The current global pandemic
Recently, the whole world has been staggered by the impacts of a virus called coronavirus or Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). The first victim of this new strain of virus was discovered on December 8th, 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China (Aljazeera, 2020). Since then the virus has been able to reach out to the rest of the world with an unstoppable force. In the light of this situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed by the authorities of China on December 31st, 2019 (Aljazeera, 2020). Since then the organisation strictly observed the spreading movement of this new strain of virus. On January 31st, 2020, which means a month after it was informed about this epidemic spread, the representatives of WHO officially announced a global emergency declaration for this virus spread (World Health Organization, 2020). Then on March 11th, 2020, this virus spread was officially recognised as a global pandemic. By 14:00, April 9th, 2020, there has been 1,519,571 coronavirus infected cases recorded worldwide in which 88,550 victims have, unfortunately, passed away and this number has shown no evidences of reaching its peak soon (World Health Organization, 2020).
Just a paragraph above, I hope that I have summarised and informed well about the new strain of virus, the coronavirus or Covid-19, pandemic. You and I have been aware of the current global pandemic situation, its news can be caught everywhere, from television, different social media channels to colleagues, friends and loved ones. But have you ever wondered why we cannot stop this epidemic since the beginning?
I have asked myself that question over and over again recently to the point that I have my own answer for this question, our attitudes towards it.
I still remember the time before I left the Netherlands to fly to Thailand to begin my exchange semester. At that time, I was informed by my family about the situation of the virus spread in Asia, especially in Vietnam. Back then it was only 16 people found infected in the country, a considerably small number compared with 17,200 infected cases in which 361 deaths worldwide. However, people and the government in Vietnam started to be worried about this virus and its effects to their daily lives in the future. Vietnamese authorities started to prepare everything in their capability to swiftly deal with the epidemic. While Vietnamese citizens began to gather masks, sanitizers to the point that we ran out of these commodities within a few days. They also started to strictly follow virus spread movements announcements and directives from local as well as national news.
Although I didn’t say it out loud, I was thinking “Why so serious!?”.
“Why so serious!?” – a short sentence but I think it reflected most people in the world, where the pandemic was not able to reach to, have in mind. My friends started to laugh at the epidemic spread. Some even said that “It can never reach here”. Even the President of the United State of America, Mr. Donald Trump reacted to this pandemic as “a small issue” that can be overcome quickly, and “just stay calm”, everything will go back to its normal state soon (White House, 2020). Ironically, its reach has expanded to not only the EU, but everywhere else in the world. Most importantly, its impacts are even greater than what it did in Asia countries.
I think that our attitudes and the question “Why so serious!?” in our minds have killed thousands of lives. We killed ourselves by our attitudes and thoughts, not just because we haven’t been able to develop any vaccines that can cure this disease.
When writing to this point, I have just remembered a quote that I learned during my field trip to the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre which I would like to share in this post. The professor in the lecture taught us that “there is no natural disaster, only natural hazards”. If we imply the attitudes towards the virus outbreak before it became a pandemic, we can see that what he taught us can be related to. Furthermore, in his lesson, he also mentioned that the costs of preparedness are always cheaper than the costs of dealing with the situation.
Therefore, it is a very important lesson for us to not to take things unserious as we did. We have to take this pandemic as an example to learn to prevent such pandemic happens again in the future. But that will be another topic. For now, let’s leave this aside for the moment and consider how we are dealing with this pandemic and how we are treating each other.
How are we dealing with this pandemic?
In order to start this blog, I had to scan through different articles, news and personal blogs to be inspired to write something about this pandemic. Lucky enough, I have found a blog post from the World Economic Forum published on March 30th, 2020, which is interesting for me. This article title caught my attention as it shows me “Vietnam shows how you can contain COVID-19 with limited resources”.
In this article, Vietnam is considered as a country which is not in a position to conduct mass testing programmes like other wealthier Asian countries, such as South Korea, China, Thailand. It can only test 15,637 people, while this number for South Korea is 338,000 people (figures until March 20th, 2020) (Fleming, 2020). Furthermore, the country’s healthcare system and capability are not as good as other developed countries, such as the US, the member states of European Union. According to the World Economic Forum, the country’s capability is only at maximum 8 doctors to every 10,000 people, while this number in the US is 26, Italy and Spain or other countries in the EU is around 41 (Fleming, 2020). So, how can Vietnam contain Covid-19 with limited resources?
The answer is the swift action from the government and the collaboration from Vietnamese citizens. In Vietnam, even before the start of the first infected case found in the country, the government swiftly started to arrange urgent meetings and planed for the upcoming epidemic. On Febuary 1st, 2020, Vietnam started a set of initiatives to tackle the Covid-19 spread (Fleming, 2020). It firstly strictly suspended all flights from China and decided to keep schools closed after the Lunar New Year to protect young children and your adults. The Prime Minister also directed that all of the information related to the Covid-19 virus has to be transparent and constantly updated to the public so that everyone can know what is happening. At the same time, he encouraged Vietnamese people to take this epidemic seriously and prepare for the worst scenario. If someone found there is an infected case in their neighbourhood, that person has to immediately contact with the local officials and report the situation (Ashwill, 2020).
The authorities and doctors in Vietnam also developed anti-coronavirus measures one of which is to restrict flights, transports from infected areas, especially in countries in ASEAN. This later on was changed to mandatory 14-day quarantines for anyone arriving in Vietnam and then changed to all foreign flight cancellation, as well as social-strict distancing (or national temporary lockdown) (Fleming, 2020).
By implementing these initiatives, the country has been able to slow down the virus spread and flatten the covid-19 curve recently. This is a good sign and as I can see, other countries also started to adapt these measures in their nations. As a result, infected cases even though are still rising, it has shown some slowdown movements.
In conclusion of this blog, I would like to say that the threats are still remaining, but I am positive about our future. Let’s hope it will overcome and everything can go back to normal soon. Never have I seen before in my life, a period of time that the entire a world is putting their endless efforts and collaborations to stop a global “crisis”. A pandemic that teaches us many lessons and provides a chance for all of us to unite and prevent such thing happen in the future.
Aljazeera. (2020, 4 15). Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread. Retrieved from Aljazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/timeline-china-coronavirus-spread-200126061554884.html
Fleming, S. (2020, 3 30). Viet Nam shows how you can contain COVID-19 with limited resources. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/vietnam-contain-covid-19-limited-resources/
Ashwill, M. A. (2020, 3 14). Vietnam: An outlier in the coronavirus epidemic and HE? Retrieved from University World News: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200313063615630
World Health Organization. (2020, 4 9). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)Situation Report –80. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200409-sitrep-80-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=1b685d64_6
World Health Organization. (2020, 1 31). Data as reported by 31January 2020*Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV)Situation Report-11. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200131-sitrep-11-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=de7c0f7_4