Covid Chronicles IV

By lockdown_exit - 22nd Aug 2020, 7:03 pm - Covid Chronicles

The World Bank Chief, David Malpass, has summed up things neatly saying Covid-19 was driving people and countries from depression to recession. This was an obvious reference to the global economic situation. The head of the World Bank has called for greater debt relief for poorer countries in the wake of Covid-19, saying World Bank figures due out next month will show an extra 100 million people had been pushed into poverty by the crisis.

While the poor slide rapidly into a recession, even the better-off are heading for depression. A survey of more than 3,500 people carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has indicated that almost a fifth of British adults were experiencing some form of depression in June 2020, during the national coronavirus lockdown imposed in the UK. This figure was more than double the number reported before the pandemic.

And the pandemic is causing a mental health crisis in the Americas as well due to heightened stress and use of drugs and alcohol during six months of lockdowns and stay-at-home measures, the World Health Organization's regional director said on Tuesday. The pandemic has also brought a related problem in a surge in domestic violence against women, Carissa Etienne said in a virtual briefing from the Pan American Health Organization in Washington.

The gloom and doom seem unrelenting with yesterday's success stories heading for failure today.

A success story until recently, New Zealand, has had a spike in coronavirus cases, leaving parts of the island nation in lockdown. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has postponed the country's general election to 17 October. Political parties had complained they could not campaign properly with nearly a third of New Zealand's five million people under lockdown in the city of Auckland. She said the delay "would provide sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under."

One of the world's most remarkable pandemic success stories, managing to suppress the virus and avoid a single death - despite sharing a long border with China, Vietnam has taken several steps backward. After 100 days of seemingly having outwitted Covid-19, Vietnam has had a major setback with a deadly surge that's left scientists baffled.

And so shaken is Vietnam by its mysterious outbreak, it appears to be considering a bulk order of Russia's coronavirus vaccine, despite worldwide scepticism about its safety and effectiveness.

Vietnam has signed up for 50-150 million doses of the vaccine, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. Some will be a "donation" from Russia, Tuoi Tre said, with Vietnam paying for the rest.

Putting the cart before the horse, Russia's mass testing of its potential Covid-19 vaccine is to get domestic regulatory approval. The testing, presumably at level 3, will involve more than 40,000 people, the TASS news agency said, citing the vaccine's developer on Thursday. The vaccine, called "Sputnik V" in homage to the world's first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has been hailed as safe and effective by Russian authorities and scientists following two months of small-scale human trials, the results of which have not been made public yet. And Russia announced the "safety" and "efficacy" of the vaccine without going through mass testing which it is doing now.

Mexico will receive 2,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia for the third stage of clinical trials, according to Mexico's Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who further said that Moscow had offered at least 2,000 doses of the vaccine to Mexico to start testing it, El Universal wrote. The testing is expected to begin in September. On Wednesday, Ebrard met with Russian Ambassador to Mexico Victor Koronelli to discuss the Sputnik V vaccine.

Meanwhile Australia has ordered 25 million doses of Oxford University's potential Covid-19 vaccine, the country's prime minister said. "Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective," Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. The vaccine, called AZD1222, is being developed by Britain's University of Oxford and is licensed to British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

With the flu season approaching, how do people learn to distinguish between a common cold/flu and Covid-19? European researchers say that while some of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 are similar to that of a seasonal cold or flu, the sudden and severe loss of smell is unique to coronavirus patients. Additionally, Covid-19 patients suffer from a 'true' loss of taste, meaning that their taste is not just impaired because the sense of smell is out of action, as is the case with people who suffer from cold and flu.

And while the world scrambles feverishly for an effective vaccine or a cure for the pandemic and nations oscillate between lockdowns and "liftups," Wuhan, where it all began last year is sitting pretty. Thousands of people packed shoulder-to-shoulder with no face masks in sight, frolicking on rubber floats and cheering along to a music festival - this was the scene last weekend in the Chinese city where Covid-19 first emerged late last year. Pictures of partygoers at the Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park - looking very much removed from the outbreak that the rest of the world continues to battle - have now gone, well, viral. It's worlds apart from the images that came out of Wuhan when it had the world's first Covid-19 lockdown in January - a ghost town devoid of residents and vehicles. The lockdown was lifted in April and there have been no domestically transmitted cases in Wuhan or Hubei province since mid-May.

Lalita Panicker is Consulting Editor, Views, the Hindustan Times, New Delhi