Most things in politics can be avoided. States can just turn a blind eye to things happening outside of their borders because, at the end of the day, it is not their responsibility. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for viruses because they can be a global concern. Unlike most security issues, that can be prevented at the border, viruses cannot be seen and stopped. How can we be certain that someone isn’t carrying a virus into the country? Unless we run tests on them, which is impossible to do on every single person, or we can see noticeable symptoms, then it will get pass border security easily. This is particularly the case in the increasingly globalised world that we now live in. There are so many different modes of transport so it is very hard to contain these viruses. On average, there are 102,465 flights a day worldwide. That number is extremely high and it means that these viruses can be easily spread without anyone knowing. It could be on one side of the world one day and on the other side another day. So, does this mean we should panic?
First of all, what are they? Viruses are microscopic organisms that exist almost everywhere on earth. They can infect people, plants, animals etc. Viruses affect people differently. Sometimes there is no noticeable reaction. Other times, it makes global news. If we look at the coronavirus, illnesses can range from a common cold to more severe diseases related to the respiratory system. So, how did this outbreak start? Well, it appears to have started in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in late December. In this market, wild animals are traded illegally. As the virus can move from animals to humans, it is thought that those who were in contact with these animals were the first people to get infected. The market was shut down on the 1st of January but as we know, people move and with them, so do viruses. Think about all of the surfaces and people that those original people touched. It cannot be contained after that because it is out there.
Chinese health authorities acknowledged over 28,000 cases and 563 deaths as of the 6th of February. On Tuesday (04/02/2020), health officials released details of the deaths so far. Two thirds of them were men. More than 80% of them were over 60 years old and typically had pre-existing health conditions like diabetes. Of the 563 people who have died in China, 479 were within the central province of Hubei.
Due to the inability to contain the virus, it has spread across the world. In fact, there have been (Updated 06/02/2020):
- 45 cases in Japan
- 30 in Singapore
- 25 in Thailand
- 24 in Hong Kong
- 23 in South Korea
- 15 in Australia
- 14 in Malaysia
- 13 in Taiwan and Germany
- 12 in the USA and Vietnam
- 10 in Macao
- 6 in France
- 5 in U.A.E and Canada
- 3 in the Philippines, UK and India
- 2 in Russia and Italy
- 1 in Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Spain
Live Updates: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Now, these are only the confirmed cases. There are probably many more that have not been confirmed.
So, what is being done about it? On an international scale, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the coronavirus outbreak was a global public health emergency on January 30th. They have encouraged countries to enhance their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to notify WHO of any suspected cases of infection. In addition to this, countries have been encouraged to strengthen their preparations for any cases to come.
On a national scale, states have reacted differently. The Trump administration announced that it would ban entry for anyone who had recently visited China. Airlines like Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced that they would suspend flights between the US and China for several months. Unfortunately, this suspension has disrupted many industries that rely on the flow of goods between these large economies. However, there have been two evacuations for American citizens in China. The first one took place on January 29th. It took citizens from Wuhan to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, so that they could be screened. There is little information about the details of the second flight.
Meanwhile, Britain and France have urged citizens to leave China. The Foreign Office advised “against all travel” to the Hubei Province and “against all essential travel to the rest of mainland China.” They have told British citizens in the Hubei Province to wait patiently while they facilitate their evacuation. In addition to this, the National Health Service (NHS) have put advice on their website about what to do for those who could potentially have the virus. They have advised people who have returned from Wuhan to stay indoors and to avoid contact with other people and to call 111 to inform the NHS of their recent travel. Anyone else that has recently returned from other parts of China are advised to stay indoors if they get a cough or a fever. In addition to this, these individuals have been asked to not use public transport, not go near schools or work, and to ask others if they need something from outside of their houses.
Now, is it time to panic? The answer is no. Only 14% of current cases are in critical condition. In fact, many individuals have recovered from the virus. The symptoms which are reportedly similar to a fever can be aided with medical care. Those, within society, who are weaker or have a history of medical issues are the ones who are most vulnerable. Other individuals, with healthcare, have the potential to make a recovery. In addition to this, there may be many mild cases of the virus that we will never know about as it will not affect everyone in the same way. Health experts believe that the death toll may not be as high as was originally thought. They have advised individuals to:
- Wash your hands often with soap
- Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid people who are sick
- Cover your cough and sneeze into a tissue before throwing it away
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly
The coronavirus has caused global panic due to the vast media attention on it. In fact, influenza kills so many more people each year. It doesn’t receive the attention from the media which is why nobody worries about it. Therefore, individuals need to calm down and follow the everyday habits above in order to best avoid catching it.
In addition, with the outbreak of this virus, there has been a hostile environment towards people of Chinese origin. Now, I go to a university that has many international students. In fact, there is a student looking at returning back to campus after being in Wuhan. The flatmates of this individual are very worried about the student’s return back to the UK because of a potential risk of catching the coronavirus. As it has been seen with the recent return of a flight from Wuhan, individuals are having checkups in hospitals in the UK before being released into society. As a result of this, individuals do not need to worry and especially, should not be hostile towards Chinese people who they don’t know. You simply do not know enough about their lives and should not assume that they have been to China recently just because that is where they are from. Don’t assume that every Chinese person has the virus. Now, I say this because I saw a video on social media of some people covering their mouths on a train as they sat near a Chinese person. Imagine how that person felt in that moment. It is just not acceptable and needs to stop.
So, hopefully, this blog has taught you something about this virus that has made headlines recently. If anything, I hope that it has calmed you down if you were in a panic.