Coronavirus hit the world like a thunderbolt. No one knew what to expect. Even the most brilliant scientists were aghast as to how fast the virus was evolving. It was indeed a race against time. Most baffling was the ingenious way the virus spread- was it airborne or not? There were many unanswered questions. Yet, it was killing far more people than in previous pandemics like the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease. In this article, we look back at the pandemic timeline and its impact on human life.
The world first heard of the strange virus sometime in December 2019. Top news channels like CNN, BBC, and Fox reported the discovery of a virus in a poultry market in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organisation (WHO) described it as a mysterious type of pneumonia affecting Chinese nationals. While Chinese health officials alluded to pneumonia of unknown origin, they ruled out person-to-person transmission. This was probably the beginning of the problem the world faced in the coming months. Left unchecked, cases continued to rise in Wuhan and the first death was recorded in January 2020. Next, cases surfaced in the United States, Japan, and Thailand. All cases could be traced back to recent travel to Wuhan. Within two weeks, hundred more cases were discovered in other countries. It was at this point the WHO made a U-turn and declared the virus a public health problem of international concern.
By February 2020, local transmission was becoming evident in the United States. Cases of individuals with no travel history or close contact with a suspected case raised eyebrows to the possibility of a local spread. Tension built as more countries confirmed that the virus was spreading fast. Death tolls were rising in Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and India. Africa was not left behind. The first case was in Egypt, then Algeria and Nigeria- all three cases linked to international travel. By the 11th of March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The virus has spread to nearly all countries since 2019. According to Worldometers, 226 Countries and Territories have been affected so far. As many as 500million cases and 6.2m deaths have been reported. The pandemic has had devasting economic, social, and health consequences for human life.
Economic and Social impact
To contain the spread of the virus, governments instituted tight lockdown measures which impacted on economic and social spheres of many nations. For instance, work as we knew it stopped, and a new normal emerged. Some companies embraced it, while others had to lay off staff. Automatically, the cycle of poverty was ignited, and many have still not recovered to date. Similarly, countries with no social welfare system like Nigeria found it difficult to reach underserved communities. Relief materials and food assistance were diverted and did not get to those who were in dire need.
Unlike the obvious economic and social disruption, the impact on health is often overlooked. Many lost loved ones or lived in fear of contracting the virus. Some others got infected and faced near-death experiences. Others recovered and suffered months of long Covid- extreme tiredness long after testing negative for the virus.
Some people stayed away from hospitals for fear of being rejected or labeled. This practice encouraged the neglect of diagnosis or management of other diseases with huge health ramifications.
The Coronavirus effectively sneaked into our midst and spiralled out of control. Effective partnerships between governments, WHO, and country health officials through lockdown measures helped to contain the spread of the virus. However, not without a devasting impact on the economic, social and health well-being of many countries.