After the number of patients infected by the coronavirus in Italy rose beyond 15,000 yesterday, global stock markets have been devastated by their worst losses in 30 years. However, there has also been some good news coming out of South Korea.
Right now, it’s practically impossible to cover every story related to COVID-19, as hard as we try to. To illustrate that, check out this map published on Al Jazeera that illustrates all the places in the world that have reported infections:
In the same Al Jazeera article, as per data released on 12 March, more than 4,613 out of over 126,000 infected people around the world have died as a result of the newly classified global pandemic. China, the origin of the outbreak and the worst affected country has seen its death toll rise to 3,176 and total infections stand at 80,813.
However, the major hotspot for media coverage right now is Italy, the European epicentre of the virus and now the second worst affected country in the world. The south-central European nation experienced a jump in deaths by 189 yesterday, taking the total death toll to 1,016 (a 23% rise). Total infections also rose by 21% to 15,113 in the last 24 hours.
As we reported yesterday, Donald Trump has already imposed travel restrictions for the US, banning all flights to and from The Schengen Area, and major sporting events have been cancelled all over the world, including the Australian Grand Prix, and the UEFA Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Manchester City. An infection to one of Real Madrid’s basketball team’s players, Trey Thompkins, has also forced the football club to put their players under quarantine, while the entirety of Spain’s top-flight football league, La Liga’s matchdays have all been postponed in response to concerns over an outbreak. Juventus football player, Daniele Rugani, who is a teammate of Cristiano Ronaldo tested positive for coronavirus and the Turin-based team has also isolated its players to avoid a spread, while all football in Italy is postponed until further notice.
It must be noted how incredibly popular (and profitable) European football is and the measures being taken to either cancel games or play them in empty stadiums shows exactly how great the fears over this outbreak actually is.
And while viruses like these often affect the poor harder, because they have less access to quality healthcare and live within closer quarters of one another, the rich are starting to feel the effects too.
Global stock markets are tumbling, particularly with regards to Asian stock prices. Investors are continuing to provide bailouts in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, amid travel restrictions and business shutdowns that are bringing economies to a halt. Indonesia has banned the export of face masks in order to ensure they have adequate supplies for their own people and Hong Kong confirmed it’s fourth death. In addition to this, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, tested positive for the virus, which shows us that even global leaders are not immune to the catastrophic effects of this outbreak.
However, while Donald Trump and his administration will have you believe that tax cuts are the remedy required to fix the broader economic effects of the virus, the state of affairs in South Korea proves that quite the opposite is true. At one point, South Korea was the second worst affected nation by the virus.
And, in fact, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed on Thursday that 110 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, taking the total number of infections to 7,979. However, it also said that there were 177 patients that had recovered and were released from hospital. It was the lowest number of newly infected patients recorded in weeks and the first time that recovered patients exceeded fresh infections. How is Korea able to do this? The answer is simple.
South Korea has an advanced medical system that is widely available to all and, at the same time, it has undergone a massive coronavirus testing drive.
So, if you have read The Millennial’s Guide To Coronavirus, you’d know that the coronavirus is not that different from the flu, which kills up to 56,000 per year in the United States alone, according to the CDC, and well over half a million a year around the world. And the first time the symptoms of the flu were described by Greek medical pioneer, Hippocrates roughly 2,400 years ago! Yet, we still have a very difficult time, all over the world, in treating the flu, let alone providing vaccinations for each year’s latest mutation. As of yet, a cure for influenza has not been found or developed.
And, with coronavirus, you should not be expecting a “cure” to be discovered. In fact, you shouldn’t even be expecting vaccinations for at least a year, regardless of the fact that scientists around the world are working night and day to develop one. What truly seperates the coronavirus from the flu is the fatality rate, which stands at about 3%, roughly twice or three times as high as that of influenza.
But where does this tie in with South Korea?
When people around the world die from flu, it has nothing to do with the failures of medical technology and everything to do with the lack of availability. Think back to the last time you had the flu. You were sick, saw a doctor who prescribed you antibiotics and/or some other medicine and stayed home from work for a few days. For the various patients that have checked out of hospital in South Korea, the process will not have been dissimilar – the self-isolation, quarantine and treatment would simply have been more focused or intense. Yet, these patients are incredibly lucky to have had access to the proper treatment. COVID-19 preys on people with weakened immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions that make them susceptible to its most devastating effects. But with proper treatment, it can be staved off. The real barrier, therefore, is to prevent the spread of it, which is why mass gatherings like sporting events have been cancelled.
And the fact that symptoms take a while to present themselves makes the spread particularly difficult to diagnose, which makes isolating infected people even harder. Therefore, making testing free and available to all, like South Korea has done, is essential to curtail the spread of the disease. Therefore, universal healthcare, not only for treatment, but also diagnosis, is utterly essential if the coronavirus is to be contained.
As much as Donald Trump and the wealthy want to believe that lowering taxes will provide economic relief, the truth is that now is the time to raise taxes in order to fund public health programs that can mitigate the spread of the virus, preserve people’s health, resume mass gatherings, open workplaces and, inevitably put investors’ minds at ease without fear for the economic impact of the petrifying outbreak.