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HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT

The coronavirus pandemic stopped the world in its tracks a year ago and continues to debilitate lives and livelihoods globally. More than two million people have died from complications related to the virus and more than 127 million people have been afflicted and billions of lives disrupted.

March 11, 2020 marked the day the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

A year later, what has humanity learnt about itself?

Parallel Pandemics

It will stand as one of the fastest, most sweeping shifts of human behaviour in modern history. We saw medical evidence guide policy and decision making, analysing data and assessing risks, as it should be. We also saw the rise of myths and conspiracy theories digitally transmit faster than the spread of the virus itself, creating a pandemic of misinformation and fearmongering.

Frontline workers go above and beyond

Amnesty International recently shared that at least 17,000 health workers have died worldwide from COVID-19. Health-care workers have continued to provide care for patients despite exhaustion, personal risk of infection, fear of transmission to family members, illness or death of colleagues and the loss of many patients. Sadly, health-care workers have also faced many additional, often avoidable, sources of stress and anxiety; long shifts combined with unprecedented resource inefficiencies, including limited or no PPE.

Inequalities revealed

We know that women, girls and marginalised communities suffer most in times of crisis. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing gender inequalities and revealed the ill-preparedness of governments, health systems, responsibilities of care at home, access to childcare services and social safety nets to respond to the increasing scourge of intimate partner violence.

The pandemic exposed pre-existing education inequalities that were never adequately addressed. Millions of families rely on access to childcare to work. Without access to affordable care, parents cannot earn a living, businesses will not have employees and children miss out on early educational opportunities.

The digital transformation necessary to move virtual education forward also highlighted the disparities of available technology and the gaps in training of educators.

Lessons learnt?

Amongst this tragedy are stories of people who defied the odds, surviving lengthy hospital stays and fighting the virus despite age or other medical conditions. Discussions of humanity, empathy, burnout syndrome, moral distress and resilience are now at the forefront.

Let us learn, relearn, innovate, and evolve quicker than this virus has been.

Viewpoints from our readers:

“Capitalism has caused us to develop an unsustainable and inhumane system. We should take this opportunity to restructure our society so that people can spend more time with family and so that there are appropriate safety nets in place to protect people when disaster strikes.”

– 48-year-old, Business owner

“The lesson that humankind should learn is how horribly we are treating our Earth. When countries were quarantined our Earth started to heal in so many ways, simply because people were not out abusing it every day.”

– 36-year-old, Teacher

“Use this time to know God better. Receive as a gift this time of less activity and immerse yourself in quiet contemplation for personal spiritual growth. Develop gratitude in the midst of the current situation. Pray for the sick and unemployed.”

– 57-year-old, UWI Lecturer