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Corona times

How could a 120 nanometre virus, have such a strong impact throughout the whole world? What have these last months of quarantine taught us? How important is a steady and responsive health care system? Why Education, Information and Research are one of the most important pillars for a more sustainable world? How was a digital era relaunched?

If none of those are questions you have been wondering during this pandemic event, perhaps it would be worth thinking about them and about ourselves as part of a whole ecosystem in need of a balance between humans and nature.

The health care systems all over the world have been called upon more than anything since people started to get infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). People have been working together to stop spreading the disease, thus taking care of each other. Currently, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO, n.d.), the most efficient way to prevent infection and to slow down the transmission of COVID-19 is to:

  1. Regularly wash your hands  with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub;
  2. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others;
  3. Avoid going to crowded places;
  4. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  5. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene (covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands);
  6. Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs;
  7. Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel;
  8. Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others;
  9. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority;
  10. Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities.

A more efficient way to prevent infection and slow down the transmission is to avoid any unnecessary social contact and stay home as much as possible, making sure your home is cleaned and ventilated, especially when you return from being out of home. Testing human behaviour proves to be a difficult task, even when facing such an adversity. Especially when socialising is part of every culture in the world. Not respecting the safety measures given by the health authorities has been proved to enable corona transmission in several occasions. But what can we learn?

Science and technology proved here its intrinsic value to any society in the world. We needed the knowledge about how the virus can be transmitted, how it reacts in our bodies and how fast it can spread throughout the whole world without borders. The remaining question is how we can find the cure? How to come up with a tested and certified vaccine in such short time? Researchers all over the world have been working together to accomplish this difficult task. And even when accomplished, vaccination will be gradually implemented, depending on the amount available and health coverage systems.

Education as the starting pillar teaches us how social behaviour plays a role in this current event. We need to educate people about the consequences and repercussions of coronavirus and the best ways to prevent infection and slow down transmission. Education is a fundamental pillar to cultivate knowledge and a solid base for future scientists in a world where more epidemics are yet to come if no lessons are learned from this current pandemic. Nevertheless, worldwide education is facing one of a kind challenge when it changed the way education systems were mostly based around physical attendance by online learning. Being the most suitable alternative doesn’t necessarily means the most effective, therefore investing in the pedagogical expertise is needed in order to complement and improve the online learning experience.

Factual information is crucial in the era of misinformation. How can we rely on what we read and absorbed from the social media? Being informed is not necessarily linked to being right or wrong about something. Being informed means that we got information from a reliable source with fundamental research behind it, rather than assumptions or thoughts. Social communication media is more impactful than we can think of and today, more than ever, we need it to create awareness and up-to-date information about the current pandemic event. The power of those communication channels should be used in benefit of all of us, a dynamic world where knowledge and contents are generated and shared every second. To make sure you are well informed, double check  the source (Is it a fake source?), check the story coverage (Does any other news mention it?) and finally check the intention (Is it spamming or sensationalist news?).

We live in a planet in need of a balance between humans and nature, where in the last 50 decades we have lost 60% of all wildlife (WWF, 2018), while the number of new infectious diseases per year has nearly quadrupled over the past century (UNICEF, n.d.). Moreover, 60% of infectious diseases originate from animals, and 70% of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) originate from wildlife (Jones, et al. 2008). In a world craving for balance between humans and nature, education, research and information are three fundamental pillars to aspire for more healthy and green societies.

During quarantine we saw how the air pollution levels decreased (Earth Observatory NASA, n.d.) and how nature restoration increased (Forbes, n.d.), within only a couple of months. This should be considered as a wakeup call that we cannot continue with our overconsumption societies. We need to rethink and repurpose the way we purchase and consume products. We need a more and more circular world with no concept of waste, where waste is turned into resources and where natural systems are preserved at all costs. We need a world where if something cannot be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production (Lyrics of “If It Can’t Be Reduced” by Pete Seeger in 2008).

World economy dropped down to its lowest point in many years and reducing working hours globally is making 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (almost half of the global workforce) suffering from considerable damage to their capacity to earn a living (ILO, n.d.). Digitalisation, what was so natural amongst millennials, now more than ever needed to be explored in new ways (virtual teaching, virtual academic courses, examinations, workshops, remote working, etc.). Spreading information and knowledge in such short time all over the world showed the importance of digital devices. We have undergone significant changes in working habits, i.e. the way we work, cooperate and interact. That has proven that we can adapt to a new era, but the lake of social contact, especially amongst children and adolescents, proved that it plays a relevant role for a mentally healthy society (Loades et al., 2020). Moreover, mental distress, especially on health care workers, is an increasing concern (Salazar de Pablo et al., 2020) as social isolation, fear of contagion, loss of family members or loss of income keeps growing. With that being said, mental health must be dealt with properly as a big part of the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In sum, science communication to all stakeholders involved in a society is a key factor to help preventing pandemic events to occur. The voice of science should be heard more carefully and the measures should be applied according to the scientific results. Science is not 100% accurate but it tell us what is most likely true given the current evidence. And the evidences are not in our favour if we want to continue living in this planet. Our way of living is going towards a no turning point. We must change our ways of living to achieve a healthy future with a balance between all ecosystems. This is where we all need to work towards!

Together, for more future!


All images were sourced from www.unsplash.com, a free-usable images repository.

Earth Observatory NASA, n.d. Airborne Nitrogen Dioxide Plummets over China. Available on <https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146362/airborne-nitrogen-dioxide-plummets-over-china>

Forbes, n.d. Nature Started Healing Even Before Lockdowns—But We Can Now See The Results For Ourselves. Available on < https://www.forbes.com/sites/emanuelabarbiroglio/2020/03/30/nature-has-not-started-healing-when-people-have-been-forced-in-lockdown/#6f8371c65f78>

ILO (International Labour Organization), n.d. ILO: As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods. Available on <https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_743036/lang–en/index.htm>

Jones, K., Patel, N., Levy, M., Storeygard, A., Balk, D., Gittleman, J., and Daszak, P. 2008. Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature 451, 990–993. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06536

Loades, M. E., Chatburn, E., Higson-Sweeney, N., Reynolds, S., Shafran, R., Brigden, A., Linney, C., McManus, M. N., Borwick, C., Crawley, E., 2020. Rapid Systematic Review: The Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in the Context of COVID-19. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, In Press, Journal Pre-proof. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2020.05.009

Salazar de Pablo, G., Serrano, J.V., Catalan, A., Arango, C., Moreno, C., Ferre, F., Shin, J.I., Sullivan, S., Brondino, N., Solmi, M.,  Poli, P. F., 2020. Impact of coronavirus syndromes on physical and mental health of health care workers: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorder 275, 48-57. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.022

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), n.d. C4D Emerging Infectious Diseases. UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia. Available on <https://www.unicef.org/rosa/media/2406/file/C4D Emerging Infectious Diseases.pdf>

WHO (World Health Organisation), n.d. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. Available on < https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public>

WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), 2018. The Living Planet Report 2018. Available on <https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/living-planet-report-2018>