I am tired of hearing bad news about the Coronavirus. The news apparently only gives updates on the number of cases, deaths, and stories from people about how their lives have been affected. However, among all this pessimistic noise, I hear a few pieces of good news about the Coronavirus. These stories are like clouds parting to let in beautiful rays of sunshine.
The Environment Is Healing
Emissions Are Lower
All across the board the world has seen lower emissions of pollution into the atmosphere. That tends to happen when governments shut down travel. 8% of global emissions are directly tied to tourism which is almost completely shut down. Commuting and travel may not be entirely shut down, but they have taken a hit. Considering that 15% of greenhouse transmissions come from transport alone that would leave 7% for commuting and trade. In other words, tourism has more of an impact on the health of the atmosphere than transport for business alone.
Waters Are Less Polluted
Italy arguably had the strictest measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. They had shut down tourist areas and restaurants to a point where it looked like the Coronavirus did in fact cause the apocalypse. One of the rewards of shutting down tourism is that the animals have returned to the canals of Venice. You could look into the canals of Venice and see the fish directly, the water is clear.
Better Public Health
In addition to a better environment, these changes could lead to improved public health. Better air and water leads to better health. Read a previous post I wrote about how our greedy activities could lead to our own destruction. The World Health Organization says that 4.6 million people die each year from something directly linked to air pollution. It is estimated that a little fewer than 3.6 million die each year from unclean water. Compare these numbers to even the worst-case scenario estimates of the Coronavirus.
In addition to the benefits of a better environment to our direct health, a better environment will lead to more controlled epidemics. Climate change has been linked to increasing epidemics because people and animals are travelling further than ever before and come across new pathogens.
There are many other factors of how pollution leads to emerging pandemics. When people utilize pharmaceuticals improperly or even just dispose of pharmaceuticals improperly, antibiotics and antiviral drugs could seep into the environment at very low concentrations. These pharmaceuticals could lead to drug-resistant pathogens.
This is just a hypothesis I have heard from a fellow virologist. She believed that many of the emerging viruses are ancient viruses that come from frozen or hidden sources including ice caps and mountains. As the ice melts the viruses are released. This may sound a little too much like science fiction, but the good science fiction stories are based on real science. Plus, it does make sense that ancient viruses would be more lethal than many modern ones because ancient ones have not mutated much to improve their virulence. Read a previous post to read some details about how viruses tend to become less lethal with time.
Improved Health Systems
Public Health Measures
Speaking of epidemics and health, I believe that the Coronavirus pandemic will force governments and national systems to improve their healthcare and public health systems. First, governments have already taken measures to sterilize everything. These are effective against the Coronavirus and many other pathogens. These include influenza, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, rhinoviruses, adenoviruses. You would be surprised about the amount of fecal matter on public surfaces. These could cause diseases that could potentially kill people they infect. As scary as the Coronavirus outbreak is, this virus is far from the only thing killing people.
Some good news about the Coronavirus is that because of the responses fewer people may be exposed to other potentially deadly diseases. It is too soon to determine exactly whether these measures will affect the occurrence of many diseases, especially since these surfaces may be recontaminated quickly.
With everything going on now, people care about public hygiene more than a few years ago. As long as people remember this pandemic and the global shut down, they will feel more comfortable spending a little extra money for better public hygiene. This will not stop pandemics, there will be plenty more in our future. But this may change these pandemics from 5 year occurrences to 10 year occurrences.
My country’s healthcare system may not be set for this pandemic. Then again, most systems were not. There are many concerns with the healthcare system and their costs. I even wrote a post about how to avoid major costs in medicine with the admittance that there is only so much you can control. One of the greatest concerns in politics was our healthcare system. It is now THE GREATEST concern.
One thing worth mentioning is that the government has taken some steps to limit medical costs, but even then that will not be enough. There is still much debate on government healthcare. But I think people now realize healthcare is not just a privilege for situations where people other than the patients are at risk. That tends to happen when an outbreak of a novel potentially lethal virus occurs. The government is further addressing these issues to attempt to make quality healthcare more affordable.
The Coronavirus outbreak has broken supply chains all around the world. And you know all those drugs, medical devices, surgical gloves, and masks people gravely need right now? Guess where many of them come from? China. How much? I don’t know. In fact, even the FDA is not sure. Many drugs and medical devices come from China. Unfortunately, many counterfeit drugs and defective medical devices come from around the world with a good portion coming from Asia. Clinics and even hospitals in developed countries find fake medicine and other defective products in their system. It is accurate to say that most fake pharma comes from other places, but no one has an accurate measurement of how much the healthcare system has been infiltrated by fake pharma. Regardless, a lack of self-sufficiency makes the US and other countries vulnerable to these fake pharma. It is hard to hold people who are not your own citizens to your own legal standards.
It is easy to say that governments should put in more effort to stop fake pharma, people’s rights and self-interests are hurdles to overcome during the best of times. When an outbreak comes out people’s self-interests include survival. If your job could affect someones survival, it is near impossible do your job.
The good news about the Coronavirus is that governments are now seeing a need to have self-sufficient systems. Globalization has many benefits. However, people are seeing that we should not rely entirely on global markets and attempt to develop many of our own products in times when we cannot rely on global markets. This may raise competition among many areas therefore lowering prices. More importantly I look forward to further enforcement of GxP and the further hurdles fake pharma have to follow to make a dirty buck.
There Is More Good News About The Coronavirus Than Bad
As hard as it is to believe there is more good news about the Coronavirus than bad. For every story I hear about someone intentionally coughing on a person in public (an act not short of bioterrorism), I hear a thousand about people stepping up to try to combat this pandemic. Doctors and nurses are coming out of retirement to aid in clinics and hospitals during this crisis even when they are in the at-risk-groups. Donations have increased despite the widespread income shock. I have heard of groups sharing items like toilet paper and some canned goods in residential areas. Even staying in to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus is an act to help the community. Literally putting in less effort is one of the best things you could do right now. (This will be one of the few times I say that).
I have heard people say that if an incident like a recession happened again things could be worse than the Great Depression. They claimed that people would not be as supportive to their communities. I see the complete opposite. Sure, we are all worried about how we ourselves will end up, but we are still concerned about others. People are trying to watch out for others, make sure everyone has medical attention they need and other basic needs.
Life sucks right now, no arguing that. But we have been through worse. The world has been through many pandemics. Some were not only worse, but they occurred when the word vaccine was not invented. We will survive this.
In fact, we will come out stronger. Recessions are not just declines in the economy, but parts of cycles where the economy can grow. It is scary because many businesses can close and people will spend less money in certain sectors. These sectors may recede, but some people may agree that maybe it is for the best. Take a quote from Beggiato, a hotel owner in Venice: “But we need, and look forward to, the return of tourists, though maybe not the 20 million a year that we have had to cope with.” I think this best shows that people do not want a full return to times before the Coronavirus.
Some things need to change to ensure our future. Many people are showing a strong will to ensure a better future. The good news despite the setbacks from the Coronavirus is that it will become easier to try to build an economy that will help build a better future.