Coronavirus Pandemic: Is Global Shutdown Crucial or an Exaggerated Response?

As global transportation comes to a halt, so has the global economy. With trillions of dollars lost in a few months owing to the Coronavirus, many have voiced their strong disapproval of the complete shutdown across the world. More than 100 countries have shut down all forms of transport as a measure to control the virus. People have been forced to work from home while stockpiling all necessary survival tools including raw food, toilet paper, and household supplies.

Italy Coronavirus

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Millions of people rely on daily wages to get by, but with industries and workplaces in a lockdown, they are forced to get by with the bare minimum. With the world suffering from the lockdown, it is natural for people to voice their dissatisfaction with the extreme measures of their respective governments. But in the wider scenario, the need to urgently control the novel coronavirus outweighs the loss of trillions of dollars, jobs, or any distress arising from the global shutdown.

Reports of a high mortality rate in Italy, where death rates have reached higher than 7% have still not convinced skeptics regarding the need for a global shutdown. As news channels report deaths to be highest among people over aged 70, the younger generation is convinced the coronavirus may be a serious issue only for the elderly and immunocompromised people. Globally approximately 6-8% of the people infected with coronavirus require intensive care without which they would most likely succumb to the disease themselves. This number is higher in countries such as Italy, France, and Spain.

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Jerome Salomon, the director-general for health in France said “We have counted this evening 300 serious cases in intensive care. We have serious cases also amid adults and let me remind you that more than 50 percent of people in intensive care are under 60.” This largely negates the assumption that coronavirus is deadly only to people over age 60.

Currently, the majority of the affected countries fall under the category of “developed countries” with supposedly well-established health care systems. Despite this, the health care system in Europe, America, and some Mediterranean countries are already overwhelmed by the rising number of cases. Lack of proper testing kits and limited health care infrastructures has forced most people showing symptoms of coronavirus to be sent back home from the emergency wards. If the situation in developed countries is so dire, the situation that was to arise in third world countries when they get the coronavirus epidemic is unfathomable.

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As the world powers America and China themselves struggle with the limitation in health care, the underdeveloped countries are unlikely to receive any substantial aid to combat the crisis. With a poor health care system, limited infrastructure, low health workers to population ratio, and little awareness in the developing countries, all patients developing any mild to severe complications from a coronavirus infection are doomed to an early death. The death rate can be expected to be worse than that in Italy, with healthcare workers forced to care for only a limited number of infected patients.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said in a statement, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases from becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission”

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As of now, no vaccine or treatment has been developed for the coronavirus. Vaccines for the influenza virus are remodeled each year to combat newer mutated versions of the virus. In a similar manner, it is possible that as a vaccine gets developed for the current COVID-19 strain of coronavirus, a newer stronger more resistant strain will be created by mutation. Therefore, it is crucial to contain the number of coronavirus cases by all extreme measures necessary, to prevent a global death toll similar to the 1918 Spanish flu that killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide.

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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020

More than 50 percent of most severe patients in France are under age 60

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