COVID-19 global impact: How the coronavirus is affecting the world
Islamabad, June 1 (Online): Dealing with the unforeseen challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on people all across the world. Medical News Today has spoken with people from different countries, asking how the pandemic has impacted their lives.
What is the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? In this Special Feature, we investigate.
At the time of writing this Special Feature, there are over 2,700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the globe.
According to official reports, the largest numbers of confirmed cases are in the United States, Italy, Spain, and France. However, even the countries that the new coronavirus has hit less aggressively are still under considerable strain.
As many as 213 countries and territories have registered COVID-19 cases, and the entire world is buzzing with uncertainty and questions: How long will the pandemic last? What will people’s lives look like once the pandemic is over?
Too little, too late?
Many countries have declared restrictive measures, such as lockdown, shelter in place, or stay at home orders, to contain the pandemic at a local level. However, the wildly differing responses and response timelines have left people wondering if authorities failed to take the situation seriously early on when they could have done more to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
China appeared to manage the coronavirus outbreak effectively, putting in place early travel bans within the country itself. As early as January 23, Chinese authorities declared a nationwide travel ban, which, some experts suggest, may have averted over 700,000 COVID-19 cases within the country.
Earlier in April, China eased the lockdown measures in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, amid celebrations that the nation had beaten the virus.
Nevertheless, a recent study assessing the likely number of COVID-19 deaths in the country suggests that the virus may have hit even harder than the authorities initially thought.
Japan state of emergency filled with ‘ambiguity’
People in Japan have also started to express worry that the government is not doing enough to contain the crisis.
Chris, who recently moved to Japan from Europe, has spoken to Medical News Today. He told us what the state of emergency looked like in Yokohama, where he currently lives.
“Effectively, the government has requested that businesses and schools close where possible or promote [working from home] … but it can only request, it can’t actually make it a law,” Chris told us.
“[L]earning the news [from] abroad [about the pandemic], I […] became more stressed [before] the announcement of the declaration [of a state of emergency] which was made in April, due to the lack of carefulness of people in Japan (for example, group-shopping at the supermarkets, social drinking, etc.),” Misato, who lives near Tokyo, also told us.
“So, around the time when the declaration was made, I got accustomed to the current lifestyle [of physical distancing] which [makes me] feel much less stress than before. [However], I [don’t] highly value the content of [the] declaration itself, due to its ambiguity, which [makes it] difficult for people in Japan to understand.”
‘Mask gives me a sense of security, even though it doesn’t do much’
Some European countries have reacted sooner to the steep rise in COVID-19 cases than others. On March 10, Italy ordered a strict nationwide lockdown, becoming the first country in Europe to do so.
The government banned all travel in the country, and people could only leave their homes for essential reasons — such as to buy food. When going out, people had to carry declaration forms and wear face masks and disposable gloves.
Despite a slowdown in the growth of new COVID-19 cases, the Italian government has recently extended lockdown measures through May 3.
Laura, who lives in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, told MNT: “We can’t go out or travel to other cities, […] we must stay at home. Only one family member may go out at once and only for valid reasons, such as doing the groceries, going to the pharmacy, or the post office for urgent matters.”
“I comply with the rules imposed by the government, and I only go out when I have to, wearing a mask and gloves. Now that it’s warmer outside, the mask has become a little bothersome, but it gives me a sense of security, even though I know that, in reality, it doesn’t do much.”
Although there have been over 208,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to date, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that Spain reached the peak of the pandemic in early April.
Susana said that she managed to stay optimistic despite the illness. Yet, like many, she is concerned about the economic and emotional impact of the lockdown in response to the pandemic: “I worry about the impact this crisis has on many families that have been highly affected and are suffering at different levels, [such as the] loss of relatives, loss of jobs and so on.”
The Spanish government appears to share such worries and is considering easing these measures in May, despite criticism that it is still unclear how the pandemic may progress in the country.
Sweden: ‘Not a true form of self-isolation’
Other European countries have put in place less stringent measures. For instance, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown on March 23, though the measures have been less stringent than in other countries.
At the same time, practitioners in the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) have been bracing for a severe strain on the NHS’s resources, as hospitals are cracking under the pressure of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.