Defining Moments for Mankind: Combating the Outbreak of Coronavirus
These are difficult times for mankind, the outbreak of Coronavirus that started in December 2019 can turn into such a pernicious pandemic in a matter of just 3 months is a matter of grave concern.
What began as an outbreak in Wuhan, China, has now become a worldwide threat to humankind as a whole! Recently, the number of cases has mounted to a catastrophic 536,639number of positive cases with only 124,414 recoveries reported so far and 24,117 reported casualties as a result of the disease.
In January, WHO declared the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) a public health emergency since the novel coronavirus has virtually created havoc and exposed the vulnerability of even the most advanced nations to a small virus.
The whole world is in a state of shock in reaction to the recent developments. COVID-19, previously called nCoV-19, has a fatality rate of 3.4% as reported by WHO on March 3, 2020. The rate of mortality doesn’t seem to be very alarming, then why is the situation being described as precarious? There is more to it than merely the absence of a cure or a vaccine.
The way in which the novel coronavirus is affecting our world is multi-faceted. COVID-19 is a contagious virus and Coronaviruses are fatal as they can cause diseases including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The virus, being zoonotic in nature, can be transmitted between animals and humans. Symptoms of Coronavirus disease include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, with serious symptoms, such as pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, bluish face or lips. In serious cases, the affected patient may develop pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and in extreme cases, may even lead to death.
Currently, Coronavirus disease testing is being carried out via real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) tests which are incorporated into testing kits. These testing kits form a part of the recommended testing procedure by the World Health Organization (WHO). In this test, swabs from the patient’s nose and throat are tested for the presence of the DNA of the virus.
The test, however, doesn’t always give accurate results and may give a false-negative outcome i.e. a person tested negative for the disease may test positive when tested again. Also, research so far suggests that this virus appears similar to the other coronaviruses, indicating that it travels through infectious droplets. These droplets may originate from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, may subsequently fall upon a surface and be transmitted to another human that makes contacts with the surface.
If these droplets find their way onto another person’s mouth or nose, they may be inhaled or swallowed by the person thus making them a vector i.e. a carrier of the disease as well as putting them at the risk of getting infected with the same. The transmission may also take place from one person to another if they are in close proximity, specifically if they are around 6 feet from each other. Per the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus disease seems to be easily and sustainably spreading in communities in some geographic areas.
As per the latest scientific research the virus can be survived in the air for a few hours and on surfaces like metal and plastics for a few days, based on a new research paper. Adding to that, the virus is perceived as completely new to the uninfected human body and hence there are no pre-existing defence mechanisms in place to tackle the attack of the virus.
The body may or may not perceive the virus as a threat based on the same and hence the virus may overtake the cellular level function of the body by changing the cells’ programming, thus gradually leading to the onset of the disease as we know it. But that’s not all there is to it. Stringent lockdown is a necessary step that many governments have taken to arrest the proliferation of the disease in countries where the number of cases are rising proportionate to time.
Furthermore, there are many infected people who did not exercise self-quarantine post travel assuming that they have not contracted the disease, and hence have passed on the virus to people they met or came in contact. This has resulted in a chain reaction in which the number of carriers multiply with every new person. Due to lack of such awareness and spread of rumours, the situation has worsened. Such misinformation breeding in the general public has led to many cases still being undetected.
Hence, one cannot be sure of the actual number of cases in a country or worldwide, which may be well above the current estimation. It is therefore necessary that the people over the world accept their moral responsibility as citizens of Earth by practicing self-isolation and proper health hygiene, and avoiding the propagation of hearsay and false information.
Research institutes and scientists around the world are working towards an effective cure for the novel coronavirus. WHO has shortlisted four possible coronavirus treatments for worldwide solidarity trials. The four prospective cures include Remdesivir, combination of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, Ritonavir or Lopinavir and combination of Ritonavir or Lopinavir and interferon beta.
These drugs were previously in use to treat Ebola and related viruses, dengue and chikungunya, and MERS virus respectively.Meanwhile, Pune-based Mylab has developed COVID-19 diagnostic test kits that have been approved by Drug Controller of India after being verified for use by Pune’s National Institute of Virology. Research is still in the works to come out with an approved cure.
The healthcare sector, in most nations hit by the novel disease, is in a state of overwhelm. The rapidly growing number of positive cases with every passing day have raised concerns about the insufficient number of doctors, staff, and health workers, and the lack of infrastructure to support the treatment of a rapidly increasing number of the diseased.
To add to this, panic purchases of facemasks, sanitizers, and similar protective health-gear by the general public have led stores all over India to run out of stock of such medical essentials. This has increased the health hazards for the doctors and health workers. Furthermore, there is an increased burden on hospital facilities to accommodate the isolation and effective treatment of the infected patients, as well as to test the possible cases.
Owing to this, the pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies are facing mounting pressures to meet the demands for protective gear and related medicinal products. The dependency of these companies on China for drug ingredients and the presence of a cap on exports of drugs have further aggravated their woes and concerns.
Although the stocks of Indian pharmaceutical industry look decent in comparison to that of the overall market, the going is likely to get tough if the pandemic is not contained soon enough. Moreover, the rising number of cases would further decrease the doctor to patient ratio, thus making it difficult to restrain the spread of the virus.
Globally, the most detrimental effect of the Coronavirus disease has clearly been on the business and the financial sectors, besides the healthcare sector. The rapid spread of the novel virus was unforeseen and hence took the economy by surprise. The retail, travel and transport, and industrial sectors remain worst affected closely followed by the services and labour sectors.
The current situation indicates an impending period of recession attributed to the implementation of remediation measures such as travel restrictions, quarantine, work-from-home and lockdowns in most areas along. The imposed measures, although necessary in tough times like these, have been having a crippling effect on the economies of most countries.
Supply chain operations all over the world are upset and uncertainty lingers about the future of the retail and manufacturing industry. Most of the manufacturing functions have come to a halt and the worst affected countries remain those, which in the past primarily depended on China for raw materials needed for production and related functions.
Our country is one such nation that depends essentially on China for its raw materials. Automotive industry has also become a part of the collateral and stocks seem to be dipping to no end. Now that life seems to be getting back on track for China, it is likely that the supply shall now mainly be sourced from China which will subsequently cause a huge surge in the costs of products for the companies and even more for the consumers.
To counter this spike in prices, businesses need to have countermeasures in place, such as keeping the available reserves protected and accessible for ease in freight, making timely purchases of staples to be administered during adversity, coming up with alternative strategies to secure the product, and devising new replacements for the standard goods, amongst others. Travel and transport industries have completely shut operations to aid in the containment of the pandemic.
Before the implementation of the quarantine and curfews, the travel sector was already accruing great losses as they tried to lure the customers by selling tickets at considerably discounted rates. To add to this, the automotive sector is also in a similar situation with their manufacturing and operations coming to a halt. Cumulatively, firms and MSMEs across the world are facing the grim danger of defaulting and bankruptcy. Even as they implement business continuity plans, they’re picturing their futures as bleak.
Even as the bulls of the market struggle to pull the market up on their shoulders, the overall negative sentiment amongst the traders and investors are making the market bearish. Indian markets have already entered the bear market phase which is predicted to yet to reach the rock bottom. Consumers are reluctant to invest in stocks and are rapidly selling off all of their holdings. All these repercussions have predicted to substantially lower not only the Indian GDP, but also the global GDP.
Banks and regulators across the world have taken several steps to fix the liquidity squeeze by pumping funds into the economy. Even as the governments of the majorly affected countries have pulled all stops to cushion the brunt being experienced by businesses, there is still the probability of an upcoming recession which may require more steps in the direction. Various governments have also announced relief packages for the labourers and staff workers across the governmental and private firms, and have assured them of employment retention and full income payments.
This action has acted as a buffer to the loss of jobs and wages for the labourers. This is likely to aid the current situation; however, if the pandemic continues at the current rate, in the long term, such packages would strain central reserves and would make it tough, not only for those people, but also for entire countries in general, to survive the crisis.
The time is of essence and it is high time we realized that all of us need to chip in our best towards winning this battle against the monster disguised as COVID-19. Kudos to the government of India for the appropriate and effective management of the crisis.
The remarkable leadership exhibited by our venerable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, deserves all the appreciation. For an effective strategy and solution, it is not sufficient for the people of the world to assume that the Governments have a magical wand; we all need to make substantial efforts to eradicate this menace timely and permanently.