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World Health Organization is publishing an update every day. Following information is derived from their report of 14 December 2021.
- The weekly incidence of new cases and deaths declined during second week of December by 5% and 10% respectively.
- Still, there were 4 million new confirmed cases and about 47,000 new deaths.
- African region reported 111% increase in new cases last week.
- As of 12 December, nearly 269 million confirmed cases and about 5.3 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported worldwide. It may be safely assumed that the actual numbers may be even higher because all countries do not have adequate recording and reporting systems.
We are still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, both due to new variants and increase in cases that continue to spiral.
Let us have a look at the impact of COVID-19 on economy/businesses, people, and health goals.
Impact on Economy
The COVID-19 outbreak triggered an economic disruption which had significant magnitude and an escalating pace. It caused an unprecedented global economic impact leading to rapid economic downturns in many countries. Almost all countries devised support policies to minimize impact on economy and people. However, despite exceptional policy support, the baseline forecast envisaged 5.2 percent decline in global Gross Domestic Product – GDP in 2020, which signified the deepest global recession in eight decades. Advance economies were expected to shrink by 7%, while Emerging Markets and Developing Economies were predicted to contract by 2.5%. In addition, new findings present a dismal picture of the number of affected supply chains.
According to the International Labor Organization – ILO, the labor supply decreased due to travel and human interaction restrictions, employees’ and family members illnesses, and school closures. More developed nations advised staff to work from home and made relevant changes to facilitate it. Another factor which is not mentioned often is that the advances economies had long shifted manual/mechanical labor work to emerging economies, while keeping softer, digital, intellectual work for themselves. It was possible and easy for advanced economies to switch to ‘work-from-home’, but it was not possible for emerging economies to practice the same due to nature of their work. Whatever little could be worked from home, was marred by small spaces, overcrowding, lack of privacy and poor internet.
Supply chain has been severely hit. The manufacturing sector was closed, shortfall in order-filling piled up, and ports did not function optimally due to manpower issues. These factors have created a situation already where demand and supply imbalance has been created; Demand is higher than supply. The other problem is increase in freight which is almost 10 times. This situation is spiraling inflation which is hurting more people.
More recently, climate concerns have further pushed the manufacturing sector. The largest manufacturer, China, has closed factories intermittently which is further disrupting supplies and increasing prices.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused huge digital acceleration, changing the face of the economy and society. The rising trend of online shopping/ordering has changed the face if businesses significantly. It is expected that the future of work, our social lives, education, and security will all undergo major changes.
Impact on People
As the COVID-19 epidemic unfolded, it was estimated that it would infect around 100 million people world and may cause death of 1.8 million. In reality, it caused over 3 million deaths, meaning ‘excess deaths’ of 1.2 million people.
The most significant impact on people has been emotional. Loss of loved ones, fear of contracting disease, loss of income, loss of status, lack of security and threat of long-term disease have wreaked havoc on people. We do not know precisely how much increase in psychiatric problems may be attributed to COVID-19, but it would be significant.
The other significant impact is on the financial status of people which slid down in most cases. Wealth distribution saw even more inequality and disparity. During the year 2020-2021, the number of Billionaires rose rapidly while 300 million more people went into extreme poverty. Even after the epidemic is controlled, the poverty shall not go away.
COVID-19 impact on people is a subject which must be recognized more fully and discussed at all forums.
Impact on Health Goals
We already have major health issues to tackle. Maternal and infant mortality is still high, malnutrition, threats to healthcare, and elderly-care are just some of the health goals.
COVID-19 diverted all or most resources towards itself, leaving little for other health goals. This is also a subject which needs more detailed discourse. We shall take it up.
Our healthcare priorities have been impacted/disrupted and all good work done for many years is under threat.
COVID-19 has affected the entire world in multiple, significant, serious, diverse ways. We must understand the spectrum of issues for better management. The time for short-term policies is over, it is time for long term rescue and relief operation.
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