By Neil Dasgupta
On the first day of the new year, 2020, most people woke up blissfully unaware that a deadly virus of unknown origin was causing severe respiratory illness and mysterious deaths in Wuhan, a major commercial hub and capital of central China’s Hubei province.
Soon enough, the name ‘novel Coronavirus’ or SARS-CoV2 dominated TV news bulletins, newspaper headlines, and social media as the deadly virus behind a highly infectious disease called COVID-19. This virus has taken 371K lives (and counting) and infected over 6.06 million people globally (as of June 2, 2020).
What is this novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV2? In the natural course, all species, whether animals or humans, carry many viruses in their bodies and have natural defences to such viruses. Some viruses are zoonotic, meaning they jump from animal to human. Some researchers have stated that that the virus may have passed from bats to humans through the pangolin. Once humans got exposed to the virus, they transferred it from person-to-person.
Where did Covid-19 originate and how does it spread? Covid-19 is said to have originated in the Wuhan live animal market, around December 2019, and within days was declared a global pandemic, becoming a worldwide contagion in over 180 countries.
This virus spreads by wet particles released in the air by an infected person. These droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, fall to the ground or onto surfaces in a few seconds and infect people in proximity — this is why social and physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread. This virus causes severe respiratory difficulties amongst critically ill patients.
How did countries respond? Countries closed their international borders, stopped international flights and ordered their citizens to stay-at-home and work-from-home in order to ensure social and physical distancing and break the chain of the spread of the highly contagious virus.
What has been the impact of lockdown in India? India has been in lockdown since March 25, 2020, and this has hurt economic activity and caused huge business losses. Millions of Indians, especially in the informal sector, have lost their jobs and have been left stranded without any income or food.
Hunger and starvation have become a reality. Migrants workers defied curfew orders, started walking hundreds and thousands of miles to reach their native places. Many died on the way with heat, exhaustion, and hunger. The lockdown has not helped control the virus either. With less than 600 cases before the lockdown, there are now almost 2 lakh cases.
Which countries are the worst affected by COVID-19? After the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, it has spread to more than 6 million people globally in just 5 months (as of June 2, 2020). While the virus originated in China, now more than 98% of the global Covid-19 cases are currently outside China. To everyone’s surprise, China does not even feature in the ten most affected countries with Covid-19 – refer to the chart below.
Chart: Top Ten Most Affected Countries with COVID-19, as of May 28, 2020.
|Source: Worldometers 28/5/2020||Cases||Deaths||Death %||Cases/ 1M Pop||Deaths/ 1M Pop|
Head here for an updated chart (As of June 2).
It is interesting to note that 8 of the top ten countries are rich, industrialized and highly developed countries with excellent and highly advanced healthcare and medical infrastructure. The USA, when compared to India, has about 50 times more infected cases per million population and 100 times more deaths per million population. The death percentage in India (2.7%) is half that of the US and one-fifth of the rate in UK, Italy and France.
Some attribute India’s low Covid-19 caseload to our high immunity levels perhaps due to the BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin) vaccine administered to Indians at birth. Others point to India’s relatively young population with two-thirds of the population under 35 years and a half under 25 years of age. Countries such as Portugal, Japan, China that have a mandatory BCG vaccination program also have a low number of Covid-19 cases.
Note: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not recommended the BCG vaccine as a cure for COVID-19.
And European countries with older populations having co-morbid conditions like diabetes, blood pressure and lung problems have seen very high caseloads and death rates.
Maybe this virus is nature’s warning to all of us to relook at our selfish and materialistic lifestyles and respect the bounties of nature with humility. Maybe we need to be thankful for what we have and not constantly exploit the environment to fulfil our never-ending greed. Because what nature has given can be taken away in a flash of a second and I think COVID-19 is proof of that.
About the author: Neil Dasgupta is a 16-year-old student from Sanskriti School, New Delhi. The relief of finishing his tenth grade CBSE Board exams in March 2020 was short-lived as his life got disrupted with the Covid-19 lockdown. This article on the novel Coronavirus is his attempt to share his views and observations on deadly pandemic as he sees it from his eyes.