Coronavirus brought home to a modern population the potential severity of global pandemics, something which, historically, have killed more people than warfare, natural disasters and famine combined. The legacy of Covid has changed us physically, psychologically, economically and even culturally.
This is not the first time this has happened in world history. One hundred years ago, virtually everyone in western Europe would have known someone who had died from Spanish Flu. This, like Covid, was an influenza-based virus with a similar mortality and transmission rate (R number). Unlike Covid, however, which is particularly dangerous to the elderly, Spanish Flu was more akin to a typical autoimmune disease, inadvertently tripping the victim’s own immune system to begin attacking healthy cells, primarily in the lungs. Go back further to a time before antibiotics, and bubonic plague would be a topic on many people’s lips, the result of bacteria transferred to humans via fleas, typically found on rodents. Post antibiotics, bacterial plagues are less of an issue, although we are running out of antibiotics, which is a little concerning. Arguably the worst pandemic in history is smallpox, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions over the course millennia. Smallpox affected the skin primarily, but also the eyes and, in some cases, the bones and the joints. These days, such issues would be treatable either via smallpox vaccines or, according to bioxcellerator.com, via stem cell treatments aimed at repairing damaged musculoskeletal structures.
Changes in How We Live
Arguably the biggest change post pandemic is the economic shift from office work to remote work, as well as a monumental shift from high-street retail to online retail. Both, at the time, were the result of social distancing measures aimed at protecting healthcare systems from becoming overrun but has now opened up clear advantages by cutting down on logistical costs and cross contamination. The pandemic has also cultivated a new sense of medical responsibility in many, as now westerners are more inclined to wear PPE in public places to reduce the risk of transferring infectious diseases to others.
On The Other Hand
Not all of the changes have been good. The economic effects of businesses closing altogether for the better part of two years has been disastrous for unemployment rates, and the impact on driving tests being postponed has created a backlog that makes obtaining a license virtually impossible for the next several years, which, when applied to HGV licensing in particular, has led to serious problems in economic supply chains. The medical backlog is similarly serious, as vital treatments and surgeries being postponed for months have placed patient’s lives at risk along with the increase in mental health conditions. Then there are the effects of sports and leisure facilities closing, which led to an increase in rates of obesity, which will, inevitably, create further medical problems in the future.
That said, were it not for those lockdowns, the numbers would have been a little bit different. Covid has a natural R number of around 3, and a mortality rate of roughly 1%. That doesn’t sound very scary, until you multiply that number by 8 billion. Assuming universal infection, the worst possible result of zero social distancing measures being taken, and you’re looking at number closer to 80 million people. Currently, the number of deaths attributed to Covid worldwide is a mere 6.45 million. This is not even counting the number of deaths from illnesses and injuries that would result from healthcare systems worldwide becoming completely overrun. That number is incalculable.