It’s been a month since the World Health Organisation declared the new coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern”, and since then it has been dubbed a worldwide pandemic. All across the world people are self-isolating, social distancing or being quarantined either at government prescribed facilities or at home. With a mind-numbing amount of free time, people are binge consuming news and trying to find out how the rest of the world is dealing with the pandemic.
National governments have taken different approaches on how to tackle this health crisis and these choices have affected the virus’s course in different ways. Here’s how some of the countries are handling Covid-19.
According to the information we have to date, the outbreak of the virus started in the city of Wuhan and rapidly spread over the course of the past few months. After approximately 500 people were infected, the Chinese authorities took drastic measures, ensuring a full lockdown with flying drones telling people to stay inside and to wear their masks. They built several mobile hospitals in an attempt to alleviate the pressure on the health system, prepared ready meals for citizens and enforced new regulations to reduce personal contact.
The local authorities then shut down schools, stopped local public transport, strictly limiting movement out of homes and the numbers of people in restaurants or shops ensuring social distancing. By the end of February, the number of new cases had slowed down and now having reached the end of March, China has claimed that they have no more new cases and a video of all the doctors taking off their masks went viral.
Italy is now the worst-hit country having surpassed China with the number of people infected with Covid-19. In Italy, the virus circulated unnoticed in the North for some time, allowing the virus to spread widely and in turn leading to the rapid spreading of the virus and overwhelmed medical services. This led to essentially shutting down the north of Italy and strict control measures were implemented by the government but unfortunately fell on deaf ears.
Within a few days, the virus has spread across the whole of Italy, resulting in drastic measures being implemented by the local government. The notorious Milan fashion week was quickly cancelled, leaving behind empty runways and what should have been empty streets but alas people continued to spend their time outdoors in restaurants and coffee shops. Within a few weeks, the virus had spread to over 59,000 people and over 5,000 deceased. According to local media, the government has now activated the army to patrol the streets and control curfew as well as moving the bodies of those who deceased from the virus.
Spain became the next European state which had the highest number of cases after Italy. Spain declared a state of emergency on March 14, imposing a nationwide lockdown due to the virus, closing all stores except groceries and pharmacies. According to the government, people will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to medical centres and banks, or go outside when caring for the young and the elderly.
Spain also followed suit closing restaurants, bars, hotels, schools and universities nationwide and other non-essential retail outlets.
The US has become a controversy in its own realm with the President of the United States refusing to get tested for a week after coming in contact with a person who was tested positive for the coronavirus. The US has been slow to develop and distribute an accurate coronavirus diagnostic test in adequate numbers and the national response has been uncoordinated. Individual cities are starting to introduce strict social distancing measures while the epidemic has spread widely to every state, with increasing problems arising from the way the government is dealing with the virus. Citizens have inequitable access to healthcare and subsequent deaths have followed given their lack of access to treatment.
As the novel coronavirus rips through a stunned global population, it's becoming clear that no one can escape the impact it's having on society. The problem reached a crunch point in the UK, which dramatically increased its response to the virus this week after it so nonchalantly dismissed its existence and potential danger. The UK government finally announced that all restaurants and shops should remain closed, while its citizens practised social distancing. However, the UK faces a lot of criticism on how it has failed it’s most vulnerable. London faces empty shelves in shops but busy bars, the government vows to pay 80% of wages but doesn’t take into consideration those who are self- employed or on zero-hour contracts.
The situation is equally bleak for the UK's homeless population, estimated to be around 320,000. Unable to follow government advice to self-isolate, they face a double blow as life-saving services close just as they become most needed.