COVID-19: The global scenario

Swastik Aryal

March 13, 2020


COVID-19: The global scenario

KATHMANDU: The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak, a pandemic which has spread to at least 124 countries and one international conveyance, Diamond Princess.

As per the latest report, 126,502 people are infected by coronavirus where 4,973 have died and 68,306 have recovered.

The number of recovered patients has however shown a light of hope to people.

According to WHO, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)”.

Coronaviruses are believed to be transmitted between animals, some between animals and people, and others from people to people.

Famous personalities infected by COVID-19:

Tom Hanks, Actor and wife Rita Wilson, Actress, United States of America

Timo Hubers, Footballer (Defender), Germany

Paul Akpan Udoh, Footballer, Italian-Nigerian

Nadine Dorries, Health Minister, United Kingdom

Member of Parliaments, Iran

Jaroslaw Mika, General Commander of Armed Forces, Poland

COVID-19: Nepalese Scenario

How likely is it for the virus to enter and spread in Nepal? WHO has classified Nepal as a high-risk country, mainly because of being a neighboring country of China.

Additionally, India has witnessed multiple cases of COVID-19, which creates a bigger risk for Nepali people as the border between Nepal and India is unregulated and open.

Given the classification of WHO and the fact that India has placed patients under isolation, cases of COVID-19 might appear in Nepal.

Why hasn’t the virus spread in Nepal yet?

There could be numerous reasons as to why Nepal is still comparatively safer than other countries.

But then who had thought that Italy, a country that is 8,659 kilometers away from Wuhan would see so many cases of COVID-19 that the country would be on complete lockdown.

If that was the case then those tourists would have either been sent back or placed under quarantine. But neither of those have been heard of. Moreover, the WHO has already informed the world that symptoms of coronavirus infection only appear after 14 days.

So no matter how much we like to say “Nepal is a coronavirus safe zone” there is still a high chance the virus might spread rapidly or not.

The following scenarios might explain why coronavirus cases haven’t been found in Nepal yet:

Firs: The virus has not entered Nepal, thus preventing the spread.

This probably one of the least likely scenarios.

Nepal until very recently had campaigns and slogans for the tourism year 2020, although the number of tourist arrivals hadn’t improved, there was and still, are tourists entering the country.

Now, let us assume that due to the temperature checks and sanitization at Tribhuvan International Airport, health officials have been able to identify tourists that are infected.

If that was the case then those tourists would have either been sent back or placed under quarantine. But neither of those have been heard of. Moreover, the WHO has already informed the world that symptoms of coronavirus infection only appear after 14 days.

So, even if temperature checks are carried out, they won’t effectively detect infected people.

Second: The virus has already entered Nepal and we are not aware or do not care.

As the first scenario is not very likely, it is fairly relevant to say that the virus has already entered Nepal.

Unlike the first scenario, the second scenario might actually be the case. It has already been established that Nepal has been and still is visited by different nationalities and due to ineffective prevention the virus might have already entered Nepal.

It is often easy to blame the government for not taking preventive and screening measures but looking at the state of the entire world, is it really fair to blame only the government?

Wasn’t the entire world aware of the virus outbreak? Even with strong precautionary measures, developed countries such as Italy and South Korea were not able to prevent the spread of the virus. It is extremely possible that the coronavirus has entered Nepal, but we are not aware or do not care about that.

Third: The common cold does not push Nepali people towards the hospitals.

The common cold is very common in Nepal. All the air pollution in the country is the major cause of the common flu.

And it is not in our nature to visit the hospital merely because of the common flu, which usually gets better after one week.

So a person who is infected with COVID-19 might just think that he/she just has the common flu. Due to this fact, the government and health officials might not have seen any cases of coronavirus in Nepal.

Tourism is one of the most income-generating sectors in Nepal. Due to travel restrictions from all around the world, the inflow of tourists has decreased hence causing a major setback on the GDP of Nepal.

However, cases of people dying because of the common flu haven’t been heard of in Nepal. So if the virus has actually entered and spread in Nepal then hospital cases or death should have occurred till now but neither has happened which is curious.

Fourth: Nepali people have a stronger immunity power

Coming from Nepali writers, this might seem like a brag but we, Nepali do have a stronger immunity power.

The reason COVID-19 cases have not been seen in Nepal is because of stronger immunity power. The one coronavirus case that was seen in Nepal also recovered. Stronger immunity power might be an explanation as to why the virus hasn’t spread.

Fifth: Blessing in disguise

Maybe this scenario is a bit too superstitious but given the fact that Nepal is a highly religious country, the blessing from Pashupatinath is preventing the virus from spreading.

This might also be one of the least likely scenarios according to science but there is still so much that science has not been able to explain, so why can’t this be a possibility?

Economic impact of COVID-19 in Nepal

The health aspect of COVID-19 is, of course, the most serious implication but we cannot ignore the economic impact caused by the coronavirus.

Experts have predicted that the coronavirus could cost the world $2.7 trillion dollars.

In the case of Nepal, the economy could slow down immensely as well. The economy of Nepal is extremely import-dependent with few export goods and services.

Tourism is one of the most income-generating sectors in Nepal. Due to travel restrictions from all around the world, the inflow of tourists has decreased hence causing a major setback on the GDP of Nepal.

Hotel occupancies have decreased and airline companies have fewer passengers. Tourism is a major source of foreign currencies for Nepal and the tourism industry also contributes towards employment generation but due to increased cases of COVID-19 worldwide, both foreign currencies entering Nepal as well as employment opportunities will decrease.

At the same time, the government is planning to suspend trade from countries that are severely affected by COVID-19.

The countries include China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, and Italy. China is both a neighbor as well as a major trading partner in Nepal.

Temporarily suspending trade with China will decrease imports which will create a shortage in the Nepali market.

A shortage will basically create panic among the consumers. There is already a shortage of masks (might be an artificial shortage) and hand sanitizers. In a panic state consumers do not behave rationally hence, hoarding of goods usually contributes to creating a massive shortage.

The pandemic has already created shortages in countries such as Australia (tissue paper, pasta and hand sanitizers) and the USA (hand sanitizers).

Even in Nepal, people have started to panic purchase basic goods such as rice, salt and cooking gas (liquified petroleum gas) and of course, hoarding of hand sanitizers and face masks.

The import of goods and services is not the only economic impact that Nepal is facing. The export will also slow down because of COVID-19.

Nepal’s major export items currently are palm oil, carpets, pashmina, and tea. Europe and China are the large markets that Nepal exports goods to.

As both the regions are heavily stricken by a coronavirus, the export will also decrease.

Additionally, the goods that Nepal exports cannot really be classified as essential goods so in the current state of panic all over the world consumers will not opt to purchase goods such as carpets and pashmina.

The panic purchase led shortage can be the biggest hurdle for Nepal. As production is extremely low in the country, consumers are heavily import-dependent.

A message from the government to remain calm along with information regarding the current stock of goods in the country might be able to reduce the shortages that are being created by consumers due to fear of COVID-19.

In addition to the message of reassurance from the government, market monitoring and investigation is equally important from both the government’s as well as the private sector’s side.

Initiations Nepal takes to combat coronavirus

Travel advisory issued for Nepalese regarding abroad travel

Perform coronavirus screening at 37 border points with India

Passengers from India arriving through land routes to be screened

Sagarmatha Dialogue postponed

Everest Premier League postponed

Himalaya Airlines and Nepal Airlines suspends flight services to Doha

Suspension of on-arrival visas for certain nationalities

Distribution of visitor pass at Tribhuvan International Airport canceled

General public urged not to visit TIA unless in emergency

Those receiving and bidding farewell to passengers to TIA must wear masks

Continuity to Kharipati quarantine

Request to the general public for not organizing big feast and gatherings

Request to the general public to not to crowd at public places

EPS passed workers stopped from going to South Korea for the time being

To put hospitals around the country on standby

The requirement of health certificate to enter the country

Interim order by Supreme Court to prepare for a possible epidemic

Facts related to COVID-19

Even though COVID-19 has been declared pandemic, statistics still show that all hope is not lost. If you get infected by Coronavirus, you should still not panic because:

  • 81% of the Cases are MILD
  • 14% of the Cases are MODERATE
  • Only 5% of the Cases are CRITICAL

The given data shows that even if you get infected by the virus, you are most likely to recover from it. Focusing on the ages of those who are dying of coronavirus, the death rate for the people under 50 years of age is only 0.2%.

This assures that if you are under 50 years of age, you are more likely not to catch the virus. Looking at one of the worst days so far, the 10th of February, when 108 people in China died of Coronavirus, on the same day: 26,283 people died of Cancer, 24,641 people died of Heart Disease and 4,300 people died of Diabetes.

Recently, scientists have warned that dirty phone screens could be a major source of new infections from coronavirus unless they’re cleaned regularly.⁠

“You could be washing your hands, but if you start touching your smartphone screen and then touch your face that is a potential route of infection,” said William Keevil, a professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton.⁠ Surfaces like glass, which smartphone screens are typically made of, are relatively inert and an ideal environment for viruses to thrive, according to Prof Keevil.⁠

As cases of COVID-19 rapidly increase in various parts of the world, a major question that some virus specialists and some meteorologists are asking is whether there may be a seasonal aspect to this outbreak.

Epidemiologists are warning that so little is currently known about the novel coronavirus that it’s impossible to predict the course of the epidemic on the basis of the weather or climate factors alone, and in fact, available evidence suggests that the virus can spread easily in warmer climates, such as Singapore, Thailand and even of African countries.

The new coronavirus doesn’t just affect people of Chinese descent. People from all around the world are currently carrying numbers of myths and misconceptions regarding the coronavirus. Some of the fallacies you must be aware of are:-

The sad fact is that no one knows how and when the coronavirus outbreak is going to end, but virologists say there are clues from similar outbreaks. Here are three scenarios:

  • Health officials control Covid-19 through strict public health measures
  • COVID-19 hits less developed countries, and things get worse before they get better
  • The new coronavirus spreads so widely, it becomes a fact of life

However, there is a certain unspoken factor adding more complexity to this outbreak: The fact that it originated in China, there is a good number of anti-Chinese sentiments currently all around the world.

Most of the airlines refuse to travel to China and refuse Chinese passengers, Chinese tourists are barred from entering certain countries.

Some of this reflects a certain attitude of fear that the Chinese government hasn’t been honest or upfront about reporting details about the outbreak.

Chinese citizens have been prohibited from traveling to some countries. It is even believed that citizens of different countries have been avoiding Asian people unless they are wearing masks out of fear that they will contract coronavirus.

Also, people have been avoiding Chinese restaurants due to the fear of getting the coronavirus. By that logic, you’d also have to avoid Italian, Korean, Japanese and Iranian restaurants, given that those countries have also been facing an outbreak.

The new coronavirus doesn’t just affect people of Chinese descent. People from all around the world are currently carrying numbers of myths and misconceptions regarding the coronavirus. Some of the fallacies you must be aware of are:-

Fallacies related to Coronavirus

Face masks can protect you from the virus

You’re less likely to get this than the flu

The coronavirus is just a mutated form of the common cold

The coronavirus was made in a lab

Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence

If you have coronavirus, “you’ll know”

The coronavirus is less deadly than the flu

Receiving packages from China is not safe

Pets can spread the new coronavirus

Hand Dryer can kill the coronavirus

The presented timeline shows the history of fear-based agendas. People panicking and taking excessive fear of the scenario makes it even more terrible.

Taking necessary precautions to stay safe from this virus is important but at the same time, panicking and fearing much ruins the situation and makes things worse.

As a result of people panicking, not just of the coronavirus but of the possible shortages, countries around the world are facing shortages of basic items such as food, masks, hand sanitizers and tissue papers that have been created by the consumers themself.

At this point, people must stop acting irrational and rather start looking at the people who have healed from the virus instead of the people who have died from it.

All the viruses including Covid-19 at the end of the day can be healed. We can’t predict the future, hence there is a high chance for the coronavirus to get even bigger and worse. Currently, everyone around the world is a fighting coronavirus.

When we all get together fighting for one same cause, the coronavirus can surely be defeated as the earlier ones. So, let us all hope for the best, stop panicking, coordinate and cooperate with each other to combat this deadly virus.  (With inputs from Nitish Lal Shrestha/Agencies)