By the first week of April 2020, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) had spread to 209 countries around the world. This virus had originated from Wuhan, China. So far, it has infected 1.5 million people and has resulted in the deaths of 88,000 people. This prompted the WHO to declare coronavirus as a pandemic in early March.
The coronavirus has raised many questions all over the world on whether developed countries were prepared for such an outbreak. It is a genuine worry when countries like the USA, Switzerland, and Italy who have invested 18%, 12% and 8% of their GDP respectively in healthcare, have been brought their knees by the coronavirus. Let us explore what has been the economic, social and environmental impact of the coronavirus in the world has been and if there are any lessons to be learned.
Before we start, let us understand what coronavirus is. As per the CDC (Centre for Disease and Control), there are 7 types of coronavirus. The first type of coronavirus was found in humans in the 1960s. Coronavirus or COVID–19 is one of them and has proved to be most contagious. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and coronavirus disease – COVID-19 is caused by a virus that mainly affects the respiratory system.
The first case of the corona was discovered in November 2019 and by the 8th of April 2020, nearly 1.5 million people have been infected by this disease. This illustrates how fast the virus can spread in such a small time frame. What makes it contagious is that an infected person can spread the disease well before he/she shows or has any symptoms.
Economical Impact of Coronavirus
Economic thought leaders have already acknowledged that COVID-19 will have more economic damage than the 2008 housing financial crisis. COVID-19 has caused an almost universal lockdown of global economies. This will surely affect global growth as well as the individual country’s GDP. Depending on how prepared each country was for the outbreak, their path to recovery will be that much faster. It could take anywhere between several months or even years to recover from this. According to the United Nations, the global economy could shrink by 1%. Combined with this, world trade is expected to fall by 13 to 32% in 2020 due to disruptions in economic activity. International Labor Organization (ILO) has also predicted that 25 million will lose their jobs because of COVID-19, affecting the informal working sector and micro and medium enterprise the worst. All of this is pointing to the fact that our economy was never ready for such an outbreak. This begs the question, is our economic model outdated and requires a reform similar to the one that happened after world war 2?
Social Impact of COVID-19
Coronavirus has placed a high demand on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), N95 masks, and ventilators. Countries and governments all over the world have been fighting to buy these. In times of crisis, we can witness how humanity rears its ugly head. However, we also need to remember the heroes. For example, Cuba sending its doctors to Italy to fight the pandemic. In a time of crisis, it is important that we help each other out and not fight among ourselves for resources. This is the message we need to send to our future generations. COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for universal health care. With so many people getting infected, many of them can’t even afford the treatment for the virus. What makes this worse is that when you realize many of these people are the ones who are out there making sure we still have access to our essential services. These are people in our grocery stores, delivery personnel, guards, etc. Our unsung heroes.
Environmental Impact of Coronavirus
Since most of the world has gone into some form of a lockdown, many non-essential industries have been shut down. There are lesser vehicles on the road. All of this has led to decreased air pollution levels. Hence, many people have reported seeing a cleaner sky. However, these are only short-term effects. Similar trends were observed during the 2008 housing financial crisis, with a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. The question we need to ask is, what will happen if all industries open again? Will they start working at double or triple the speed to recover the economic losses?
COVID-19 and Lessons To Be Learned
In all that we have discussed today, it is evident that the global governing system and economic system need to be more robust and policies need to be in place to protect the most vulnerable. If we are to build a sustainable world and achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030, we need to act now. If anything, coronavirus has shown the whole world that there are major gaps and flaws in our economic and healthcare systems. Something hopefully our leaders and global organizations can learn from and fix it before it is too late.
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