Covid-19 is one of the most significant challenges the world has seen these last years, and 2020 is entirely governed by this growing pandemic. With more than 44 million people infected and over 1.1 million deaths so far, this highly contagious virus has made its way all over the world, attacking one region after another. What started in a market in Wuhan, China, turned into a global pandemic that the world was not prepared for.
Despite all the attempts to stop it or at least limit its contagion, the numbers are still rising in most countries. It's a virus we weren't prepared to face, and it's creating a global crisis of major proportions, affecting all medical systems and the economy as well. With no vaccine available yet, the battle is far from ending.
The Chinese Strategy
The original outbreak happened in China, in the city of Wuhan. It was on December 31, 2019, that the WHO office in Wuhan reported the first case of pneumonia caused by the new virus experts soon named Covid-19. The numbers escalated with an incredible speed, and the world was shocked at the news of the major health crisis China was trying to handle.
Despite all the efforts of containing the virus, it had already spread to many countries by April 2020. However, as the world was about to discover, the pandemic ended up hitting the rest of the world much worse than China. The reason is the quick response and the efficient measures taken by the Chinese government. From mass testing to lockdown, everything was done as urgently as possible to stop the spreading. Wuhan, for instance, was in strict lockdown for 76 days.
Then, the entire province of Hubei followed the same strict measures. Public transportation was canceled, schools closed, and only one family member allowed to leave home to get supplies. The Hubei government also implemented a system of contact tracing, which proved to be very efficient.
An illustrative example of how efficiently the Chinese authorities reacted is the fact that they managed to test 9 million Wuhan inhabitants in just a few weeks. They also built hospitals for Covid-19 patients in record time, used not just for treatment but also to isolate those tested positive, to prevent them from infecting other family members.
One of the reasons China handled the outbreak better than other countries was the previous experience with SARS-CoV, through which the Chinese updated their epidemic response system to avoid another health catastrophe. People knew what such a virus could lead to, and all the measures were respected and followed to the latter.
Apart from the fast response in containing the spread, China shared the genomic sequence of the virus in January in the hope of receiving help to find the right treatment and, hopefully, a vaccine. But at that point, it was still about understanding how the new virus worked.
Of course, many voices argued that it was China's late admission of how severe the outbreak really was that caused it to spread as well as that the Chinese government held back information. Regardless, at this point, China is no longer facing the threat of Covid-19, while in the rest of the world, the situation is getting worse by the day.
Covid-19 officially became an international public health emergency, according to the WHO . While China was still fighting to get things under control, new cases started to appear in other countries like Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, and then in the U.S. and Europe.
The Disaster in Italy
The images of countless coffins in Italy won't be forgotten for a long time. The outbreak in this country was as sudden as deadly. With no apparent reasons, Italy was the first country in Europe where the outbreak appeared with catastrophic results, nowhere close to being prepared for such a pandemic.
Italy ended up suffering higher mortality than China, 9%, more precisely. It was said to be the worst event in their post-World War II history. The pandemic came with severe consequences, both when it came to the vast number of lost lives and the economic crisis. The reason for the high mortality was the aging population, as most deaths happened with patients over 80 years old.
The first case was registered in Italy on February 21, 2020, and the northern part of the country took the brunt. The Lombardy region had such a high mortality rate with almost three times the number of deaths in China.
Being the first country in Europe suffering the outbreak of Covid-19, Italy was caught off guard, with its containing measures taken a bit too late to stop the pandemic in due time. With authorities underestimating the danger and the speed of this virus, by the time social distancing and lockdown measures were taken, Italy was already mourning.
Apart from the delayed containment measures, other significant issues were the fact that the hospitals simply didn't have enough protection equipment or ventilators. And with the majority of patients being over 80 and in need of oxygen, the results were dramatic. They also faced many deaths among the medical staff, and those that remained were exhausted and couldn't keep up the pace.
As it later turned out, the outbreak in spring was only the first wave. Right now, they are facing the second wave, which seems to affect the southern part of the country in particular.
Compared with what happened in spring, Italy is a bit better prepared this time when it comes to hospitals, ventilators, and medical staff. Still, things can quickly escalate again, especially if we consider the overall situation in Europe.
On October 29, the situation in Italy was as follows:
- Confirmed cases: 589,766
- Deaths: 37,905
- Recovered: 275,404
The Pandemic is Spiking in the U.S.
The Covid-19 pandemic got to the U.S. quite soon after the original outbreak in China, and by March 27, 2020, the number of cases was higher than in China. By the end of the month, it had already spread in all 50 states. And the numbers were going to rise soon.
The initial response to the threat of the pandemic was not strong enough to contain its spreading. Apart from imposing certain restrictions on people traveling from China, no extra measures were taken to prepare the population and the medical system for the avalanche of cases that followed.
Despite declaring the pandemic a national emergency on March 13, the authorities didn't speed up the process of buying medical supplies. But they did impose restrictions on people traveling from Europe. Still, by April, the number of cases was increasing, and it became apparent that further measures were necessary.
On April 11, the number of deaths caused by the Covid-19 in the U.S. surpassed Italy. Granted, the two countries' population cannot be compared, but still, it was the beginning of a long and tragic path for the U.S. By the end of May, the number of deaths got to 100,000.
The reason for the escalating cases and the death toll was that no extra measures were taken after the lockdown. In fact, not even masks were used as often and as efficiently as needed. People started to protest against keeping economic agents closed, fearing the consequences the economy will have to face. While these concerns were justified, the insufficient measures to stop the contagion led to over 1 million cases by June.
Over the summer, things only got worse, as a result of combining nice weather and people's reluctance to wear masks and keeping the social distance. The U.S. passed the 4 million cases threshold on July 23, with over 150,000 deaths. By August 31, the number of cases became 6 million.
President Trump's strategy facing the pandemic was and remains controversial. He only wore a mask in public one month after experts advised people to use it as much as possible. Despite receiving several requests for a new lockdown, in order to contain things enough to be able to open schools, the U.S. failed and September witnessed 7 million cases and 200,000 deaths nationwide.
The virus kept spreading, and on October 2, at 0:45 AM (local time), President Trump announced in a tweet that he was tested positive for Covid-19, along with his wife. Many other members of the administration were also infected. Along with the expected consequences of this news, the numbers kept growing in all states, and by October 16, it was already over 8 million.
On October 29, the situation in the U.S. was as follows:
- Confirmed cases: 9,136,416
- Deaths: 233,337
- Recovered: 5,940,558
The Current General Situation
The Covid-19 pandemic spread with a speed and rate of contagion that was impossible to stop, affecting the entire world. Among the most severely affected countries, apart from the ones that we have already mentioned, are:
- India: over 6 million cases
- Brazil: almost 5 million cases
- Russia: 1.2 million cases
- Colombia and Peru: over 800,000 cases each
- Argentina, Spain, Mexico, and South Africa: between 700,000 and 800,000 cases
- France, the UK, Chile, and Iran: almost 500,000 cases
These are the countries with the highest numbers, but the fact is the situation is tragic all over, and the numbers keep rising. A report published on October 5 showed that the total number of cases was 35,237,578. Out of these, 67.23% were cured, and 2.95% died.
Covid-19 Significance and Possible Evolution
There is no doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has an impact nobody expected or was fully prepared for. So far, China is the only country that managed to surpass it, but the battle is still on for the rest of the world. Lockdowns are starting to be imposed, and at the same time, people keep protesting against it. Until vaccines are available, the harsh truth is the curve will probably remain ascending unless severe measures are taken.
The effects of this new and aggressive virus are felt not only on a global level but also by each individual. We are all forced to adapt to this new reality, and chances are our lives will be affected and transformed for years to come. Regardless of how they view the virus, every person is somehow involved in this global crisis and will have to adapt. What we can do is protect ourselves and those around us and maybe rethink our way of living, at least to some extent.
So far, we know how the pandemic started and how it spreads and affects people, but how will we know we are close to ending it? Are there signs to look for? The usual path of a pandemic leads to people developing collective immunity, but so far, Covid-19 seems to be an exception to the rule. So, our best chances to stop the virus are learning how to live with it, respecting the safety measures long enough to have access to efficient vaccines.
It's hard to predict how and when we will be safe from Covid-19, but it will probably happen once a significant part of the world's population is vaccinated, which will take a while. At this point, all we can do is try our best to stay healthy and keep others safe as well. And not forget the many lives already lost, including those who died doing their job and trying to help people. As a sign of respect for their sacrifice and the pain of their loved ones, it's necessary to do our little parts to push this horrific pandemic one step closer to the end.
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