Of course, the Novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, which have not been previously unidentified in humans, has enormously affected the whole world and put hindrances to wellbeing and living standards in health, economic and social terms. The pandemic caused by the infection of Novel coronavirus has in the meantime killed millions and infected countless people in the world. But, of course, infections and deaths vary across countries. It affected mostly in the USA, the European Union, South America and India in terms of deaths and infections, even if it initially caused havoc in the place of its origin —Wuhan city of China’s Hubei Province. The pandemic led to the confinement of people go home for months. But, undeniably, the pandemic has not yet come under control.
In addition to infections and deaths, the pandemic has by this time led to huge economic, social and other impacts around the world. In fact, the world in 2020 experienced the lowest economic growth in the recent decades. Several countries experienced negative economic growth, while most of the other countries had very low positive growth. Only global economic loss, caused by the shutdown of Multinational corporations, SMEs and other businesses are driven by the outbreak has already turned to be billions of US dollars. Moreover, education was enormously hindered across countries with some variations. In fact, educational institutions have not yet been resumed fully in many countries of the world. Besides, normal activities in other areas including sports have not yet been fully restarted as usual because of the pandemic.
By this time, much needed COVID-19 vaccines were already developed. But the extent of the overall impacts on health, economy and social aspects depends on how long it takes to control the pandemic. Under such circumstances, it is crucial to effectively respond to the pandemic in health terms and improve economic, social and other aspects of normal lives. To fight the pandemic across the world, there is no alternative to the national and global response. At a national level, overall response requires expected roles from not only public sectors but also others such as private and non-government. At the international level, government to government, private organizations-based and non-government organizations-based cooperation is needed. But international cooperation is needed for fighting the pandemic as well as improving economic and social conditions.
It is, of course, undeniable that from the very beginning states, organizations and individuals took various steps at the national, regional and international level. All health-related efforts made so far are broadly public health-based reflecting a social-model approach that requires a social response and medical treatments rather than a medical-model approach that refers to only medical treatment of a disease. In fact, the public health approach is usually given to fight the outbreak of highly contagious infections. In public health terms, emphasis was given on all steps such as primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Despite the fact that there were shortages of important supplies such as medical equipment, masks and test kits and a lack of cooperation at the initial stage, transnational cooperation later made these easier across countries.
The positive side, moreover, is that a number of countries have vaccinated a considerable number of people with COVID-19 vaccines developed, produced and supplied by several countries and many people are being vaccinated across countries. It is undeniable that such a vaccine will help much to ensure health recovery from the pandemic to a greater extent. But one of the major concerns with vaccines is their distribution. Though the current distribution does not seem to be the repetition of the experience of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, there are some reasonable criticisms at this time. In fact, many countries have not yet got vaccines while some countries which have given advanced orders have in the meantime acquired millions of doses.
Of course, those countries which are affecting much in terms of deaths and infections need early vaccines, but the distribution of vaccines to other countries including less developed are also important for successfully fighting the pandemic. But the distribution of a large volume of doses is a challenging task not only for a lack of doses at this moment but also for the necessity of stronger and effective approaches. In this respect, states and different global organizations including the UN especially the WHO and/or UNICEF should play important roles. Of course, GAVI, a global vaccine alliance that has established a system and experience in distributing vaccines to many countries in Africa and Asia in the past — especially against Ebola, SARS and some other diseases — needs to more active in acquiring and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
Unsurprisingly, there may be some other challenges to international cooperation. One of the most important challenges is extreme nationalism. In fact, extreme reflections of nationalism put hindrances to valuable supplies — medicines, medical devices including test-kits and others — earlier. At this time, it can put significant challenges, since there is a paucity of vaccine doses and consequently countries may be more focused on vaccinating their own people without consideration of others. Of course, every country has the prioritized responsibility to save its people over anyone else, but this does not sufficiently justify the extreme nationalist approach especially in the case of vaccines against the pandemic which devastated across countries. in this respect, the world needs to do something more for securing vaccinations across countries.
Moreover, it is important to take account of the importance of the improvement of economic and social situations affected by the pandemic. In fact, countless people across the world lost their jobs. Even if a large portion of the pandemic driven unemployed people in the meantime come back to economic activities across countries, many are still unemployed. As a result, the employment generation needs to be boosted up. As noted, educational institutes are either fully or partially closed in many countries. Some other activities have not started as normal yet. For the mitigation of diverse socio-economic impacts and improvement of socio-economic situations, there is no doubt that well-made short and long-term plans are important across countries.
Of course, countries have varying capacity to improve socio-economic conditions, especially economic, negatively affected by the pandemic. For some countries, economic harms brought by the pandemic may not be much problematic, but for others, it may be a very task indeed. As expected, international cooperation — regional and global — is needed for the improvement of socio-economic situations for some countries more. For this, private sectors and non-government organizations, along with intergovernmental organizations, should play vital roles. The positive side is that international cooperation has increased much in economic aspects. In fact, financial institutions including regional and global banks have increased providing of loans to different countries. But international cooperation is also needed in the years to come.
NB: This article is a section of a book of the author entitled “Toward A Better World” (in press).
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.