Written by: Yashna Arora (Head of Journalism)
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an ever-present issue that has shaped the contemporary society, prompting many students to research the topic in great depth. But what actually is the novel “Coronavirus”?
The Coronavirus is an infectious respiratory disease which had its first outbreak in Wuhan, China on December 18th, 2019. Since then, the virus has quickly spread across the globe, infecting 213 countries and territories. A vast number of countries, such as The United States of America, China, The United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, South Korea, Spain, and Italy have been severely impacted, with several having imposed a “nation-wide lockdown” to limit the spread and prevent increased outbreaks. After observing the alarming levels of spread and severity, the virus was declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization on March 11th, 2020. Currently, the virus has reported a total of 14,713,172 cases around the world with The United States of America having the highest number in the world (see fig. 2). The first Coronavirus case in Singapore was confirmed on the 23rd of January. As of now, Singapore has a total of 49,375 cases and 27 deaths with a majority of the cases being reported from clusters within foreign worker dormitories located in Singapore.
Fig. 1: Around the world over time. Whiting, Kate. “What You Need to Know about the Coronavirus Pandemic on 3 August.” World Economic Forum, 3 Aug. 2020, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/covid19-coronavirus-pandemic-what-to-know-3-august/ Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.
All around the world, the pandemic has hit the economy in remarkable manners. People have been given stay at home orders and due to that it has brought much of the global economic activity to a halt. In the United States specifically, the economy has suffered severe unemployment rates and either slowed down or shut down business activities. Stock market prices and oil prices have drastically fallen. The unemployment rate is rapidly increasing in America leaving millions jobless. Predictions state that those rates could hit close to 25% rivaling the Great Depression, and business bankruptcies are expected to rise sharply compared to previous years.
In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, travel restrictions have also been implemented in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. As a result, the airline and tourism industries have been hit severely; the largest casualties of the coronavirus. “Airlines’ passenger revenue is estimated to plunge by $314 billion in total — or 55% — from 2019 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association.”(Yen Nee Lee)
Lack of medical supplies in the United States of America
Shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, other medical equipment and insufficient testing as the pandemic expands have indubitably strained medical resources in numerous countries; there has been a progressing struggle to accommodate with the equipment and services that are required in order to treat critically ill patients (see fig. 2). This lack thereof has only risen as the number of COVID-19 cases have exponentially surged within a short period of time.
Fig. 2: Shortage of treatment and facilities. “Simple Math Offers Alarming Answers about Covid-19, HealthCare - STAT.” STAT, 10 Mar. 2020, www.statnews.com/2020/03/10/simple-math-alarming-answers-covid-19/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.
“WHO calls on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 per cent to meet rising global demand
The World Health Organization has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.”
The U.S with currently 5,032,179 cases has been the largest casualty of this complication during the peak of the pandemic. As the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S continue to grow, healthcare systems in America are contending and the ill-equipped medical workforce is growing more desperate to gather personal protective equipment and facilities to treat the patients.
“Experts say that in the following weeks the federal government failed to implement a plan for a wider outbreak. Despite being ranked as the most prepared for a pandemic, the country did not ramp up capacity in hospitals or substantially boost production of medical supplies. Some states, such as California, implemented early lockdown measures and had more success in curbing the virus’s spread. An initial diagnostic test designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proved to be faulty, delaying testing nationwide for weeks and preventing health officials from having an accurate picture of the disease’s spread. By mid-April, the United States reported the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world. With many states facing shortages, Trump has used emergency powers to compel private companies to manufacture ventilators for patients and masks for health-care workers.” (Lindsay Maizland and Claire Felter)
Due to the limited equipment, panic has been widespread across hospitals in the United States and has been majorly discussed in social media platforms and news channels/websites. Many people including influencers are using this opportunity to spread awareness by posting videos, articles, petitions that people can sign and ways you can donate to help the current problem. Below are some sections taken out of articles of frontline healthcare workers talking about how they are currently fighting this pandemic.
“What are we going to do if all the health care workers get sick? Who’s going to take care of anyone when health care workers go down because they didn’t have the proper supplies and equipment? I did not think our country would be running out of supplies. You look at pictures of nurses in other countries, and they’re in full hazmat suits, and then to hear stories about, you know, a nurse wearing a trash bag to protect herself, I mean that’s dystopian” (Jessica Riney)
“Having a national or global shortage of supplies and equipment is something I didn’t foresee happening. It seems like no one really did. But now that it’s happened it seems like we should have been prepared for something like this. (Anna Howard)
“We could use body bags. And eye shields and gowns!” wrote an employee at a nursing facility on Long Island in New York. “Please we don’t have anything,” wrote an employee at a regional hospital in Miami, Florida. All its beds were full, the employee wrote. They had no gowns left, and a week or less of most other PPE (see fig. 3)
Fig. 3: Workers wheel a deceased person outside of Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 30, 2020. Mangan, Dan. “Pentagon Trying to Get 100,000 Body Bags for FEMA’s Coronavirus Response.” CNBC, CNBC, Apr. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/04/01/coronavirus-deaths-pentagon-requests-100000-body-bags.html. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.
We are out of everything,” wrote a staffer at a large hospital in Tennessee. “Providers using one mask for 3+ weeks. Many COVID patients. Zero gowns.
Facilities of all kinds reported that most of their supplies would run out within a week or two; if they had any left at all. Of the 978 institutions from 47 states and Washington, D.C. that responded to the second survey by April 8, 36% had no supply remaining of face shields. Another 34% had no thermometers, and 19% had no gowns left. Nearly all had no supplies remaining of at least one form of PPE.” (Zoe Schlanger)
For more information on the pandemic situation in the hospitals in The United States of America, click here to access the video: https://youtu.be/t1LH5OrZ4J8
COVID-19 responses in other countries
Along with The U.S, other countries have also faced similar struggles; with healthcare systems strained and overwhelmed such as in the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain (see fig. 4). On the contrary, some countries like South Korea and Singapore responded to the pandemic efficiently and managed to control the outbreak.
Fig. 4: Medical personnel wearing protective face masks help patients inside the Spedali Civili hospital in Brescia, Italy. Reuters. “Covid-19 Kills 1,266 in Italy with Record 250 Deaths in a Day.” NST Online, New Straits Times, 13 Mar. 2020, www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/03/574488/covid-19-kills-1266-italy-record-250-deaths-day. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.
Although the country was ranked near the top for pandemic preparedness by the Global Health Security Index (GHSI), the virus took a heavy toll as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government opted against mass closures for weeks after its peers in Europe implemented lockdowns. By mid-April, the UK had close to eighty thousand coronavirus cases—inclusive of Johnson himself—and around ten thousand deaths. The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) said it would free up tens of thousands of hospital beds by postponing nonemergency procedures and buying space in private hospitals. A London convention center was also quickly repurposed into a makeshift hospital. Additionally, thousands of former health workers were being retrained to assist in the crisis, while specialists in other areas were being redeployed. However, many have raised concerns regarding the lack of ventilators and protective equipment being provided. The government has imported some ventilators, loaned some from the armed forces, and urged companies to produce more. The country was testing around four people per one thousand, compared to South Korea’s nine per thousand, and aimed to boost that by mid-April.
After struggling to battle an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015, South Korea invested heavily in emergency preparedness and designated the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MIS) as the main coordinator in health crises rather than the prime minister or the president. Experts have commended the country’s quick efforts to “flatten the curve” and keep total deaths below four hundred. After the first case appeared in January, the government rapidly developed a diagnostic test and has tested millions of people for free.” (Lindsay Maizland and Claire Felter).
In Britain, the government has also been criticized for a lack of protective equipment being available. Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the U.K. medical journal, The Lancet, said in an article that the country’s national health system “has been wholly unprepared for this pandemic.”(Silvia Amaro).
COVID’s strain on healthcare systems in the world and the resultant prevention methods
“Manufacturing medical supplies is a low-margin business. To survive, factories prioritize efficiency over adaptability, which limits their ability to boost production quickly. Manufacturers also have little incentive to produce beyond their just-in-time orders — if the surge in demand never materializes, they would be stuck with extra masks, gloves and other items. Most health-care protective equipment used in the United States is imported; making it domestically costs more. But since several of the countries that manufacture protective gear — particularly China, which produces the majority of it — were struck by the virus early in the pandemic, supplies from those manufacturers went to these early hot spots, leaving the United States more reliant on limited sources of domestic manufacturing.
Once shortages became apparent, hospitals and health systems were unable to easily find the existing supply because there’s no national tracking system for protective gear. This meant that purchasers were blind to what was potentially available or where it was, limiting their ability to coordinate distribution of existing supply or anticipate future needs. Regulations that in normal times are necessary created additional barriers. The Food and Drug Administration, with strict protocols for the production of protective gear, has made only a few exceptions during the pandemic, granting emergency use authorizations for certain imported, improvised, decontaminated and alternative items (e.g., the Chinese-made KN95).
Any effort to improve the U.S. medical supply chain during a pandemic requires a coordinated federal response. Only the federal government has the power to offer purchasing guarantees, to coordinate federal agencies and to regulate distribution and pricing to prevent third-party buying or distribution to nonmedical providers. So far, the government has failed to do any of that. This has contributed to the observed market instability, medical supply shortages and the public health crisis we face — especially given the potential for subsequent pandemic waves in the future.” (Tara Lagu, Rachel Werner and Andrew W. Artenstein)
What the U.S. government has done to help cope with losses from COVID-19 is to rapidly mobilize unprecedented resources, both at home and abroad. $274 million provided resources to 64 of the world’s most at-risk countries to better combat the pandemic and enable the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. “These new pledges include nearly $100 million in emergency health assistance. It also now includes $110 million in new international disaster assistance, which together with our emergency health funding, will be provided for up to 64 of the most at-risk countries. Importantly, our response adds $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist in its pandemic response efforts for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”(Micheal. R Pompeo) Furthermore, in order to manage patient flow and hospital capacity, they provided ambulatory care for patients with less severe symptoms and telehealth services when possible. Some set up alternate facilities such as fairgrounds, non-operating college dorms and closed correctional facilities as additional space for patient care.
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and impacted everyone around the world greatly. The crisis has allowed us to experience and adjust to a very different time with some of our fundamental needs being taken away. Following the legislation in our respective homes and taking the necessary precautions is a continuous process to return back to normality.
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We hope you enjoyed reading our October issue! Expect more content soon!
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