Since the time the virus started to spread, the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has reached 4 million people! The United States, the country that would seem to have the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world, takes the lead in terms of the number of deaths from COVID-19 (more than 600,000 people). And India and Brazil, which have healthcare service systems that are considerably less advanced, occupy second and third place. As far as Europe goes, the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 ended up being in a country that is located in the center of the European Union: small, cozy Belgium, with more than 1,600 fatalities per million inhabitants. The top ten countries with the highest death rates per capita include Italy and Spain, as well as Great Britain.
Some experts try to explain this deplorable situation with combating the coronavirus pandemic by the fact that the last pandemic of this scale took place in developed countries 51 years ago. This was, as is commonly known, the 1969 Hong Kong flu epidemic, one which claimed 4 million lives worldwide. However, today’s COVID-19 pandemic has already surpassed the events that took place in 1969 in terms of its horrific consequences, and the time it will end has not yet been established. The following conclusion is quite obvious: since that time, the healthcare systems in developed countries have simply forgotten how to cope with these kinds of phenomena.
The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted serious damage on the global economy, and altered both the principles that govern social interaction and how that is generally perceived. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calculated that a pandemic that managed to suddenly paralyze the world’s entire economy will be extremely expensive, amounting to seven trillion dollars lost by the end of 2021. Analysts have observed that the global financial crisis of 2008, which people hastened to dub “the great recession”, will pale against the backdrop of the new one. According to analysts with the German Deutsche Bank, the crisis will shake up the entire structure of the world economy and an “era of chaos” will begin. Governments and corporations are running up their debts. According to the Institute of International Finance, global debt – meaning the total debt owed by the populations, companies, financial institutions, and governments in all countries – has already reached USD 255 trillion! This is three times global GDP, and this “debt bomb” could explode. Due to the epidemic situation, the activities performed by educational institutions and athletic events have been affected, the entertainment industry was brought to a stop, and even the Olympic Games were postponed. The ways people communicate, make purchases, work, and how they take care of their loved ones have all changed.
The stringent restrictive measures in a number of countries helped contain the spread, but also sparked a wave of discontent that continues to this day. Not only did many lose their sources of income, but some people basically did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to their relatives who fell ill and then never recovered.
The coronavirus crisis will irreparably damage the standard of living enjoyed by people around the world, and countries may have to raise taxes for corporations and the wealthy to help overcome the economic damage, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned. The pandemic will leave major scars on the global economy in the form of job losses and bankruptcies, and entire sectors of the economy will be rendered unsustainable, the IMF also warns.
The spread of COVID-19 even influenced our language: the word “hero” has begun to be voiced more frequently, and the definition of that has been expanded. This is now the name given to healthcare workers who were at the forefront of the fight against the virus, and those who helped people live in a world with tough restrictions, such as delivery workers or cleaning personnel.
In many countries, the lamentable consequences of the pandemic are associated with miscalculations, and occasionally with the incompetence displayed by certain politicians and governments. The Daily Telegraph reports that the residents in nursing homes account for one third of the fatalities due to the coronavirus in England. Some of these institutions have lost up to 75% of their clients. And this is all because at the beginning of the pandemic workers in this sector were left to fend for themselves, and were not provided with personal protective equipment and testing systems, the British publication states. The government promised to organize a “protective ring” around the nursing homes, but in reality this did not occur. Virtual communication during the pandemic has made many people over the age of 60 feel even more lonely and depressed versus having no contact with anyone at all, The Guardian reports, citing a new study.
But Great Britain is not the only country that has sacrificed the older generation to COVID-19. Bulgarian Minister of Health Stoycho Katsarov admitted to the Bulgarian publication Nova that serious mistakes were made in his country when overcoming the coronavirus crisis in terms of protecting the most vulnerable group of the population – those over 60 years old – and this cost the country tens of thousands of lives. “Bulgaria has sacrificed its older generation. There were 5 months when we chiefly immunized young, active people. We vaccinated athletes, and sent mobile teams around to different companies. We did not protect the most vulnerable groups at all,” stressed Katsarov. According to him, despite generous funding the state that the hospitals are in does not meet modern sanitary requirements. “The only thing that this speaks to is ineffectiveness on the part of management at these organizations as a whole,” Katsarov summed up.
The lack of communication, hopelessness, and boredom during quarantine have led to an increase in the use of drugs among young people, according to the German TV channel Welt. In one German state, the number of parents’ visits to counseling centers for drug addicts has doubled. The fact that teenagers are more addicted to alcohol, weed, and pills has also been confirmed by psychologists and doctors, says the German TV channel.
One-and-a-half years of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a decrease in the ratings enjoyed by politicians in most countries around the world. At the same time, a significant blow was dealt to the popularity of both the authorities and the opposition, according to a report from the Expert Institute for Social Studies (EISS) called “The Pandemic and Confidence – on the Global Dynamics of Political Ratings and Waves of COVID-19”. The document states that for the first few months of 2020, there was public demand for tough measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, after one-and-a-half years living under conditions involving certain restrictions, the situation has changed. “Public mobilization has been replaced by fatigue, both due to lockdowns and the fact that the severity of the restrictive measures has a weak correlation with the incidence rate, and reinforcing those will not necessarily lead to a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases,” the document says. The decline in public confidence concerns not only the authorities, but also opposition groups. “People understand that political forces for the opposition have even fewer resources to resist the pandemic and its consequences, and regime change during a crisis can lead to increased instability in society,” experts proclaim.
The coronavirus pandemic has raised questions for world politicians not only about the effectiveness of how health systems function, but also regarding the criteria for assessing the quality of the work done by the governments in various countries. Over the past month, political scientists and economists have been actively discussing what the world will be like after the end of the pandemic – and who will emerge victorious from this situation. And while the economic consequences have already become relatively clear – national economies are expected to contract, production and consumption levels may decline significantly, and small- and medium-sized businesses will suffer the most – then the political effects of the pandemic have not been predicted quite so unequivocally. One thing is certain – miscalculations made by many governments and politicians will certainly cost them declines in their ratings and the political authority they hold across society.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.