Attention to the causes and effects of Covid-19
During the Corona crisis there is special attention to prevention. Social distancing, washing hands and face masks. This seems special because normally there is not that much emphasis on prevention in health care.
When we take a step back, we see that this prevention is not about preventing Corona from happening but it’s about not to burden hospitals too much. When we take another step back we may ask ourselves: “What are the reasons why people get sick?” And “What caused Covid-19 in the first place?”
In 2020 the media and governmental attention went to:
- Handling the crisis
- Hospitals and intensive cares
- Prevention: Social distancing, washing hands and face masks
- Testing and test capacity
- Vaccines and treatments
- Economic consequences
- Famous people and leaders who suffered from Covid-19
This blog tries not to focus on these topics, but bring the causes and effects into the spotlight.
A new attitude
Let’s start with the light at the end of the tunnel: The vaccine. Normally it takes up to 15 years to create a vaccine. In some cases like Influenza there aren’t any fixed vaccines (only seasonal). We let it happen for the most part and accept the risks. The current pandemic shows a shift, that started in China, to not accept this anymore.
Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist, was criticized that Sweden took a very alternative path to let it happen. He however argued that Sweden took the usual approach, while the rest of the world takes a different path than it used to.
Covid-19 made a shift in attitude possible. An attitude to not accept its effects, but to fight the disease on a global scale. An attitude we also see in the fight against environmental and climate issues. But this change in attitude doesn’t mean anything when we treat it only like we treat the sick. That we only see it as a crisis and after that it flows away. Like solving climate issues it must be done sustainable.
Corona has shown that developing a vaccine can go much faster than the years it normally takes. This doesn’t only have to do with resources and political pressure. This has to do with that various phases and the recruitment for these are arranged differently. We should learn from this for development of any vaccine. Especially when the crisis is over.
A makeable world
Modern society has a strong faith in science and technology as the savior for all things. Scientific and technological progress let us believe in a makeable society. Protecting individuals (even in countries like China) at all cost. When you would view Corona through an evil rational bureaucrat then he would say: “let the weak and old die. Good for the health of the total population”. But fortunately we are not evil, we want to protect lives.
Science couldn’t live up to this task. It doesn’t have a magic stick to solve Corona. This means that it still takes time, that other people need to wait for their treatment, that people are getting out of business or that older people are getting lonely.
In the meantime we try to solve it partly technologically. More and more of our society is shaped for a digital age which let us communicate through the internet. Video conferencing like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack were vastly improved. But is this a solution for the long term?
We may not live in a makeable world, but technological and scientific advancements let us believe we do. We do not accept serious harm to large parts of our society. At least not like in times of the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. The pandemic in 1918 killed 500 million people on the world population of 1.8 billion. Is this imaginable today?
10 different kinds of questions
If we can imagine it or not, we couldn’t be able to stop Covid-19 hundred years later to become a pandemic, and we couldn’t prevent many deaths. Still on the other hand there are currently 193 vaccine trials. We have excellent intensive care. We do major testing. We limit social life and partly sacrifice our economy.
Will we fight any virus like we fight Corona in the future? Influenza (Flu), Smallpox, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Herpes, AIDS and many other viruses? Will we fight other health or social issues the same way?
This poses the question: How we should rearrange society and especially our health care in order to fight any new crisis? To do this we may create a policy more based on questions of causes and effects.
- Why does it take so many years to develop a vaccine (up to 15 years) and what can be done to accelerate this process in the future?
- Why was it hard to scale physical resources? Will there be plans to scale medical resources? Will there be intensive care units available in the future to deploy in outbreak regions. Will there be crash courses to train health care personnel (and those who want to shift) for a specific health care crisis?
- Why haven’t there been a similar reaction to influenza in the past? Influenza causes also a lot of deaths, but we almost didn’t take any measures. Why do we still accept this, just like traffic accidents, air pollution (estimated for 7 million deaths a year)? Why don’t we fight these things the same way we do with Covid-19?
- A lot of governments are steering the economy. For example subsidies for electric cars to help the shift from natural resources to sustainable ones. How can we make things like fighting virus more profitable? So that startups focus on such things instead of making another app or platform?
- Why did every country respond on its own and there was no cooperation possible?
- Why are there no rules on capturing data? Every country has its own way to record cases and fatalities, so that it’s harder to compare measures between countries.
- How does our modern way of living (overpopulation, overweight, traveling) had effect on the spread?
- What are we really doing with overweight and diabetes which were a huge risk factor?
- What is done to fight the root causes? The hypothesis is that this is because animal markets and bad hygiene standards? Shouldn’t this be a primary focus?
- How far do we go to make a makeable society? What do we sacrifice and what do we accept?
These are all questions which don’t get a lot of attention.
These questions are actually the key to long term answers. And to answer these questions we really make big investments and tough decision. We need to go stand before the tunnel which represent the crisis and have a broad view why we get into the crisis in the first place.
When a major incident happens in IT an extensive root-cause analysis is carried out. Accordingly, a problem is being defined and steps are being made to structural solving the issue so that it doesn’t happen again.
One might expect that a thorough root-cause-analysis is done for Corona. Where did Covid-19 originate? This is very difficult to find out with such a tiny virus and some many infections. We do know it started in the Wuhan region. Research also has shown that the virus is of natural origin (and not lab-made as is sometimes being claimed). Most suspected are animal markets in Asia. In this case in China.
Ironically in Asia the Coronavirus is largely under control, but in the rest of the world causes major problems. Are we now coming together in the UN to address the issue and take measure accordingly to prevent this would not happen again? No, this doesn’t happen.
We are very far from a makeable society. But if we want to become more like it, we don’t only need to change our attitude, but we need to pay more attention to the cause and effect on every level of our society.