Is this just a bad dream? Are we living in a parallel universe just in case? Could it be that we have become universally delusional? Are we under an overdose of influence from having watched the concocted sci-fi movies over the past decade? This can’t be happening, right? We are experiencing something that will be studied in the history books by the newborns when they grow up. It’s epic. It’s once in many lifetimes.
I have been thinking about writing down my summary about the pandemic which is gripping the world – the Novel Coronavirus or has been named as the Covid-19. Somewhere on WhatsApp the acronym was expanded as – Chinese Originated Virus In December 2019. The novel coronavirus has killed tens of thousands of people around the world since it first emerged in China last December. It has compelled many governments to lock down their populations to a degree unimaginable until recently. It will probably cause the most brutal recession in living memory.
Whilst there was a lot of information available about the genetic origins of the virus – that SARS-CoV-2 almost certainly travelled from a bat to a person via an animal in the wet market in Wuhan, a lot of misconceptions about the extent of its impact meant the governments across the countries failed to prepare for the required testing, contact tracing and equipment supply to control the outbreak. Every alarm raised about the virus was initially deemed to be a rumour and the accepted understanding was that it is simply a cold and cough virus that is not life-threatening and can be controlled by building a herd immunity which requires exposing the entire population to contract it.
Boris Johnson was still basking in his general election success last December. Three and a half years on from the Brexit referendum, the UK was finally about to leave the EU on 31 January. The fireworks and parties for the big night were being planned. I had written a blogpost back in October 2019 talking about how Brexit delay had put Britain into the back foot and therefore, now that finally the moment of UK’s departure from the European Union had arrived, there was over-confidence, high spirits and celebrations across the board. Minds were certainly not on a developing health emergency far away.
The true nature of what the potential impact of the virus spread could be was only understood once it started spreading in the western countries like Italy followed by Spain and France. The striking difference between this pandemic and the ones the world had seen in the past turned out to be the susceptibility of virus contraction for each and every person. “It can’t be me” went out of the window when rich and powerful people across the world started contracting this virus – from the prime minister’s wife in Canada, to the next in line King and the Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. For the first time we were faced with something which did not discriminate based on money, power or resources and put each and every person at equal risk of contraction, thereby bringing the highest level of attention possible to any disease.
Strictly following the government’s advice of staying at home was the only solution to saving lives. The government found itself unable to escape the consequences of a wider failure to prepare. Hospitals continued to be overwhelmed before orders were given to massively expand capacity. Ministers came under intense criticism over the lack of protective equipment for frontline NHS staff, over the lack of ventilators for patients in intensive care, and for a failure to test more widely for Covid-19, particularly among NHS workers.
The UK government finally announced its national lockdown on the March 20th. This meant that all non-essential services were to stay closed including pubs and restaurants, schools and nurseries until further notice. It had become clearer that steps taken by countries who had come out of the crisis successfully due to their past experience of dealing with similar outbreaks had to be followed. South Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong moved early to enforce quarantine and social distancing, as well as widespread mask wearing to contain the spread and knew that extensive testing and thorough contact tracing were precisely the kind of action required to avoid a second wave resulting from an easing of restrictions.
The economic impact of the outbreak is yet to be fully felt, however, unlike the previous recessions where governments and central banks have reacted after being hit by the economic crisis, the difference this time has been the proactive measures taken to contain the financial impact as a result of the strict lock down measures. Interest rates were brought to incredibly low levels. Over the past years, banks have been “stress tested” to an incredible degree, meaning that there is confidence that there will be no repeat of the banking collapses as seen in 2008. The government advised banks to ensure availability of mortgage money at rates that can be fixed for a few years ahead and announced programs ensuring availability of funds and loans to small businesses and promising start ups.
It has been six weeks since the country has been under the lock down. The reported numbers of Coronavirus cases and deaths are now thankfully appearing to show a decline from the peak of a week or so ago. Social distancing and a period of lockdown appear to have delivered the aim of limiting hospital admissions so as not to overwhelm the NHS. The nation remains extremely grateful to those working at the frontline, including those within the incredible NHS, care workers, teachers, local authorities and all within those shops which have remained open during this very difficult period supporting every community. Of course, for those who have lost their loved ones to the disease, it is a tragedy amplified by circumstance.
A vaccine is some way from being available, although the news from America seems to have brought some light of hope across the world. The road to a new “normality” has to be carefully thought through to best protect and support the economy alongside limiting the spread of the virus or a second wave. May 7th will see the Government announce what the next stage in managing the covid-19 crisis will be and the plan for how we manage the relaxation applied to lockdown.
In the meantime, everyone must stay safe and most importantly, stay positive. Think about how you would like to reminisce about this crisis for your grand-kids who would be reading about it in their history books. The only way to beating this is by working like a team. TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More and there is no I in TEAM. So, let’s defeat the virus together by letting it not impact our physical and mental wellbeing.