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Mon. January 30, 2023
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IAF Editorials
Coronavirus Pandemic: Likely Impact
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In just a month life looks strange round the world. People wearing masks and gloves, avoiding social contact, long queues to enter shops, shortages, unemployment and extensive lockdowns are wearing the world down. As the invisible enemy COVID_19 destroys so many lives, livelihoods and peace of mind, a look at history might reveal possible outcomes to the coronavirus pandemic.

Several media channels have highlighted similarities to the Spanish flu of 1918 which killed anywhere between 30 – 100 million people round the world, as per variable estimates. The flu started in Europe with symptoms a little more severe than Coronavirus disease. Large exhibition centers and venues were converted into makeshift hospitals. Similar social distancing guidelines were issued and when some cities like Philadelphia defied those orders in the name of “spirit of courage” and did not cancel parades, they paid a huge price for it. It led to huge number of deaths in the aftermath of the spirited parades.  Finally, it spread to developing countries and led to millions of deaths. No vaccine was ever developed for that flu. But apparently it ended naturally as per Darwinian principles in 1919 summer, with most of the infected either dead or people developed natural immunity to it.

It is quite likely coronavirus will meet a similar fate. The birthplace of this virus, China, has controlled it with characteristic efficiency though. They imposed military lockdowns and contained the spread of the virus. In Europe, the U.S. and Western developed “democratic” world, lockdowns are not as effective as people don’t allow their spirit of liberty to be diminished by a virus. But of course the result has been devastating and has led to a huge number of deaths. In merely a month, the current death toll is more than 30,000. It has not yet spread to developing countries like India, Indonesia etc. These are overpopulated countries with poor healthcare systems and it could cause tremendous suffering. If it spreads there the numbers will then dwarf all others. The Government of India has been proactive and has imposed very strict lockdowns for 3 weeks and is doing a remarkable job of raising awareness and has also sanctioned a huge relief budget for the poor.  However, the fate of the pandemic depends upon whether or not it spreads to the developing world. If it does, it will lead to huge loss of lives and economic downturn that they would be unable to cope with.

The 1918 Spanish Flu had highest fatalities in Asian countries like India and Indonesia. At that time, no vaccine was found but the flu ended naturally in about 1919 with most infected people either dying from infections or developed immunity towards it.  If no vaccine is found, Coronavirus will probably last a year or two, post which people may develop natural immunity. It will surely affect lifestyles, livelihood and economic downturn is inevitable.

Coronavirus has already taken a toll on the economy with markets falling in all parts of the world. The Indian Sensex (stock market index) has nosedived and with lockdowns, life has come to a standstill for immigrant labor and daily wage earners who are now more likely to die from hunger than coronavirus. With extensive lockdowns and social distancing, unemployment is rising and economies tending to recede. Experts round the world claim that economies have entered a recession. 

About 35 Companies and Academic institutions round the world are working to create a vaccine for Covid-19 and Oxford University has already begun human trials for the prototypes developed so far.   Finding a vaccine for coronavirus is the great hope for the world and perhaps success will be achieved on that front.

Anuradha Kataria is a writer based in Gurgaon, India. She is the author of “Democracy on Trial, All Rise!” and several editorials on International Affairs.

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