What can be done to prevent global epidemics such as coronavirus? (IV-X places) b***6@gmail.com

The emergence of new pathogens is inevitable, but a global epidemic (or pandemic) does not have to be. New pathogens are born from the inexorable march of evolution, with pathogens mutating into highly virulent forms, allowing them to pass into, and crucially spread between, humans. When looking to the future in preventing pandemics like that of Covid-19, we must take a pragmatic approach that can be delivered on a global scale. We must take lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and we must implement them in national (and personal) policy worldwide. This essay will therefore focus on the actions that we can take right now – those which should have been taken at the start of this pandemic – and will tackle the root cause of why they weren’t.
Often zoonotic transmission, the exchange of pathogens from animals to humans, is identified as a major source of new pathogens – most recently the SARS-CoV-2 “coronavirus” pathogen – but can this be completely eradicated? Do we have the ability to make a vaccine and deliver it on a global scale before a pathogen spreads out of hand? In essence, can we rely on technology and pre-emptive measures to stop the emergence of a pathogen? The answer, at this moment in time, is no. We can look to the future, however the question of when arises. When will we have these adequate measures, and will the next pathogen strike before or after these have been put in place? We must therefore utilise what we have right now, the greatest resource at our disposal – us. We have the power to change the face of an epidemic and with the correct responses and actions at the correct times, we can. Yet despite this, we were not able to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Why? The answer to this rests on many factors but if we distil this down we can see the crucial ideas of mindset and the agenda of those with responsibility.
A wet market in the city of Wuhan, China has been widely accredited as the source of the latest Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, initially, the responsibility for stopping the spread of the coronavirus rested in the hands of the Chinese authorities. However, when examining their initial response, we can see a severe lack of both preparedness and a swift and rapid response to help stem the spread of the virus. The initial reports of the outbreak were suppressed, with doctors in Wuhan like Dr Li Wenliang who was one of the first to report the emergence of a “SARS-like” illness being forced to sign documents falsifying their claims. And so, although China has been praised in the lockdown it maintained to stem the spread of the virus later on, the country could have acted much quicker to prevent its spread. So why didn’t it? This question warrants an essay in itself, but, in my opinion, it stems from a change in the mindset of many of the world’s most influential countries – the movement towards the political right and the neglect of one’s responsibility to the world as a whole. This can be clearly seen, not only in the rhetoric surrounding this coronavirus, but in other policies as well (the UK’s exit from the EU a prime example). The proclamation by Donald Trump that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is a “Chinese virus” epitomises this idea. When the world’s leaders do not respond to serious threats like this with their due severity, and instead attempt to cover-up or shift the blame onto other people, the general public will inevitably follow suit and it is in the general public where epidemics proliferate, drastically increasing morbidity and mortality in the population. We can therefore see our first learning point from the Covid-19 epidemic – governments and responsible bodies must act swiftly and decisively, looking into how they can take action that will benefit the entire global population, not just those within their borders.
Despite the fact that the recent coronavirus originated from China, at the time of writing the major epicentres for this virus are firmly in the west, with the USA having the most confirmed cases (186,204) followed by Italy (105,792) and Spain (95,923). The question of why therefore arises. Although there may be many factors involved, I want to focus on one in particular – the attitude of the people. In countries like the US an UK, we witnessed large scale denial by the population on just how severe the virus was. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted 11-13 March found that 56% of Americans believe that the virus will impact their daily lives in only a small way, or not at all. 49% say they haven’t stopped attending large public gatherings like concerts or movies, and 69% haven’t stopped eating out at restaurants. Even politicians seemed reluctant to grasp the profoundness of the pandemic that was about to reach their shores. Why is it so difficult for us to appreciate the scale of what an unchecked global pandemic could do? The answer may have something to do with how difficult it is to intuitively understand abstract concepts like exponential growth. Exponential growth (the normal model in which a pathogen spreads) can lead to many people infected very quickly. If you took 30 steps from your front door, doubling your stride length each time, you will have travelled 26 times the Earth’s circumference. It is the difficulty of this concept to grasp that leads to people neglecting its seriousness. We must therefore, as a population, understand just how easily viruses can proliferate and so ensure we follow the rules set out to mitigate this spread. By taking this lesson and applying it into the public psyche through education, we can ensure future epidemics get given the severity in the public eye that they deserve.
By focusing on people and their mindset and response to dealing with pandemics, we can ensure we have protection for the future, not reliant on technology that may never come, to prevent global epidemic such as coronavirus.

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