COVID-19 Challenges Preparedness and Management
Dr S. Shobha Rani, M.Sc., M.Phil., Ph D
Visakha Government Degree & PG College for Women
At the end of December 2019, Chinese public health authorities reported several cases of acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China. Chinese scientists soon identified a novel coronavirus as the main causative agent. The disease is now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe disease. The causative virus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It is an infectious disease. The COVID -19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. The major symptoms observed range from mild cold to moderate illness.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from China to many other countries around the world, including the United States. Depending on the severity of COVID-19’s international impacts, outbreak conditions—including those rising to the level of a pandemic—can affect all aspects of daily life, including travel, trade, tourism, food supplies, and financial markets. The initial outbreak in Wuhan spread rapidly, affecting other parts of China. Cases were soon detected in several other countries. Outbreaks and clusters of the disease have since been observed in Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa and the America. On January 30, WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern and urged international coordination to investigate and control the spread of COVID-19. In just 12 weeks, the outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has gone from an initially discrete outbreak to a raging pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak has now affected over 199 countries and territories. The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill. COVID 19 does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction.
Challenges to fight Corona Virus
The world is experiencing a global viral epidemic of zoonotic origin. Every nation is making efforts to halt transmission through shutting down transport, quarantining entire cities, and enforcing the use of face masks. International flights have been cancelled and affected cruise ships quarantined. Many challenges that are political and institutional, social, environmental, technological, and pathogen-related, are being brought to the foreground by the coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak.
Countries face different scenarios, requiring a tailored response depending on whether countries have no cases, sporadic cases, clusters or community transmission. Many countries can still act decisively through effective physical distancing. China was able to build a hospital for affected patients in a matter of days. No other country could mobilise resources and manpower at such speed. While health systems in high-income countries would be stretched by the outbreak, the most devastating effects would be in countries with weak health systems, ongoing conflicts, or existing infectious disease epidemics. In these countries, it is imperative to rapidly detect and contain the virus at points of entry to prevent community transmission.
In Africa health authorities are on high alert for the virus as there is an extensive trade and transport links with Asia. The capacity in Africa to screen, isolate, and treat patients and perform contact tracing is being built under the leadership of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organizations.
Government of India is taking all necessary steps to ensure that we are prepared well to face the challenge and threat posed by the growing pandemic of COVID 19. With active support of the people of India, we have been able to contain the spread of the Virus in our country. The most important factor in preventing the spread of the Virus locally is to empower the citizens with the right information and taking precautions as per the advisories being issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. Further The Innovation Cell of the Ministry of Human Resource launched an online challenge ‘Samadhan’ to invite ideas and innovations that can help fight against the novel coronavirus. It was initiated by Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, HRD Minister.
As in all outbreaks, there is an urgent need to develop effective diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Several experimental diagnostic platforms are already in use in China. Several potential treatments have been proposed, including a Janus kinase inibitor known as baricitinib. However, no antiviral treatment has been approved for coronaviruses, and despite two outbreaks of novel coronaviruses in the past two decades, vaccine development is still in its infancy. WHO has announced that a vaccine for coronavirus 2 should be available in 18 months, but achieving this will require funding and public interest to be maintained even if the threat level falls.
Socio Economic Effect
COVID-19 is hitting hard an already weak and fragile world economy. Global growth in 2019 was already the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. COVID-19 has plunged the world economy into a recession with the potential of deep consequences and historical levels of unemployment and deprivation. Necessary measures to contain the spread of the disease through quarantines, travel restrictions and lockdown of cities have resulted in a significant reduction in demand and supply. Economic activities in transportation, retail trade, leisure, hospitality and recreation have been battered. The stock markets had a drastic fall.
The supply chain disruptions halted the manufacturing industry. Quarantines, closed factories, impaired mobility affected production. The falling commodity prices, in particular oil, further compound the economic impact of the pandemic. This has rattled the financial markets, tightened liquidity conditions in many countries, created unprecedented outflows of capital from developing countries and put pressure on the foreign exchange markets with some countries experiencing dollar shortages. Many economic activities were suspended. This will lead to many changes like
- Lower income.
- Less work time.
- Unemployment for certain occupations.
- Supply and personnel shortages are leading to disrupted access to electricity, inadequate access to clean drinking water.
- Loss of income leading vulnerable segments of societies and families to fall below the poverty line.
- Food production and distribution could be disrupted.
Impact on Ethical and Religious Issues
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted religion in various ways, including the cancellation of the worship services of various faiths, the closure of Sunday Schools, as well as the cancellation of pilgrimages surrounding observances and festivals. Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have offered worship through live stream amidst the pandemic. Relief wings of religious organisations have dispatched disinfection supplies, powered air-purifying respirators, face shields, gloves, coronavirus nucleic acid detection reagents, ventilators, patient monitors, syringe pumps, infusion pumps, and food to affected areas. Other churches have offered free COVID-19 testing to the public.
Impact on Environment
The impact on the environment, on the other hand, is likely to be positive as the drastic reduction in economic activity brought about by the crisis has reduced CO2 emissions and pollution in many areas. Such improvements are destined to be short-lived, unless countries deliver on their commitment to sustainable development once the crisis is over and the global economy restarts. In the global road map for the future the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change insist that countries need to be steadfast in moving forward with the implementation of these common commitments, especially investments in people, health and social protection systems, and seize the opportunity of a greener, more inclusive economy. These goals must shape our response and recovery, laying the foundations for resilient people and resilient societies.
Impact on International Relations
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected international relations and caused diplomatic tensions. The diplomatic relations have been affected due to the tensions around trade and transport of medicines, diagnostic tests and hospital equipment for coronavirus disease 2019. Leaders of some countries have accused other countries for not taking immediate action with regard to the disease effectively and resulted in the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Developing nations in Latin America and Africa could not find enough materials for testing coronavirus disease.
Older persons are not just struggling with greater health risks but are also likely to be less capable of supporting themselves in isolation. Homeless people, because they may be unable to safely shelter in place, are highly exposed to the danger of the virus. Persons with disabilities could be left without vital support and advocacy due to social distancing. Persons in prisons, in migrant detention centres or in mental health institutions could face higher risk of contracting the virus due to the confined nature of the premises.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the political systems of multiple countries causing suspensions of legislative activities, isolation of multiple politicians, and rescheduling of elections due to fears of spreading the virus
Preparedness planning is essential in order to respond effectively to outbreaks and epidemics. The World Health Organizations (WHO) is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus and provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak. At this time there is no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, however there are many on-going clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about COVID-19 virus.
Developed and developing countries do not have the same resources to respond quickly to the pandemic. There are significant differences between different categories of countries, such as Small island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Land Locked countries. Local governments are at the frontline of the epidemic but their capacity to respond rapidly depends heavily on the governance context and the financial health of the local government and its budgetary authority. It needs to foster public trust and be focused on human values that are supported by solid institutions, technical skills and financial resources. Everyone needs to play their part. No individual country can do this alone.
At the same time, the wider global research community – in government, academia and the private sector have a vital role to play, across the social and natural sciences, in policy formulation. It can generate, share and explain in lay terms to the public and policy actors need to take effective preventive measures to shape a safe and equitable recovery. Many governments rely on new or established research advisory bodies bringing rapid evidentiary analysis to government response efforts. Major national and international research funders and philanthropic organizations should support the networking of these organizations to generate a reliable global research base to inform cooperative action at the international level. Effective dialogue and coordination between local and national authorities are critical for implementing effective measures. Women and youth play a key role to practice good personal health habits and plan for home-based actions namely reminding everyone in their household of the importance of practicing everyday preventive actions that can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. The other measures like
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover when coughing and sneezing with a tissue.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles) using a regular household detergent and water.
- If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent and water prior to disinfection. For disinfection, a list of products with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved emerging viral pathogens claims, maintained by the American Chemistry Council Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC), is available at Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
All countries must immediately scale-up the necessary actions to prevent, suppress and break the transmission of Covid-19 virus by managing the following measures:
- Prepare and be ready, especially for those countries who have no or sporadic cases.
- Test and detect all suspected cases as rapidly as possible. This is vital to ensure the possibility of suppressing transmission and to optimize life-saving actions.
- Introduce measures such as quarantine, strictly restricting the movement of people, reducing person-to-person contact overall via work and school closures and physical distancing and educating communities about reducing spread through hand washing.
- Provide safe and effective clinical care to effectively isolate all COVID-19 cases, protect Health Care Workers (HCWS) and maintain essential medical supplies through effective supply chain management.
- Share knowledge and develop and distribute new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. It is crucial to learn from other countries, constantly assess and regularly update national strategies and guidelines to new knowledge. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact with others. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth in public gatherings. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. One should wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose appeals must be fully met. Scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics must be promoted through initiatives such as the WHO sponsored solidarity trials. Universal access to vaccines and treatment must be assured, with full respect for human rights, gender equality and without stigma.
People around the world need a reason to trust in their governments again. Out of this crisis, we should see the primacy of not just ensuring the children displaced by COVID-19 have access to education but go further and reach the 258 million children who remain out of school all year round. We should not stop at protecting the incomes of those affected by this crisis but put in place social protection systems to ensure everyone has a basic income. Let us rebuild our systems in a way that results in greater opportunities and equal outcomes for women and men. Let us not be content that people have washed their hands during this crisis but help ensure sustainable access to basic hand washing for the 40 per cent of the world’s population without access to water and sanitation today.
The COVID-19 pandemic can mark the re-birthing of society as we know it today to one where we can protect present and future generations. It is the greatest test that we have faced since the formation of the United Nations, one that requires all actors -governments, academia, businesses, employers and workers’ organizations, civil society organizations, communities and individuals- to act in solidarity in new, creative, and deliberate ways for the common good and based on the core United Nations values that we uphold for humanity.