Coronavirus? Definition, types, Pandemic, Vaccines, COVID-19

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From time to time, the world has been tormented with newly emerging pandemics throughout the history. It was believed earlier that the intensity of destruction caused by such pandemics was largely on account of lack of better health facilities. But this current COVID-19 outbreak has proved that humans are still not completely able to fight pandemics caused by the deadly viruses. Pandemics have occurred even after high technological advancements in the healthcare infrastructure. The COVID-19 outbreak was first reported towards the end of 2019 in Wuhan, in Hubei province of China. Subsequently, it spread to other parts of the world. It was declared as a pandemic by the WHO on 11th March, 2020.

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are large family of viruses that are common throughout the world and can cause respiratory illnesses in people and animals. There are several known coronaviruses that infect humans and animals. Human coronaviruses were first discovered in 1960. The coronaviruses that can infect humans are

  1. 229E (Alpha Coronavirus)
  2. NL63 (Alpha Coronavirus)
  3. OC43 (Beta Coronavirus)
  4. HKU1 (Beta Coronavirus)
  5. MERS-CoV(Beta Coronavirus)
  6. SARS-CoV(Beta Coronavirus)

The new coronavirus, also known as Novel Coronavirus or SARS COV-2 is a newly emerged coronavirus that has never been identified before. It is responsible for the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease that causes respiratory illnesses in humans. The new corona virus is zoonotic in nature, which means that it can spread easily from animals to humans.

GO The people infected with COVID-19 disease due to the new coronavirus experience mild to moderate respiratory illnesses and recover without any special treatment. But the COVID-19 disease affects the older vulnerable people badly and those having other medical problems. People those having cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer etc. are more likely to develop serious illness.

How it Spreads?

The COVID-19 disease spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also spread through the aerosol particles discharged from the mouth while speaking in closed spaces. The people who are infected with the COVID-19 disease can get either very low infection or very high infection. Those who have been infected with lower infection load may develop very mild symptoms or develop no symptoms at all.

Those infected with higher infection load, develops severe symptoms which can also be life threatening. The virus seems to be easily spreading in the community and sustaining for longer periods in the community because of asymptomatic infections that are not easy to detect. In COVID-19 disease the common symptoms include-runny nose, fever, headache, cough, sore throats, red marks on the skin, loss of taste and smell, rashes, tiredness, diarrhoea etc. People having serious illness due to COVID-19 disease, are not able to breathe easily, may feel chest pain and pressure and may also have loss of speech or movement.

Prevention and Cure

There are no special cures for the COVID-19 disease. People who get infected by the disease are provided with symptomatic treatment that includes reducing fever and treating the respiratory system with common interventions. To prevent infection and slow down its transmission, the most effective techniques are

• Maintain cleanliness around the houses and communities.
• Maintain personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly, not touching contaminated and dirtier surfaces and objects and washing or sanitising hands as soon as possible after touching any surface.
• Maintaining safe distance of more than 2 metres from other people who are coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching face, eyes, ears, nose etc. frequently. • Covering mouth fully when coughing or sneezing.
• Not indulging in intoxicating activities such as smoking, drinking and other harmful things such as drugs, as these things weakens the nervous system as well as the respiratory system.
• Practise physical distancing, avoiding unnecessary travelling, staying away from large number of people or crowd.
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and frequently touched objects. • Practicing physical activities and exercise daily, inside the house or personal spaces so that immunity can be boosted.
•Maintaining a healthy diet to provide strong immunity to the body. Staying home and contacting a doctor if feeling unwell.

Emergence of New Coronavirus and Role of WHO

World Health Organisation (WHO), the global health organisation has played a significant role in dealing with the pandemic. It has emerged as a leading organisation involved in the global coordination for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. It declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and warned all countries to prepare. domestic

The novel virus is likely to have emerged from the Bats. The intermediate host might be a pangolin. The possible host of the new virus is still being researched upon. But it is certain that this virus has emerged due to mutations and adaptations. The virus has a unique ability to mutate rapidly and adapt a new host.

After the emergence of the COVID-19, WHO has been at the heart of the fight against the disease. It is intended to be an international leader in public health by alerting the world to the threats of diseases, developing policies to coordinate response to COVID and providing safety equipments to various countries, The WHO has spearheaded several initiatives like the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to raise money for the pandemic response, the UN COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force, and the solidarity trial for investigating potential treatment options for the disease.

WHO agreed to an independent investigation into its handling of the pandemic. It announced the setting up of an independent Expert Review Committee to examine aspects of the international treaty that governs preparedness and response to health emergencies.

WHO has shipped more than two million items of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) and one million diagnostic test kits to over 120 countries. WHO has launched multilingual e-learning courses about various aspects of COVID-19, including for preparedness and response.

WHO has been criticised also by the former US President Donald Trump terming it as China centric. It is alleged that WHO was slow to publicly recognise the threat posed by the COVID disease. Questions were raised on its contradictory statements regarding COVID. But it is also true that world will need the WHO as only an International organisation like the WHO can coordinate efforts to tackle COVID on a global scale.

Effect of COVID-19 on India

COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of healthcare systems. It has affected people’s primary healthcare provisions. It has highlighted the shortage of health infrastructure in terms of doctors, medical equipment, hospitals, healthcare workers both in terms of availability and accessibility.

This pandemic affected workers of unorganised sector mostly who are daily wager or those working in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and left them jobless, and rapidly increased the unemployment rate. Due to lockdown as inter-state transportation services were shut down, farmers are unable to sell their crops in the market. They incurred huge losses and forced to throw out their crops. The revenue of the tourism sector got down due to a strict ban on both and international flights.

There has been fall in economic growth of the country as industries were shut, India entered into a phase of technical recession. Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, most schools and educational institutions have closed down. The learning has become online which exposed the digital divide existing in the country. Also, the institutions are not equipped with digital technology and teachers also lack training in term of usage of these tools.

The COVID-19 impacted the supply chains and production/manufacturing facilities of defence companies . As these companies have to depend on different components on different sources located in affected countries and it lead to a decrease in demand for defence equipment.

Impact of COVID-19 on Global Economy

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, several countries across the world adopted complete/partial lockdowns to flatten the curve of the infection. These lockdowns meant confining millions of citizens to their homes, shutting down businesses and ceasing almost all economic activity.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy is expected to shrink by over 3% in 2020, the steepest slowdown since the great depression of the 1930s.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has had deeper impact on Indian economy. A UN report estimated a trade impact more then USD 350 million on Indian economy due to this outbreak, making India one of, the worst affected economies across the world.

Lockdown had put great stress on the supply chains of essential commodities and therefore, many of the Indian companies have focused on the production and supply of essential items only. It thereby stopped all other production activities.

Measures Taken by India to Fight COVID

After the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, government suspended all the International VISAs, domestic flights and restricted the movement of the people by imposing Nationwide lockdowns so, that the transmission of the disease could be stopped and people do not get infected. The most important steps included

  1. Arogya Setu App It launched the Arogya Setu App which was developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). It uses smartphone’s bluetooth and GPS features to track the Novel coronavirus transmission. It informs the individuals and authorities in case some one has been infected by the COVID disease. It has a self assessment test, do’s and dont’s and gives recommendations.
  2. Atmanirbhar Package Government announced 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Package in total five tranches. The package will be used for frontline workers, farmers, building and construction workers, MSME sector, banks, and several direct tax measures. It also includes a package for enhancing ease of doing business reforms.
  3. Supplying foodgrains The Food Corporation of India supplied 126 tonnes of foodgrains to States and Union Territories during the COVID lockdown. The government also extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till November 2020 to provide rice, wheat, chana to 80 crore Indians for free.
  4. Producing PPE Kits India ramped up the production of PPE kits and became the second largest producer of PPE-Personal Protective Equipment in the world with daily production of over 5 lakh kits. In terms of the production of ventilators, India has scaled up its capacity to over 3 lakh ventilators per annum. India has significantly indigenised production of medical devices.
  5. Shramik Trains Hundreds of Shramik special trains were run by the railways to transport the migrant workers to their home places. Stranded workers, students, pilgrims, tourists etc. were transported to their native states. The Railways subsidised the fare for these special trains by upto 85% of the cost. The remaining cost was borne by states.
  6. Vocal for Local Campaign The Prime Minister urged the people to buy locally produced goods and services so that India could quickly rebuild its economy and become self-reliant. There is an urgent need to recognise the importance of local manufacturing, local markets and supply chain.
  7. Vaccine Development Indian firms have been quick to respond to the demands of a vaccine for COVID. There are three firms that are in the race of making a COVID vaccine. India is one of the countries that started phase three trials within 6 months of the COVID outbreak.

Vaccine Development Against COVID 19

The world has united to fight against COVID-19. Countries are making efforts to develop vaccine to win the battle against the pandemic. Sputnik V, a coronavirus vaccine launched by Russia is touted as the world’s first such vaccine. Currently, WHO and Russian health authorities are discussing the process for possible WHO prequalification for its newly approved COVID-19 vaccine.

British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have worked together to develop non-replicating viral vector vaccine named ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccine. It has been found to be safe and induced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials.

India has participated equally in developing vaccine for treating COVID-19. Serum Institute of India (SII) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) have announced an agreement with pharmaceutical major Merck to develop SARS-CoV-2 neutralising Monoclonal Antibodies (mAbs).

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks, and at scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines.

Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has developed Covaxin, an indigenous vaccine. The vaccine makes use of an inactive version of a virus to spike up production of antibodies in the host produced .

March found on bodyAhmedabad-based pharma giant, Zydus Cadila has made two versions of vaccines. The company is testing two versions of its vaccine, one which makes use of molecular DNA to elicit an immune response, while the other uses a live measles viral strain to provide protection. The vaccine is expected to be available by 2021.

HGCO 19 vaccine has been developed by Gennova Biopharmaceuticals-HDT Bio. This vaccine belongs to a newer category called ‘mRNA’ vaccines, which make use of the messenger RNA molecules to recreate the Covid-19 spike protein-the spikes the surface of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

How Prepared are We for Another Pandemic?

Presently, the world is not prepared to face another pandemic. It has proven by the fact that world’s largest healthcare system of USA is not able to contain the deaths of its citizens. Infectious diseases together account for more than 13 million death every year worldwide. Infections spread from one regions to another rapidly due to globalisation, urbanisation, climate change as well as emergence of ecological pressures. All these factors also contribute in the viruses due to mutations and adaptations. These conditions, if not controlled are likely to cause Pandemics and affect the global population.

The world must start immediately to prepare for another pandemic as almost 2/3rd of the new diseases affecting humans have become zoonotic infections caused by pathogens originating in animals. The rise in international trade of exotic animals, intensive and unhygienic livestock farming, rapid urbanisation, encroachments into wildlife habitats must be slowed down and stopped. Large scale environmental exploitation has played a key role in emergence of new pathogens. With receding glaciers, the viruses that were hitherto unknown to humans are able to invade new hosts and create futile grounds for new pandemics.

Negligence of environment, ecology and biodiversity for short term gains may cost the world and grant it with another pandemic of much large scale and intensity. Thus, there is an urgent need that each country in the world must enhance its preparedness and competence to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergences. It will involve surveillance, risk, reduction, capacity building, and stern effort and commitment.

Imagining the World after COVID-19

The COVID-19 disease has exposed the fragile basis of our society. It has also given us a chance to build a more sustainable and inclusive future. After we have recovered from COVID-19, the world must push towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Reducing materialism, caring for mother nature, working for the family’s wellness, healthy diet, regular exercise shall be the priority of nations and individuals that form them. The protection of natural resources and wise use of exhaustible resources should drive the new lifestyle.

Healthcare needs of the countries should be taken into account while preparing policies. There will be raised awareness about personal as well as social hygiene and cleanliness. People will continue the use of masks and face covers as to protect themselves from close contacts with people. The rapid urbanisation that has created huge unsustainable cities and metros will be decongested to create spaces for public as well social and community activity that spaces.

The education sector will need to recalibrate itself for the digital mode of education as to prevent congestion of classrooms and due to its unique advantages too. To reduce chances of contamination, schools and educational institutions will need to modernise their teaching techniques.

requires open Work culture will shift towards working from home and remote locations as it is cost effective and efficient. More companies as well as employees will adopt working from home with the use of modern technology.

The most important of all will be to imbibe a sense of care in the people’s mind and hearts to care for the environment. The world nations should join hands to recognise the importance of sustainable interrelation between people, animals and their shared environment. This will optimise health outcomes, reduce risk and strengthen preventive efforts to prevent another pandemic and if it occurs then mitigate the effects on the people,

Terms related to COVID-19

Here is a list of various words related to COVID-19

• Asymptomatic It is a condition when an infected person doesn’t show any symptoms of disease.

• Community Spread Infections identified in a given geographic area without a
history of travel elsewhere and no connection to a known case. • Contact Tracing The process of indentifying, assessing and managing people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to prevent onward transmission.

• Essential Services These are the services and functions that are absolutely necessary, even during a pandemic. These services include healthcare related, food and other essential goods services, basic sanitation including sewage and garbage removal etc.
Flattening the Curve Slowing the spread of the virus. The ‘curve’ refers to graph showing the number of cases of COVID-19 that happen over a period of time.

• Quarantine Separating and restricting the movement of people exposed or potentially exposed to a contagious disease.
• Social Distancing It means putting physical distance between yourself and other people. This is key strategy for avoiding COVID-19 Infection and to flatten the curve.
• PPE Kit PPE stands for personal protective equipment. This include masks, faceshields, gloves, gowns and other coverings that healthcare workers used to prevent the spread of infection to themselves and other patients.

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