Science is both a boon and a curse at the same time. As Newton’s third law of motion states, “Every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction”, everything has a good and a bad side. Covid-19 pandemic is one of the greatest threats to mankind that has descended, proliferated, and diffused in no time. Coronavirus belongs to a group of related viruses that causes disease in mammals and birds. Coronaviruses constitute the subfamily Orthocoronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae, order Nidovirales, and realm Riboviria. The name coronavirus is derived from the Latin word Corona, meaning ‘crown’ or ‘halo’, which refers to the characteristic appearance reminiscent of a crown or a solar corona around the virions (virus particles) when viewed under two- dimensional transmission electron microscopy due to the surface being covered in club-shaped protein spikes.
The Covid-19 has spread to nearly every country in the world since it first emerged in the ‘Wet market’ of Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. More than 41,14,978 people are known to have been infected globally and more than 2,80,500 deaths have been recorded, including more than 31,000 deaths in the U.K. The disease has already created an unstoppable monster in Europe, the USA, and Southeast Asia and is beginning to wreak havoc in Africa and South America. Initial symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness, and a general feeling of being unwell. The death rate around the world varies greatly and there are multiple reasons for this: experts believe it could be to do with the way deaths are counted; the age of the people affected and the state of the health service in each country. The 1918 Spanish-influenza or the H1N1 virus remains the most devastating flu pandemic in modern history. The disease swept around the globe and is estimated to have caused between 50-100 million deaths. A cousin of the same virus was also behind the 2009 swine-flu outbreak, thought to have killed as many as 5,75,400 people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a series of traumas that make each of us rethink the meaning of our humanity. Efforts to slow the spread of the disease have demanded enormous sacrifices. According to UNESCO, over 160 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting over 87% of the world’s student population. The number of students not attending schools and universities because of COVID-19 is soaring. Closure of schools in many countries to contain the spread of COVID-19 is disrupting the education of 290.5 million students globally. UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries, including solutions for inclusive distance learning.
According to the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, “While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new, unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption are unparalleled and if prolonged, could threaten the right of education.” Disrupting schooling also leads to other hard to measure losses, including inconveniences to families and decreased economic productivity as parents struggle to balance work obligations with childcare. Education is about much more than just classroom learning. For millions of children and youth, schools are a lifeline of opportunity as well as a shield. In the U.S, some 22 million children rely on school for the hot daily meal that stands between them and hunger. In fragile countries, school closures have the potential to be devastating and can permanently derail children’s futures. So, UNESCO convened an emergency meeting of education ministers on 10 March 2020 to share responses and strategies to maintain the continuity of learning and assure inclusion and equality.
In recent weeks, Covid-19 has created a significant economic impact on financial markets and vulnerable industries such as manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, and travel. Travel and tourism account for 10% of the global GDP and 50 million jobs are at risk worldwide. Typically, this will affect the least well-paid, the self-employed ones, or those working in informal environments in the gig economy or in part-time work with zero-hour contracts.
In India, economists expect the near-term impact of the outbreak to be limited to the supply chains of major conglomerates, especially pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, automobiles, textiles, and electronics. On 19th March 2020, the Indian government had banned the export of ventilators, surgical/disposable masks, and textile raw materials out of the country.
In Japan, the outbreak has been a concern for the 2020 summer Olympics which is scheduled to take place in Tokyo at the end of July. In Sri Lanka, the research house expects the economic impact to be confined only to tourism. Among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, Singapore has witnessed panic in buying essential groceries, masks, thermometers, and sanitation products despite being advised against doing so by the government. In Indonesia, over 10,000 Chinese tourists canceled trips and flights to major destinations like Bali, Jakarta, etc. In the UK, on 13th February, heavy equipment manufacturer JCB announced its plan to reduce working hours and production due to shortages in their supply chain caused by the outbreak.
In the USA, the viral outbreak was cited by many companies in their briefings to shareholders. Those with manufacturing lines in mainland China warned about the possible supply shortages. The bank of Canada lowered the overnight rate target by 50 basis points to 0.75% in an unscheduled rate decision citing the “negative shocks to Canada’s economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices.” Two localities in Australia, Cairns and Gold coast, have reported lost earnings of more $600 million. Tourism bodies have suggested that the total economic cost to the sector, on 11th February 2020 was around $4.5 billion. Casino-earnings are expected to fail and more than 20,000 Australian jobs being lost. The Australian dollar dropped to its lowest value since the Great Recession.
Social distancing and lockdowns have also prompted altruistic behaviors mainly because of the sense that “We are all in this together.” Many people report being bored or concerned about putting on weight; others have discovered a slower pace of life and by not going out and by socializing have found more time for family, friends, and even pets. The downside of self-isolation is symptoms of traumatic stress, confusion, and anger, all of which are exacerbated by fear of infection, limited access to supplies of necessities, inadequate information, or the experience of economic stigma.
Sadly, criminals and hackers are exploiting this situation and there has been a significant rise in coronavirus-themed malicious websites, with more than 16,000 new coronavirus-related domains registered since January 2020. Hackers are selling malware and hacking tools through COVID-19 discount codes in the darknet. Behind these statistics lie the human costs of the pandemic, from the deaths of friends and family to the physical effects of infection and mental trauma and fear faced by almost everyone.
Not knowing how this pandemic will play out affects our educational, economic, social, physical, and mental well-being against a backdrop of a world that, for many, is increasingly anxious, unhappy and isolated. COVID-19 doesn’t care about nationality or ethnicity, faction, or faith. It relentlessly attacks all.
Act together against Covid-19? This crisis is a reminder of how important scientific cooperation, education, and knowledge sharing are. Let us mobilize to share culture and knowledge, to connect with others even when while staying at home. We count on us. We can, and we must have to defeat the terror of Covid-19.