In this article:
What kind of coordinated effort is required during a disaster such as a COVID-19 pandemic?
A disaster, by definition, is a situation wherein local resources become insufficient to respond to the event, thereby requiring assistance from other levels of government depending on the severity of the disaster.
The impact is measured in terms of loss of life, people displaced, the economic impact on businesses, lost wages, and damage to the environment. Therefore, cities need the help of the provinces and the federal government, as well as non-profit organizations.
All of these things apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed the entire world, making it a disaster in every sense of the word.
The support of the armed forces can also be vital to tide over the current COVID-19 situation because they have the resources – both medical infrastructure and personnel – to set up large-scale hospitals to treat people.
Managing such widespread efforts requires tight coordination across different stakeholders and departments. In a nutshell, ideal coordination should have strong leadership, clear communication, and representation from:
- The affected regions
- The ministries in-charge
- The healthcare system (hospitals, paramedics, ambulances, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, etc.)
- The disaster management organizations
- The subject matter experts
- The community organizations
- Various associations
In times like these, when people lose their livelihood across sectors, all levels of government must rise to the challenge and provide guidance and financial support to the citizens, especially to the ones in need.
An active coordination effort should also consider the following:
- Implement early warning systems (smart thermometer, fast testing tools, etc.)
- Use prediction models based on past events
- Utilize technology for the continuity of operations across sectors
- Address institutional behavior, etc.
After the disaster situation eases, strategies to mitigate future impacts of similar disasters and the building capacity and resilience of the system are essential.
Mitigation strategies should be developed at the same time to make sure that society as a whole has the capacity and resilience to keep the impact of the disaster to a minimum in the future.
What role could citizens play in the management of the COVID-19 crisis?
Citizens must heed the guidance from authorities, infectious disease experts, and epidemiologists who also play a vital role in advising all levels of government. They must follow the advice of physical isolation and personal hygiene.
- Avoid believing in rumors on social media
- Refrain from spreading misinformation if they are unsure of the authenticity of the information
- Keep themselves informed by visiting legitimate sources such as the WHO, government websites, authentic news media, etc.
How can someone prepare for a disaster such as the COVID-19 pandemic through their daily routine?
Here are a few self-care measures you can adopt in your daily routine to help keep the coronavirus at bay:
- Make sure to practice personal hygiene and maintain clean living and working spaces. One can take care of others by taking care of themselves and being mindful of keeping common areas and surfaces clean, especially in apartment buildings.
- Have essential first-aid supplies at home, including cough syrup, medicine to reduce fever (paracetamol/acetaminophen), protective face mask, and gloves.
- Home remedies prevalent in the local culture are also useful but must be practiced with caution to avoid any crazy ideas circulating on social media.
Although there is no proof that gargling helps get rid of the virus, it doesn’t hurt to practice gargling as a personal healthcare routine. Vitamin C (500 to 1000 mg per day) is known to boost the immune system against the common cold and flu.
As a side note, it must be noted that people’s perceptions fall under three main categories – deterministic, dissonant, and probabilistic:
- The deterministic type believes that disasters occur in a specified pattern at certain intervals, so if an event has happened in the near past, it will not reoccur anytime soon.
- The dissonant type of a person perceives a disaster as a freak event that is unlikely to reoccur again in the near future.
- The probabilistic nature understands that disasters are random, but feel that nothing can be done about it.
So, people must be mindful of their perception concerning the disaster situation at hand.
Is self-isolation/social distancing the best way to control the spread of COVID-19?
Yes. The word quarantine comes from an Italian word quaranta, which means 40, as in 40 days of isolation. The quarantine method was used for infectious diseases that were not well understood, and it was thought best to isolate people to stop the spread of the disease.
During the Black Death or bubonic plague in 1665, England shut down all activities and implemented a country-wide quarantine. It is known to have given Newton time to think and come up with many of his famous theories.
Although previous coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, have provided the idea of the type of the virus, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 (named SARS-CoV-2) is different, in that it is new. (1)
Since the time it was first reported in China, it has been understood that the virus is extremely contagious and deadly and spreads through droplets.
It has about a 14-day or more incubation period, which means that infected persons will spread the virus without realizing that they are carrying the virus.
Also, not well understood is whether or not an infected but asymptomatic person will shed the virus. People dying today must have been infected about 2 to 3 weeks prior, which means that self-isolation and physical distance right now will eventually reduce the spread of the virus over time. (2)
Also noteworthy is that the disease is not caused by bacteria that can be treated with antibiotics.
What should be the strategies to prepare for future disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic?
Preparedness is one of the four cycles of disasters – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Thus, preparedness today leads to risk mitigation tomorrow and the capacity to respond to and recover from future catastrophes.
Preparedness for future disasters should focus on the following: (3)
- Understanding of the biology, behavior, and potential mutations of the virus, development of a vaccine and cure if possible, and learning the lessons from past outbreaks caused by the same family of viruses (SARS and MERS)
- Comprehension of the dependencies in the systems, including social structures, infrastructural networks (transportation – roadways, railways, airways, waterways, etc.), essential services (wastewater treatment, garbage management), lifelines (water, electricity, energy), healthcare, emergency services (police, fire), business impact analysis (BIA), cross-sectoral supply chain, etc.
- Building capacities and resiliency of the systems to be able to respond to and recover from such a disaster, including financial aid to where it is needed the most
- Establishing partnerships and agreements in advance with humanitarian aid, community organizations, and volunteer organizations to secure assistance in times of need
- Developing support systems for the marginalized and at-risk populations, including the incarcerated, the physically disabled, the mentally challenged, seniors, the hospitalized, persons living with underlying health conditions, those who lost their livelihoods, low-income families, and the homeless
- Checks and balances for early detection of the disease caused by the virus – smart thermometer, smart/quick testing (current testing takes anywhere from 4 to 7 days), ability to set up drive-through testing locations, ability to test everyone, contact tracing, aviation control, early reporting and action, and designated isolation centers/shelters
- Medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for healthcare personnel to reduce the risk of doctors and nurses losing their lives while serving other people
- Critical care equipment and space, depending on the type of the disease caused by the virus
- Moral boosting measures for all citizens – especially the medical community, janitors, food suppliers, essential services providers, and persons that provide services to help others take care of themselves
- Tools for authorities – policy, regulations, legislation, resources
- Strong leadership based on knowledge, not politics
What could be the environmental impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic?
These are the environmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Environmental pollution (such as clogged drains) from disposed of face masks, plastic/latex single-use gloves, and other personal protective gear, and disposable wipes (most disposable wipes are not flushable but are found in toilets, clogging and contaminating the sewer networks)
- Wasted materials only due to fear of infection
- A lax attitude toward the use of fossil fuels (more so in North America) as the pollution in the environment is reported to be low at the moment
- A possible rise in disposable, plastic, and harmful disinfectants
What are the possible health issues we would be facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Consequences from the current COVID-19 situation may result in complications in the health of people. The implications can be broken down in many ways, such as physical versus emotional and long term versus short term.
- Surgeries being put on hold indefinitely based on the judgment of the medical officer in terms of what is essential or essential surgeries
- Organ transplants postponed
- Lack of hospital beds for patients
- Critical equipment, including thermometers, in short supply or unavailable
- Supply chain of medicines disrupted
- Price gouging of medical supplies, which may lead to the unaffordability of essential medicines
- Suffering of the vulnerable population, including the homeless, the unemployed, and people with disabilities, as they will not have the help they need
- Erosion of trust in the health system if the current system didn’t work for people who needed assistance
- Fear of going into a pathology lab (some are open as critical services) for testing due to possible infection
- Fear of going into any medical office for symptoms of any kind
- Stockpiling of supplies, risking the health of those in need
- Ethical concerns related to people cheating on the self-isolation rule and exposing others to the risk of contracting the virus (4)
- There may be a shortage of essentials
- Complications from the lack of diagnosis or treatment may occur
- Medical procedures and appointments may be backed up
- Refugee camps around the world may be forgotten and potentially become a breeding ground for the virus
- The potential for symptoms may be misdiagnosed due to the paranoia
- Mental health issues and depression due to isolation may arise
- Stranded tourists and visitors may suffer from illness but may not get the needed care or resources
- Medical personnel may die from COVID-19 resulting in a shortage of trained specialists
Can the current pandemic lead to preparedness for potential health crises in the future?
Yes, it is possible to be proactive in terms of reducing the negative impact of a health crisis on life in the long run. Some of the factors to consider are:
- Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic
- Research and development in healthcare
- Use of technology to develop prediction models
- Data of good quality and quantity
- Reducing dependencies within the drivers of the economy (manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, IT) by producing local and diversifying supply chains
- Artificial intelligence to track global trends
- Information sharing
- Transparency and clarity in communication
- Partnerships within and across sectors
In North America, the model of long-term care facilities should rethink their future strategies, as these facilities are clusters of the most vulnerable people who need assistance with their daily routine in a very private/invasive way.
The culture of retirement homes must also be reconsidered in terms of their services, resources, and personnel.
Some other cultures in the world, such as the Italian way of life, also helped the virus to spread. In Italian culture, many generations live together, and the young mingle with the elders.
Spain is highly densely populated, and the country is becoming a popular tourist destination after the bombings in many European countries.
South Korea was the first country to provide fast testing for its citizens, and Germany is following suit now.
So, in short, the alternatives are in innovative measures to be developed and put in place and also winning the trust of the public for its successful implementation.
These measures should be sensitive to the local culture, use the smart technologies of today, and be simple to adopt and adapt.
What will be the long-term effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the people, economy, and countries?
The stigma of the origin of the virus will linger on, creating biases against a specific community. There may also be a growing distrust in businesses who might have taken advantage of the situation and raised prices on essential items.
People who lost their income during this time will take a long time to find their footing again and land a livelihood to support their families. People with underlying health issues may see a further decline in their health.
However, people may find themselves to be mindful of their priorities, have compassion, and avoid selfish behavior. They may pay attention to science more than ever before.
The economy will take a long time to recover from the impact of the virus. Sectors such as aviation, tourism, cruise ships, entertainment, food and restaurants, daily wage workers, dairy farms, labor-intensive industries, and agriculture will have to reboot and recalibrate to recover and be productive again.
Technological advancement may take hold, including AI, automation, and self-sufficiencies. For example, a cell phone is built with parts from around the world, so companies have to make sure that there are new ways to address the dependencies.
Countries may begin to focus on reducing dependencies on the international supply chain, sparking a discussion on local versus global economy. In the 1990s, the global economy was the goal, but today in light of the halted economy, that outlook may shift.
The current situation must also be placed in a proper perspective. For example, in 1918, Spanish influenza killed 675,000 Americans fighting in the trenches in WWI, and 50-100 million people died worldwide.
The 2003 SARS and the 2015 MERS were also coronaviruses that wreaked havoc on societies.