It seems like the only thing we can talk about right now is the coronavirus. This highly contagious respiratory disease that started in China has now become a global pandemic, affecting countries all over the world. So far, nearly 2.5 million cases of the virus have been confirmed globally. The death toll is well above 185,000 with the US, Spain, and Italy being the hardest-hit nations on the planet.
But the COVID 19 pandemic is not just a public health issue. The economic toll is also massive. Experts are warning that the global economy is now in a recession, and it may take time before it fully recovers. The United States is also seeing a slump in economic activity as a result of stay at home orders issued by various states. As the economic impact of this virus continues to bite, protests have erupted in parts of the country calling for the easing of these lockdowns.
However, despite these growing tensions, the worst of the coronavirus is yet to come, at least according to the World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. During a press briefing earlier this week, Tedros noted that “the worst is yet ahead of us.” He also went on to compare the impact of the virus to the 1918 flu that killed nearly 675,000 people in the United States.
Tedros nonetheless noted that it is possible to avert a similar tragedy this time round but cautioned that there’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus. These comments come as the clamor to reopen shutdown economies around the world continues to grow. The US, in particular, is hoping to reopen its economy sooner rather than later. The Trump administration has in fact issued guidelines to states that would provide a roadmap towards reopening.
Some states like Georgia have also started to ease these restrictions, allowing a few non-essential businesses to open under strict social distancing guidelines. But there’s a real fear and a real risk that the rush to reopen economies could lead to a second outbreak, one that may have devastating effects. Public health experts in the US and at the WHO have noted that it may take one extra month of shutdowns to tell whether countries can reopen or not.
Others have argued that there is no safe away to open economies without a vaccine, seeing that this is a highly infectious virus. Testing for a vaccine is already underway but it could be months before such a product is commercially available. There’s also a need to do mass testing in order to critically determine how widespread the disease is.
The WHO has already applauded the swift and strict social distancing actions taken by various countries to prevent the spread of this virus. But if these social distancing measures are eased early, then the repercussions could be calamitous. The US so far has reported over 45,000 deaths and early estimates from the White House expect this number to hit at least 60,000.