The Coronavirus Disease: An Emergency Alert

An article by Tirth Patel

Check out his biography: “I live in Canton city in the state of Michigan, the United States. I am a college freshman majoring in Biology at Eastern Michigan University. By being a PreMed, I am with a strong desire to get into a medical school and accomplish my dream of becoming a neurosurgeon”.

The human population is under attack.[1] [2] [3]  An extremely small virus, which is not visible with naked eyes, has been declared a murderer, responsible for killing thousands of people within a few days. In addition to human beings, many objects and places, to which the majority of people have access, are contaminated with the deadly virus. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is the official name of the disease. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, explained that CO stands for corona, VI for virus and D for disease, while 19 is for the year that the outbreak was first identified-30 December 2019. While the disease is named COVID-19, the virus that causes it is named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was discovered in China in December 2019 and has spread around the world. As the virus is new, there has not been any cure or treatment made available yet. Also, Corona is a virus; therefore, it is hard to develop antibiotics against COVID-19.

Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the symptoms of Influenza; therefore, it is arduous to distinguish between Influenza and COVID-19. This is one of the reasons people get distressed, thinking that they have COVID-19 every time they sneeze.

The Coronavirus is not only threatening the human population but also affecting a country’s economic development. The present situation has become so grievous that a person who is sneezing is not considered less than a terrorist. From a scientific point of view, COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease. From a political point of view, it is a crisis. And from an economical point of view, it is a scarcity of resources for public welfare.[4] [5]  Therefore, there is an urgent need to spread information and awareness regarding the scientific, political, and economic aspects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Medical science is based on facts; it takes years of rigorous hard work by scientists and researchers to develop antibiotics and vaccines against newly originated disease-causing pathogens. We have a list of diseases caused by viruses that are detrimental to human beings because humans are not hundred percent immune to such diseases.[6] [7]  This is one of the reasons for not having any definite cure or treatment for the diseases caused by viruses, including HIV-AIDS, Swine Flu, and MARSA. COVID-19 is a new member of the list of incurable diseases.

Presently, due to the coronavirus, scientists and doctors have been compelled to review all medical science research to find a cure for the coronavirus disease. There are several questions for the scientists to answer: How the virus spread and originated? What should be done to kill the coronavirus? What are the targets of this virus?

The virus SARS-CoV-2, publicly known as coronavirus, originated in bats called Rhinolophus sinicus. According to the WHO, differences between bats, the coronavirus, and SARS-CoV-2 suggest that humans were infected via an intermediate host. However, the intermediate host through which the virus jumped from bats into the human population is still unknown. According to the researchers of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, the   SARS-CoV-2 virus was imported from elsewhere. The virus then spread rapidly within the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China (Huifeng).

Researchers use two broad strategies to combat viral infections: slowing down the damages caused by the virus and strengthening the body’s immune system (Umair).[8] [9]  Antiviral drugs are used for slowing down viruses. These drugs attack the viral components, including viral enzymes and surface proteins. For example, Remdesivir, under development by Gilead Sciences, is being studied as a way to treat COVID-19. It works by blocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus from copying its genetic material, RNA, the instructions the virus uses to replicate itself. Remdesivir resembles a component of RNA, but when it is taken up by the virus, it causes the copying process to stop. However, Remdesivir fools the virus but not human cells (Umair). Some human-blood derived products are obtained from people who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. These blood products are being analysed by researchers to find antiviral properties against the coronavirus. Scientists have also developed neutralizing monoclonal antibodies directed against SARS-CoV-2 virus, but these antibodies are under investigation in clinical trials.[10] [11] 

Although SARS-CoV-2 virus infects everyone from any age group, SARS-CoV-2 is more severe in the elderly because old people have weaker immune systems as compared to young people. As Dr. Kate Tulenko, CEO of Corvus Health, explained, “Older people do not have a strong immune system, so they are more vulnerable to infectious disease than the teenagers. They are also more likely to have conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, which weaken their body’s ability to fight infectious disease” (Whiting).  This trend is illustrated in a chart showing the COVID-19 fatality rate by age (see Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. COVID-19 fatality rate by age (as of February 11, 2020). Source: “Chinese Center of Disease Control and Prevention.”

The trend in the graph illustrates a significant pattern that may lead to the conclusion that there is a direct correlation between mortality and the age of people who tested positive for COVID-19. Furthermore, it is logical to say that adults over the age of fifty are more vulnerable to the disease than people below fifty. However, [1] [2] the virus indeed is a risk of infection to everyone. It is specifically a high risk of mortality to the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. As Dr. Vineet Menachery, an immunologist at the University of Texas medical school, says, “You may be in your 40s, but if you have chronic health conditions, you’re going to be more susceptible, just like you see with flu” (Adler).

Apart from scientific aspects of the coronavirus disease, the political effects of the coronavirus could be as substantial as the economic effects. Political leaders, by making decisions, are responsible for affecting various aspects of a country’s economy, including trade, employment, and education. However, some of the decisions made by political leaders of different countries have been supported, while most of the decisions have been criticized.

Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, Shinzō Abe, the prime minister of Japan, and Donald Trump, the president of the United States, have been sharply criticized for mishandling the virus and allowing cases to increase. Speculation is growing that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe may be forced to leave the office earlier than expected. If the coronavirus causes an economic slowdown or recession in the United States, then it could reduce the chances that President Trump will be reelected. President Moon Jae-in faced a petition signed by thousands of citizens to remove him from office (McCarthy).

However, in some countries, wise decisions have been taken by the political leaders leading to the effective handling of the coronavirus spread. Although China was the first country to witness the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the decisions made by Xi Jinping, the president of China, were very effective, leading to the slowdown of the disease. The decisions of Xi Jinping were related to control measures, including quarantines, self-isolation, and movement restrictions.

India [1] [2] has a relatively low number of cases compared with the rest of the world. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a major step to impose a nationwide lockdown on all 1.3 billion Indians for three weeks. As Narendra Modi said during his national address, “If we do not handle these 21 days well, then our country will go backward by 21 years” (Ward). As a result, the political leaders of countries like the United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom have made decisions regarding the same steps taken by the leaders of countries, including India, China, and Taiwan.

In addition, politics has been a powerful medium to spread important messages to billions of people. Through the voices of political leaders, phrases such as “social distancing,” “self-quarantine,” and “flattening the curve” are showing up in the media. One of the most important missions of political parties around the world is to flatten the coronavirus curve to decelerate the spread of coronavirus disease. The concept of flattening the curve is represented in a chart distributed by The New York Times (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Positive spread of COVID-19 with and without protective measures. Source: “The New York Times” (27 March 2020).

From the graph, it can be understood that flattening the curve refers to using protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 infections so hospitals have room, supplies, and doctors for all of the patients who need care. Consequently, fewer patients would arrive at the hospitals each day. There would be a better chance of the hospitals being able to keep up with adequate supplies, beds, and health care providers to care for them.

Apart from the scientific and political aspects, the COVID-19 outbreak has generated both demand and supply shocks reverberating across the global economy. The United States, China, Italy, Germany, and other European nations are the countries, have had their economies badly affected by the coronavirus disease.Tourism and travel-related sectors, the trade sector, and the education sector are severely affected due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Countries encouraging social distancing have made restrictions on both domestic and international travel. Consequently, domestic and international airline companies have been running at a great loss. The International Air Transport Association warns that COVID-19 could cost global air carriers between $63 billion and $113 billion in revenue in 2020 (Segal and Gerstel). Travel restrictions have been made by more than eighty countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is illustrated in a chart showing a decline in international aviation due to the coronavirus outbreak (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Percentage decline in international aviation after the coronavirus outbreak (January 20 – February 17, 2020). Source: “AOG Aviation Worldwide via Bloomberg.”

From the graph, it [1] [2] can be concluded that due to the decline in international aviation, tourism, along with international trade are severely affected by the coronavirus spread. Air travel has had a major contribution in spreading the virus around the world, which has led to the suspension of flights to and from China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, smaller economies in the vicinity of the larger neighbor have seen their international flight capacities slashed. Taiwan and Hong Kong are the hardest hit.

Not only tourism, but the film market and recreational attractions have also been running at great losses due to restrictions on international and domestic aviation. The international film market could lose over $5 billion in lower box office sales. Entertainment giants like Disney expect a significant blow to revenues. Sporting Events and other services have also faced significant disruption due to the coronavirus epidemic (Segal and Gerstel). 

Concerning impacts on trade, to decrease the influx of coronavirus into the United States, constraints have been placed on the imports of goods from other countries, especially from China. As a result, varying disruptions across the U.S. economy have occurred, including increased consumer demand of particular goods; reduced production due to lack of key inputs from abroad or quarantined employees; and a dramatic U.S. stock market drop. The U.S. trade deficit fell almost 7% in January largely because of a decline in the imports of oil, cars, and cell phones (Ross). China is the world’s largest manufacturing hub at the center of the global trading system. The U.S. exports and imports could both decline if the restrictions on trade are not lifted soon. 

Furthermore, global supply chain disruptions began earlier this year as China imposed travel and other restrictions to slow down the spread of coronavirus. This in turn affected the American companies doing business based on the goods imported from China. Also, China’s business activities slowed down considerably as COVID-19 spreads. Due to trade restrictions, China faced a decline of 24.5 percent in retail sales, 20.5 percent in export values, 13.5 percent in industrial production, and 13 percent in services production (Ross). 

However, the impacts of the coronavirus disease on education are not as substantial as the impacts on travel and trade. Educators and students around the world are feeling the extraordinary ripple effect of the novel coronavirus as schools shut down amid the public health emergency. There are school closures in more than 110 countries with millions of students around the world facing upheaval.  According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), school closures in over a dozen countries due to the COVID-19 outbreak have disrupted the education of at least 290.5 million students worldwide. Moreover, e-learning plans, including online lecturing and homework assignments, have been implemented.

My findings indicate that COVID-19 has many aspects, which should be understood well. These aspects include medical science witnessing the failures to control the outbreak, political leaders taking decisions under pressure, and countries facing huge economic losses. Scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of the virus’s behavior and transmission rate, which is one of the reasons for not having medicines developed against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The coronavirus outbreak also has an impact on politics. Political leaders are handling the outbreak by taking decisions regarding control measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The most supported control measures, including social distancing, self-quarantine, and flattening the curve have been encouraged through the medium of politics and social media. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, countries have been coping with great economic losses in terms of travel, tourism, trade, and education. However, coherent, coordinated, and credible policy responses provide the best chance to handle economic fallout. Moreover, there is a need to have a careful look at the history of epidemics and shocks, recovery patterns, and future estimates to glean insights into the path ahead.

     References [1] [2] [3] 

Buchholz, Katharina. “Aviation Industry Grounded by Coronavirus.” Economic Impact of COVID-19, 4 Mar. 2020, https://www.statista.com/chart/21027/international-flight-capacity-decline-by-country/. Chart.

Huifeng, He. “Coronavirus did not originate in the Wuhan seafood market, Chinese scientists say.” South China Morning Post, 23 Feb. 2020, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3051981 /coronavirus-did-not-originate-Wuhan-seafood-market-chines.

Koplon, Savannah. “To stop spread of COVID-19, ‘flattening the curve’ is critical.” Health & Medicine, 17 Mar. 2020, https://www.uab.edu/news/health/item/11180-to-stop-spread-of-covid-19-flattening-the-curve-is-critical.

Lovelace, Berkeley. “World Health Organization names the new coronavirus: COVID-19.” Health and Science, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/11/world-health-organization-names-the-new-coronavirus-covid-19.htm.

McCarthy, Kelly. “The global impact of coronavirus on education.” ABC News, 6 Mar. 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/International/global-impact-coronavirus-education/story?id=69411738.

McCarthy, Niall. “How the fatality rate of Coronavirus changes with age.” World Economic Forum, 3 Mar. 2020, https://www.statista.com/chart/20943/new-daily-confirmed-covid-19-cases-and-recoveries/. Chart.

Roberts, Siobhan. “Flattening the Coronavirus Curve.” The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/science/coronavirus-curve-mitigation-infection.html. Chart.  

Ross, Jenna. “COVID-19 Crash: How China’s Economy May Offer a Glimpse of the Future.” Visual Capitalist, 26 Mar. 2020, https://www.visualcapitalist.com/covid-19-economic-impact/.

Segal, Stephanie and Dylan Gerstel. “The Global Economic Impacts of COVID-19.” Center of Strategic & International Studies, 10 Mar. 2020, https://www.csis.org/analysis/global-economic-impacts-covid-19.

Umair, Irfan. “Why the new coronavirus is so hard to cure.” Vox, 11 Mar. 2020, https://www. vox.com/2020/3/11/21163262/is-there-a-cure-for-coronavirus.

Whiting, Kate. “An expert explains: how to help older people through the COVID-19 pandemic.”World Economic Forum, 12 Mar. 2020, https://www.weforum.org/ agenda/2020/03/ coronavirus-covid-19-elderly-older-people-health-risk/.

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