Published March 7, 2020
So, here we are in history, with another global health crisis on our hands. It’s not the first time we have faced a quickly-spreading new virus, and it’s not the worst that the world has faced. Well, hopefully. The bubonic plague is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in the 14th century. HIV has killed 36 million since 1981. You have to go back to the Spanish flu in 1918 to find a higher death rate from a 20th century pandemic. The death toll then was from 20 to 50 million over a two year period. What’s alarming is that COVID-19, is eerily similar to the Spanish flu. In both cases the resulting pneumonia was often the killer.
Then again, that’s speculation. For there is one thing that separates historic pandemics from the Wuhan coronavirus: we have never had so much science on our side. Sarcastically, we are always as good as we can be in science when a new outbreak pops up. So that alone is not gonna save the day. Far from it. We also have to rely on responsible politicians, and count on other members of the general public to do the right thing and heed the latest warnings from the Directorate of Health and the World Health Organisation.
The global spread of COVID-19 is made even more frightening by the misinformation circulating as fake news on social media. Leaders, like in the USA as well as in Iceland, are trying to use the virus as a political weapon. They will not be the only ones. And the saddest thing is that it will be utilised at the cost of human lives.
What’s more, outbreaks like this unveil a country’s shortcomings, like their broken health care system and the true state of their democracy. Or does anyone truly believe that only six individuals have contracted COVID-19 in Russia, which shares a not insignificant lang border with China? Does anybody truly believe that citizens of the US, or other countries with a privatised health care system, will go to a doctor to confirm if they have the virus at the cost of thousands of dollars? Will those infected get paid to be home on sick leave? These are simple yet significant questions and an important moment for people to self-reflect. Because the answer could determine just how long this virus is able to spread. It’s time for responsible politics again.
Correction: In the original text it was stated that the Spanish flu and COVID-19 were both Coronaviruses, but that is not correct, and have been deleted from the text.
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