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How Bad COVID-19 Has Changed Our World

INSAF ALI

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On 11th March 2020, the WHO carried out a virtual press conference and confirmed our fears. Covid 19 was declared a pandemic, with such a wide reach and explosive magnitude, the world braced itself for the impact.

Lockdowns were imposed, economies brought to a grinding halt and travel was shutdown. All of us were stuck where we had to embrace what covid 19 had in store for us.

Within a few weeks, COVID propagated like a chain, and at the time of writing this — 96.2 million people have been infected and 2.06 million dead. To put that into perspective — that’s the entire population of the City of Houston, Texas, gone forever.

Many of us suffered Gruelling days — battling fever, weakness, and breathlessness. Many of us lost our invaluable loved ones, some lost their jobs and all their savings, and many were left homeless. For better or worse COVID-19 has changed us permanently.

As the world is coming back on its feet and trying to regain its pre-2020 form and trying to retrace what went wrong. I am going to take a different approach towards this and taking a look at 5 things changed by COVID-19 forever.

Number 1 — Your Wardrobe

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The must-have fashion item of 2020 was a small piece of cloth to put around your face and the must-have pocket item of 2020 was a small bottle of sanitizer.

Even as you’re reading this — most of you will be having a mask nearby. That is the reality today.

You may not realize it but your inner planning system has changed a bit.

For example — there’s always a sequence of items you confirm before leaving your home or workplace. It goes something like — phone (most important of course), wallet and keys. After 2020 it has become something like — phone, wallet, keys — mask, and sanitizer. This is a small but crucial addition.

This trend of manufacturing masks was followed by clothing companies and retailers. Today you have masks in fashion lines and various designs to suit your needs.

Local distillers and manufacturers everywhere have started their own line of sanitizer products — like liquids, sprays, and gels.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of wearing masks and using sanitizers. So it's very important that you keep using masks and sanitizers until this pandemic is over.

Number 2 — Mental Health

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Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study conducted by the Centre for Disease Control found that the percentage of Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety increased about three times and the percentage of people with symptoms of depression increased about four times, compared with previous levels.

This was coupled with an increase in alcohol consumption by 14% and increased drug abuse. Overall the survey found that nearly 41% of participants reported symptoms of at least one mental health issue.

It is not entirely clear as to what is the reason behind this worrisome situation but factors relating to the pandemic such as social isolation, domestic violence, closure of schools and universities, unemployment, financial worries, as well as the threat of the disease itself, maybe the contributing factors.

These after-effects of COVID-19 are invisible and this will continue as a silent epidemic on its own and is affecting millions worldwide.

There is an urgent need to address the mental health consequences of the pandemic, such as through increased access to resources for diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions.

Also, social distancing has promoted the expanded use of telehealth. I believe that no one is alone, help is always available. If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline of your region.

Number 3 — An example set by New Zealand

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Home to 5 million people New Zealand reported a peak of around 1500 cases and by April daily cases dropped to around 150 per day and when the world was struggling to breathe in this pandemic, on April 26 — New Zealand reported 0 cases.

At the time of writing this — New Zealand reported 0 cases in the past few days with only 25 deaths since the pandemic began.

So what exactly did the New Zealand administration do?

Well, on 11th March 2020 WHO declared the covid 19 as a pandemic, and on March 15, even though there were just 6 cases nationwide at that time, the country began mandatory quarantines for all visitors.

This was — at that time one of the most strict policies in the world regarding covid.

Just 10 days later, NZ began a complete, countrywide lockdown, including a moratorium on domestic travel. The Level 4 restrictions meant grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and petrol stations were the only businesses allowed.

Vehicle travel was restricted, and social interaction was limited to within households.

NZ Prime Minister made clear, concise statements about the situation to the nation, supported by a team of scientists and health professionals.

A few days after the lockdown, she announced that instead of just slowing the transmission of the virus, New Zealand has set a course of eradicating COVID-19 from its shores, by cutting off the arrival of new cases and choking out the existing ones with the restrictions.

The interesting thing about New Zealand is that the citizens got on board with the authorities.

On day one of the lockdowns, the streets and highways were empty, the shops were closed, and everyone stayed home which brings us to the crux — New Zealand is an example for the world to see and fix their own inefficiencies.

Coordination and cooperation between the people, authorities, and medical professionals is a must if one wants to battle such a deadly virus.

Number 4 — Climate Change

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There are always 2 sides to a coin — when humans suffered and the economy shut down — nature flourished.

Researchers from several institutions presented results in a virtual press conference on Dec. 7 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2020 fall meeting.

They found that Deforestation rates are decreasing in some places, air pollution is diminishing, water quality is improving and snow is becoming more reflective in some areas since the pandemic began earlier this year.

Satellite images also show a reduction in environmental pollution in this time period.

One study found that the concentration of an air pollutant called particulate matter (PM) decreased around a third to a fourth of the pre-pandemic level in India.

Another study found that there was a 40% decrease in water pollution in the City of Manhattan during the pandemic. Despite this, it seems the positive developments have been short-lived — and overstated.

Air pollution levels have already returned to pre-pandemic levels in 12 major world cities. Research also showed that the dramatic drops in air pollutants and greenhouse gases will have very little impact on global warming. This is because the changes made were temporary, and have come at the greatest possible cost.

The production of single-use plastics and waste has increased considerably, especially as PPE usage surged, but all hope is not lost — COVID-19 has shown us just how difficult it will be to address climate issues, it has also shown what humans can achieve as a collective.

Businesses, governments, and policymakers need to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to double down on sustainability commitments and investments.

We also need to lay the groundwork to rewire the economy and make it more sustainable going forward, because if we don’t — we will have to face catastrophic health, economic, and environmental consequences.

Number 5 — Medical Sector

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Healthcare systems have undergone and are still experiencing drastic changes. The pharmaceutical sector was at the cut-throat competition to discover, develop and market medicines and bring in huge profits.

Now we see bitter rivals, such as vaccine-makers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, collaborate and join forces to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

There is more emphasis on partnership and collaboration all over the globe. Countries are sharing treatments with academics all over the world to see if they can mitigate the worst effects of the virus and save lives.

They are also sharing expertise, research findings, and manufacturing capability including exporting essential medicines and PPE equipment. This sets an example of humanity above profits.

COVID-19 has acted as a wake-up call for the governments, as it has exposed the shortcomings of the health care system globally. Increased funds are being pumped into public health, sanitation, and most importantly — research and development.

For most of us, there will always be a pre-COVID world and a post-COVID world. I hope humanity never forgets what covid taught us.

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