There are some events which leave a lasting impact on humankind. They are not restricted to one country but part of a global trend shaping lives for decades to come. This is undoubtedly the case with coronavirus. Described by Daniel Finkelstein in the Times as the new ‘9/11’ moment, the outbreak has transformed our interpretation of the world, how it operates and the consequences of health disasters. The strategy within the UK has evolved from containing the virus to delaying its spread. In a multitude of ways, coronavirus is similar to climate change, internationally affecting the world with no regard for borders. Such a global problem requires a global response.
Obviously, the biggest impact of the virus is the death toll. This is sadly a figure that looks to have no chance of stabilising any time soon. Currently, over 3,400 people have died, which is a figure that should horrify us all. That a virus discovered at the end of last year could cause such havoc for the global population in such a short space of time is shocking and terrifying. The virus has spread to 90 nations, with more countries confirming an outbreak of the disease everyday. With over 100,000 people now having been infected, the World Health Organisation has placed the mortality rate at 3.4%. In a sense, it should be reassuring that this is so low, but that is no consolation for China, Iran and Italy, which are the nations most affected partially due to their ageing populations. Though the rate of new cases in China is thankfully declining, millions faced continued isolation, which is now being replicated in the worst affected Italian regions. It is the oldest and those with underlying health conditions who will be most impacted and most likely to suffer.
Other consequences have, directly or indirectly, arisen as a result of the virus. Strangely, while the human population has been severely harmed, the environmental impact on the planet has improved. According to NPR, air pollution levels in China have ‘dropped by roughly a quarter’ because of coal-fired power station employees remaining at home rather than risk catching the infection. This drop in emissions is impactful given that, statistically, China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. On the domestic scene, holidays within the UK rather than overseas have grown in popularity, with demand for flights increasing by just 2.4% compared to January 2019 with a 4.6% growth in previous years. The ‘Booking Holdings’ website is also predicting a 15% decline in their total bookings while UK businesses are witnessing a 40% rise in traffic for booking on their websites. This demonstrates how individuals are already altering their lifestyles significantly to try and avoid the virus.
Economically, the global spread of coronavirus has inevitably impacted trade and relationships between nations. Disproportionate alarmism and hysteria means individuals are stockpiling food and other resources for fear of the virus spreading rapidly. According to the Guardian, nearly 24% of British retailers say the coronavirus was having a severe impact on their business, with only 7% having enough flexibility to switch suppliers. This, combined with almost 45% of the 30 retail companies interviewed seeing a negative impact on their sales, demonstrates the economic implications of the virus. In China, the worst affected nation by far, car sales have collapsed by a staggering 92% domestically, with hardly anyone looking to purchase a new vehicle in this volatile period. Wherever an individual resides, it seems they have every chance of being affected by the declining availability of different resources.
The impact of coronavirus is not just economical and medical. It has the power to affect every age group. I still believe education is the most powerful mechanism to change the world. Unfortunately, for nearly 300 million children, it is no longer a reality because of the coronavirus. The outbreak, according to the New York Times, has shutdown all schools in Italy with all classes suspended in New Delhi, India and many school closures in the USA. Initially, China was the only nation to shut schools and suspend classes yet 22 countries now have closures to some degree. According to the report, countries including South Korea, Iran, Japan, France and Pakistan all have a degree of
school closures. Additionally, parts of Italy are now on lockdown. This is damning for young people’s ability to access education with the United Nations saying this is historically unprecedented. Whether it’s supporting families by providing structure, the closure of schools is so damaging for future learning, the employment stability of parents and finding affordable childcare. Children failing to receive education in the classroom means the economic and educational future of subsequent generations is in question.
All reporting must maintain realism and reason when covering the coronavirus. Alarmism mustn’t triumph facts and evidence when presenting information or offering advice. Within the UK alone, it is believed the worst case scenario could lead to 20% of the workforce being unable to work at any one time. Debates over sick pay, forcing individuals to choose between their health and receiving wages, has intensified. While the ‘common cold’ and flu have always been global and contained implications for people’s health and wellbeing, the coronavirus has been unprecedented in the level of concern and anxiety it has created. A political response is necessary, though the best action anyone can take is, yes, to wash one’s hands properly. Ironically, it is striking how coronavirus has been the catalyst for discussion over education, the future of work, environmental sustainability and global trade that so desperately need to take place. How saddening that it takes the death of nearly 3,500 people for those conversations to even begin.
The UK government’s advice on the coronavirus can be found here.
Image: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash