• Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020
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OP-ED: The human catastrophe of Covid-19

  • Published at 11:42 pm September 22nd, 2020
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Benevolence must be the principal determinant of any battle plan

In a consequential global crisis, humanity’s behaviour is dependent on multi-variability. Each nation is familiar with its own perspective. However, on many occasions, more often than not, the national perspective is arrived at by overly simplified perception, rather than the facts built on available information.

These perspectives often are instrumental in determining their domestic motivation and the national plan for the days ahead. In that journey through the challenges of such tenacious times for the panoptic human population, there may often be a tendency to overlook the requirement of the rest of the global community, particularly with the unabated rise of the exclusive nationalism in the present global environment, with all its evil ugly fangs heightened by its added perpetual association with the populist far rightist, often emphatically and vernacularly tinged with racially and religiously dogmatic doctrine of exclusionary nationalistic fervour.

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the national level in such self-motivated economies has closely been linked to the principles of conservatism of the national government of the day.

However, eventually, liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialist, in the present Covid-19 pandemic, even if we regard the coeval catastrophe to be wayfaring through its midway journey, it is the very concern or not, of the benevolence for the people of individual nations, to have been the principal determinant in the centre and at the forefront of the mindset of the ruling government to demonstrate how well their response has been, and how their nation has fared as perfect combatants in the fight against the SARS-COV-2 pandemic.

It may be too early to draw a firm conclusion in the Covid-19 chronicle, it is increasingly becoming discernable with time that countries like Germany and New Zealand, being liberal economies, have done so well and continue to do so, in contrast to many other liberal economies which have failed miserably, sadly neglecting and rejecting the bigger picture associated with the coetaneous Armageddon.

Regarding the perpetrator of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SARS-COV-2 virus that belongs to a viral subgenus sarbeco-viruses, and to the family of “coronaviridae” and believed to undergo frequent recombination, heralding genetic mutation, much has come to light since the pandemic started in December last year in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, heralding a cluster of severe pneumonia that spread with vehement rapidity and turning into one of the most disastrous natural calamities of our time.

However, like any other new and complex invention or discovery, much requires to be probed, scrutinized, and explored to eventually either harness a muzzle on this enemy of humanity or completely destroy this menace of the 21st century.

Only recently, a research analysis of data from different countries of the world available in the public domain was carried out to demonstrate variables associated with Covid-19-related mortality, critical cases, and recovery during the current Covid pandemic. Factors analyzed for predictability included government policies/actions for Covid-19 containment, degree of preparedness, health care capacity, population co-morbidities, frequency of testing, and country-specific socio-economic parameters. Increased mortality was observed with increased age of the population, population prevalence of obesity, and high per capita GDP.

Significant association was demonstrated with fatality from Covid, with an increased death rate per million in counties with an older population. If the median age of the population was higher than 40 years, the death rate was several times more compared to a population where the median age was between 20-30 years.

Higher GDP, a higher unemployment rate, and higher income inequality led to higher mortality and increased critical cases. Health care capacity positively influenced reduction in mortality and critical cases, and increased recovery from critical illness. The number of nurses working in the health care of a nation directly affected the mortality and recovery from critical illness.

Paucity of national preparedness, failure or absence of successful testing, tracing, and isolation, as well as population demographics of increased obesity, advanced age, and high per capita GDP led to an increased national caseload and mortality.

Socio-economic variables such as a higher rate of unemployment and higher per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) adversely affected and increased the number of critical cases and mortality per million for any given country. In other words, the higher the per capita GDP of a country, the higher was the number of reported critical cases and deaths per million of population.

Higher rates of unemployment may obviously be credible to be associated with higher morbidity, worsening of the severity of disease presentation, rate of fatality, and a reverse relationship would be expected of those with high per capita GDP. However, in reality, the reverse is demonstrated to be true.

A number of factors may be associated with such conflicting co-relationships between critical cases and deaths and higher GDP, for example, wealthier economies have a widespread testing mechanism and facilities, existence of better national surveillance, and more openness and greater transparency in case of reporting deaths in those countries.

Increased accessibility to air travel may also play an important role in contributing to the spread of the virus in wealthier populations. On the other hand, the government policy of full lockdowns and the number of days to any border closure as expected was associated with the reduced number of cases per million, and more restrictive public health practices of strict adherence to social distancing and others were associated with fewer transmissions and better outcomes of Covid-19 infective illness.

With the benevolence of its population in the heart of the incumbent Bangladesh government, though full lockdowns and border closures are positively detrimental to the future of the economy of the country, more restrictive public health practices must be rigorously and judiciously adhered to. As humanity is being threatened with the imminent second wave, in the long run, the government must be dedicated sincerely in improving the capacity and the quality of its public health care, emphasizing on quality human resource development -- that is becoming one of the single most important determinants of preparedness against future biological threats to humanity.

Dr Raqibul Mohammad Anwar is Specialist Surgeon, Global Health Policy and Planning Expert, and Retired Colonel, Royal Army Medical Corps, UK Armed Forces

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