COVID-19: What are Governments Around the World Doing?

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Josaingdi khemprai, B.A. 6th Semester, History Hons

 

Coronavirus is not something new to the world, there are hundreds of corona viruses but only seven are known to affect humans; 4 human coronaviruses are mild and does not pose much risk while the other three human coronaviruses (SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2) originally has its origin from animals but were transmitted in humans and it poses greater risks to people. However, the corona virus that is creating havoc all over the world right now is the new coronavirus that has been named as SARS-CoV-2 and the illness caused by it is known as COVID-19. The outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in the month of December 2019. The new corona virus has been characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Director General of WHO explained that “pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.” Countries all over the world have been affected by this virus but clearly there are differences in the measures taken up by the government because of which some countries are able to slow down the virus while the others are not. The response to the outbreak of COVID-19 by the different governments around the world to contain the virus is discrete. Some countries took quick and aggressive measures against the virus while the others were lackadaisical and in denial of this virus as an epidemic. The Head of WHO, Mike Ryan says that “There’s clearly an indication that a systematic government-led approach using all tactics and all elements available seems to be able to turn this disease around.”  So, the countries which took quick actions were able to slow the spread, at the same time the countries that were in denial suffered greatly. Almost all the countries have halted all their activities and decided to quarantine themselves and the government has also taken steps to contain the spread of COVID-19. Some of the important decisions taken up by the governments all over the world are discussed below.

 

On 17 March, European leaders agreed to close the European Union’s external borders. The countries within the European Union also closed off their border to fellow EU member states in an effort to contain the virus. France went into lockdown on 17 March with President Emmanuel Macron saying people should only leave home to receive medical care and on 20 March banned recreational cycling for which the country is well known for. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined strict rules and regulations for the country on 23 March which resulted in partial lockdown. The UK government also sent letters to over 65000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales. Centers like London’s Excel Center are converted into temporary hospitals to treat people infected with nov-CoVID-19. The US has the highest number of cases in the world as of 29 March 2020. The US President announced a ban on travel from the EU’s Schengen area. The country as a whole generally did not undergo any lockdown but individual states announced lockdown. On March 24, WHO warned that the US might be the next center of the outbreak. Donald Trump initially said that US business would reopen by Easter but on 29 March, he extended the stay-at-home guidelines to be followed till the end of April. The US is expected to overtake the other countries because of its unseriousness towards the pandemic.

 

China, where the outbreak started is now able to contain the spread of COVID-19 because of the aggressive measures taken. On 23rd January the government of China started a lockdown in Wuhan and nearby cities of Hubei Province. It has a population of at least 50 million people. Apart from this, in other regions of mainland China, people voluntarily quarantined and were monitored by appointed leaders of the neighborhood. With the beginning of lockdown, aggressive social distancing measures were implemented in the entire country. The Chinese government also built two hospitals in Wuhan, in just a week to keep the patients with COVID-19. Because of mobile phone apps such as “AliPay” and ”WeChat”, that have replaced cash in China in recent years has been of great help in the enforcement of restrictions in China. However, people are of the opinion that it will be very difficult or not possible to enforce such strict rules in democratic countries.  Though the outbreak started in China, the worst hit country right now is Italy. The country was initially in denial of the virus and started reacting to it very late because of which many died. The virus first spread there in late February and the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared Italy to be a RED ZONE which means that people were supposed to stay home except for work and other emergencies. The government of Italy has also called in the military to enforce the lockdown. One of the towns in the worst hit northern region of Italy managed to slow the spread by experimenting with blanket testing. The spread of COVID-19 in India has been rather slow relative to the population size. Indian government was quick to take action against this epidemic, which has helped in the slow spread of the virus in the country. The government took rapid actions to limit travelling by cancelling visas and all international travelers had to undergo universal health screening. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was quick to announce lockdown in India starting 25 March. “India is doing quite well” said the WHO Representative, Henk Bekedam. Even so, the nation still faces challenges not only because of the virus but because of fake health messages circulating on social media as well and in order to tackle this problem the government decided to punish those people who spread fake news on social media.

 

Around 13,45,048 people have been infected because of coronavirus as of 4th April, 2020 and 74,565 people have lost their lives to the same. The governments all over the world and other international organizations are trying their level best to contain the virus, I should say. But at the same time the citizens should also be responsible enough to know what should be done to end this epidemic.  Bill Gates in one of his online blogs said “the choices we and our leaders make now will have an enormous impact on how soon case numbers start to go down.” So citizens are also equally responsible to help the government to break the chain or the cycle of COVID-19.

 

India, being a victim of fake news on social platforms should know how to differentiate between the right and the wrong news. With the on campus classes suspended right down because of the lockdown, students have a greater role to play right now. The student community can help those people who are unaware of the facts of COVID-19 and verify correct sources. Lately, I have also seen a communal divide in our country. We must understand this virus is not about any particular religion but it is affecting all humanity. We live in a secular country and anybody and everybody is allowed to follow their own religion unless it affects the social distancing policy. Though the government is implementing new policies to contain the virus, we as individuals also have an important responsibility towards breaking the chain of COVID-19. 

 

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Dr. Aniruddha Babar, Dr. Pfokrelo Kapesa, Webei Tsühah, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.