Mid last week the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus or Covid-19 to be a pandemic. A pandemic is a disease that is prevalent throughout the globe. Humanity is no stranger to these, throughout history there have been a number of very deadly pandemics. This visual showing the history of pandemics places the current Covid-19 into context.
When the story first broke about this virus, the predominate view was that this was another Swine Flu or SARS. Both these were considered to be an over reaction by the media and a beat up. The counter argument is that by raising the alarm early and ensuring prevention, neither SARS or Swine Flu became as deadly as the Spanish Flu of 1918.
The Covid-19 strand of Coronavirus was only discovered 3 months ago in Wuhan China. It is believed by heavily controlling the movement of people and quarantining those infected, China was able to significantly slow the spread of this virus. The same is now being applied in many parts of Europe, where numbers who have caught the virus has sky rocked.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) are the global governance body to direct international health within the United Nations. For those cynical of the important role played by global governance organisations, they should consider the mess the world would be in now were it not for the intervention and advise of the WHO during this crisis. The WHO have given clear advise to governments on how to prevent the spread of this virus. Many governments are following this advise, others have been much slower to react. Increasingly though, most countries, businesses, public bodies and institutions throughout the planet are now reacting, and listening to the WHO.
The scary thing about this Pandemic, is that we still know relatively little about it. We know the symptoms are coughing, a fever and trouble breathing. People who have it are contagious for up to 14 days. And we know that elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to die if they catch the virus. What we don’t know is whether this virus could mutate or get worse. Will the virus continue to spread. One theory is that of herd immunity, whereby once most people have caught the virus it can no longer spread. But this could be completely wrong, and a dangerous and deadly assumption to make.
The silver lining, if there can be any of a global pandemic, is that there are now really good public health campaigns about the need for washing your hands and being aware of hygiene. The spread of viruses is a real problem. According to a International Longevity Centre study of better off/1st world economies, the Flu cost around 159 million working days in 2018 resulting in $39 billion US in lost productivity. The conservative estimate is that in better off countries 91 million people get the flu each year. Many of these infections could be prevented through better hygiene and people washing their hands. Potentially, the current awareness of the need to wash your hands, stay home when you are feeling ill and to cover your mouth when coughing may actually prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses.
The prevention strategies recommended by the WHO will help slow the spread. But they won’t stop the virus. All this can do is buy time, hopefully to learn more about Covid-19 and maybe develop some sort of vaccine or cure. Also to protect the elderly and sick prior to this happening. This is the plan. There are no guarantees this will work, but we need to try.
Whatever happens with the virus, one inevitable outcome will be considerable damage to the global economy. My next post will focus on what has happened to world markets so far, what the likely fallout will be. It will be far from pleasant reading.