disease or viral infection.
But a relevant question remains on whether steps taken so far can effectively prevent and control the outbreak across the world. Given limited knowledge of the new virus, its increased strength for quick multiplication and spread, lack of vaccine or medicines, etc, such a question is very relevant.
Also, health infrastructural, financial and human and other resources based variations can make some countries more capable, others moderately capable and still others less capable of effectively fighting against the virus. Indeed, some Asian, South American and African countries can find more difficulty if outbreaks occur compared with other countries including China, Korea, the USA and European countries.
To effectively fight the virus across the world, there is no alternative to both national and global response. Surely, national initiatives are more important. At national level, overall response requires expected roles of not only health sector but also others such as other related departments, political leaders, religious leaders, non-government organizations, private organizations, mass media and individuals.
As already initiated by some severely affected countries, overall response --as per social model approach--focuses on all three types of preventions covering a range of aspects including awareness on the modes of transmission and ways of prevention of potential infection, home and self-quarantine, feasible and quick testing facilities, availability of test kits, effective suspect tracking system, best possible supportive treatments to identified persons and responsible behaviours of infected and uninfected.
Even if some significant steps are varyingly in place, South East Asian countries and some other countries, which have not yet been severely affected, need to take drastic measures to fight the pandemic because of the potential to be affected, relatively less developed health system--especially to the threats of the new virus--and some other related factors. In this regard, strong coordination of overall public response is to be given special emphasis in such countries.
Along with strong national COVID-19 response committee, which is in place in some countries, effective coordination and management of overall public health response may also need the involvement of law-enforcing agencies. Yet, improved national level initiatives are needed across the world with some variations.
Global response, which is on the increase at present, is really very important for combating the global outbreak. Such response needs to be increased in terms of financial, technological, human resources related and other areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already emphasized on cooperation among different countries. Hopefully, regional organizations especially the SAARC and the EU have initiated dialogues among leaders through videoconference for fighting the outbreaks together. Moreover, China is providing logistic and other supports to some novel coronavirus affected countries. But more needs to be done in terms of global coordination and international cooperation with measures including creating a global corona-virus fund, sharing knowledge on and experience of controlling the outbreak and providing test kits and other logistic supports.
Of course, emphasis needs to be given on the development of much needed vaccine for primary prevention and medicines for effective medical treatments. The optimistic aspect is that research on finding out vaccine or medicines is going on with some notable developments especially in the USA, Germany and Cuba. The USA has already started trial of the newly invented vaccine and Cuba's medicines are rendered to be effective for the treatment of coronavirus disease. But measures must be taken to make vaccine--once developed by any country--and the most effective medicine(s) accessible to all. In my opinion, depending on financial conditions, international cooperation is needed for giving vaccine and medicines at the lowest possible price to less financially resourced countries.
To successfully fight against the virus, mental strength, along with personal awareness, is also very important. Usually, mental strength is a positively motivating factor for individuals to fight against diseases. But people's lifestyle in many countries has drastically changed by reason of the corona-virus pandemic. In addition, panic-like situations, 14 days quarantine, risks involved with giving treatments, closure of official activities, social distancing, etc. in different areas or countries can varyingly affect mental strength with increased anxiety, loneliness, etc. among service providers, patients, relatives and other non-affected persons. Under such a context, the importance of keeping high mental strength must be promoted to fight the virus, which has death rate of around four percent up till now.
Last of all, to deal with post-pandemic economic and other effects, both national and international steps, which are in place, must be strengthened. Only global economic loss, caused by the shutdown of MNCs, SMEs and other businesses driven by the outbreak, has already turned to be billions of US dollars. Of course, the extent of damages due to loss of business activities, employment, etc. depends on how long the outbreak last. If it continues for the next few months, overall effects will be disastrous. Expectedly, stronger national and international initiatives will require for the quickest possible recovery. But at this critical time, best wishes for all--regardless of cast, gender, age, religion, country, and so on.
The writer is researcher