For many people, the current pandemic caused by the coronavirus is the first such disease epidemic in their life. Several other similar events have happened in the 21st century, including the bird flu and the ongoing AIDS epidemic (‘COVID-19: How does coronavirus compare to other outbreaks?’, 2020, para. 2). However, the current state of the world is unfamiliar to many individuals. This perception is achieved due to the virus’s high spreading power, the necessity for global quarantine, the asymptomatic nature of the disease, and the sheer amount of countries affected. All these particularities result in “false or misleading information about coronavirus”, including from medical professionals, and many people not knowing which sources to trust (Suciu, 2020, para. 1; Ritchie, 2020, para. 1). This is further complicated by different countries enforcing different rules on their citizens and many not practising “evidence-informed decision-making” (Tyler and Rose, 2020, para. 1). With no cure having been yet created, it is unknown for how long the pandemic will continue. The purpose of this paper is to look at the way the world has been dealing with COVID-19 and what the current plans for facilitating the situation are.
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The Asymptomatic Nature of COVID-19
One of the biggest obstacles in stopping the spread of the coronavirus is its asymptomatic nature that makes it hard for each individual to assess whether they have been infected (Qiu, 2020, para. 2). The percentage of people who tested positive for the coronavirus but showed no signs of being a transmitter has been as high as 50% in some countries (Plater, 2020, para. 3). This is further complicated by the fact that the symptoms, typically stated by medical professionals, can be attributed to other illnesses like the flu (Rettner, 2020, para. 7). Most governments do not provide enough funding for a necessary amount of tests that could ascertain the number of the infected (Thompson, 2020, para. 3). This knowledge could also facilitate the social distancing rule as there will be the option of quarantining only the sick.
The Necessity for Social Distancing and Quarantine
Most countries with a greater number of infected individuals and deaths due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus have enforced a state of quarantine and restricted travel. However, while these measures were an obvious tool for slowing down the spread of the disease, most nations did not resort to it quickly enough as they “initially seemed intent on playing down the scale of the threat” (Branswell, 2020, para. 49). This decision resulted in significant influxes in the numbers of infected with the coronavirus and pressured leaders of those countries to enforce even stricter bans on travel and social gatherings (Lee and Cher, 2020, para. 6). This could have been avoided if the initial response had been to adequately assess the situation instead of hoping the problem would solve itself. For instance, South Korea was the country with the third-highest number of people infected with the COVID-19 only several months ago as a result of its proximity to China. However, due to the nation’s quick response to the growing epidemic and contact tracing, the authorities managed “to flatten the curve on COVID-19 in 20 days without enforcing extreme draconian measures” (Woodward, 2020, para. 4). Unfortunately, for most countries that waited to implement social-distancing, including the UK, success will have to be achieved through other means.
First of all, the authorities need to specify what quarantine entails as “the guidance currently lacks clarity and specificity with regards to recommended behaviours” (‘Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures’, 2020, p. 1). This lack of specificity leads to misinformation, and many people not following the set rules as the definition gives room for interpretation. As a result, the effect of quarantine on flattening the curve is nullified.
Secondly, it is essential to note that social-distancing is mostly a class privilege. In most countries, “many lower-income workers continue to move around, while those who make more money are staying home and limiting their exposure to the coronavirus” (Valentino-DeVries, Lu and Dance, 2020, para. 3). With this in mind, these nations typically propose some form of financial relief, for instance, stimulus checks in the US (Terrell, 2020, para. 2). However, there are reports that as many as half of the applicants have yet to receive their promised money. The people still waiting on their check include “low-income families who don’t normally file tax returns, people who receive Supplemental Security Income, and some veterans who receive pensions from the federal government” (Lobosco, 2020, para. 2). Therefore, the individuals most in need of financial aid during these times, receive no help from the government.
Thirdly, it is essential to understand when and how quickly to weaken the ban on social gatherings. Many medical professionals who understand the severity of the problems were hesitant to advise the implementation of social distancing. The reason for this reluctance was the fear it “would be unsustainable for a long period and would lead to a more disastrous second wave of infection” (Wickham, 2020, para. 4). Therefore, it is vital to “navigate the delicate ethical balancing act of reopening society while safeguarding the health of the public” (Matthews, 2020, para. 2). The governments need to ensure that everything returns to how it was before the lockdown without starting a second wave of infection.
The virus’s high spreading power and the asymptomatic nature of the disease have resulted in the disease affecting almost all of the world’s countries. The situation is worsened by the slow responses of the governments that prioritized economic prosperity and blind faith over the health of its citizens and scientific research. The nations that best handled the epidemic were the ones that made vital decisions in accordance with real data.
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