The year 2020 was full of unforeseen, unpleasant events for mankind. Arguably the worst pandemic that the world has witnessed in the last 100 years, the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, has led to 2.29 million deaths globally and caused over 77 million cases, as of February, 5th 2021.
COVID-19 has disrupted almost every aspect of life, right from grocery shopping to work. Here are a few examples that explain how the pandemic has created some irreversible changes to the human way of life.
#1. New vocabulary
In 2020, several new phrases and words were added to the general lexicon. As people were constantly exposed to words and phrases like ‘social distance’ or ‘stay 6-feet apart to flatten the curve’ to minimize the burden on the healthcare providers and the system, the public became more familiar with relatively vague epidemiological terms such as R0 (pronounced as R-nought) or basic reproduction number, the average number of people infected from a single infected person, etc. Above all, the name of the pandemic – COVID-19, is itself a new term. The disease was officially named by the WHO – World Health Organization, on February 11, 2020.
#2. Anxiety and depression
Although anxiety and depression were quite common among people even before the advent of COVID-19, the pandemic took a severe toll on the mental health of the people due to various reasons like economic disruption, extended physical isolation and lockdown, fear of unemployment, etc. According to a report published in August 2020, by CDC – Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts soared during the pandemic.
#3. Wardrobe addition
The new must-have wardrobe collection of 2020 and the next couple of years, is a small piece of cloth called ‘face mask’. Due to the shortage of medical masks during the year, 2020, many sewing enthusiasts started manufacturing homemade masks for their localities. Following this, many retailers and clothing companies started including masks in their fashion lines. At present, in many countries throughout the world, people cannot step out of their homes without wearing a mask.
Though at first, it was doubtful whether cloth masks could help in protecting the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, as the year went on, many studies highlighted the advantage of wearing masks, for both the wearer and the people around them.
#4. School closures
Though children didn’t endure the most severe effects of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, they could still contribute to the spread of the deadly contagion. A large number of schools across various countries of the world, including the US, decided to remain closed in 2020 and turned towards online alternatives to stay operational.
On the flip side, school closures have resulted in kids falling behind in their studies. According to the Educational Trust, state-wide surveys have discovered that almost 9 in 10 parents are concerned about their children lagging at school due to closures.
#5. Debts and Zombies
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments provided credit as a lifebelt and businesses didn’t miss to seize the opportunity. As a result, corporate debt levels increased across developed countries. According to the estimates of the Bank for International Settlements, the nonfinancial firms have borrowed a total of $3.36 trillion in the first six months of 2020.
As revenues across many industries started plummeting as an outcome of lockdowns and changes in consumer behaviour, a ‘major corporate solvency crisis’ is expected to crop up according to a fresh report (Group of Thirty). This has also created concerns about the evolution of ‘Zombie firms’ – companies that cannot survive in a free market and can stay alive only with aid provided by the state. This in turn will reduce the productivity of the entire economy.
#6. Increased rumors
From the most interesting story of the decade – the Novel Coronavirus was created in a lab to be used as a bioweapon, to the consumption of bleach killing the COVID-19 virus, the outbreak of the pandemic has produced a flurry of false information. According to a study published on 10 August 2020, by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, over 2000 conspiracy theories, rumors, and discrimination reports were generated by the pandemic.
False information can have severe effects. For instance, the study also discovered that rumors related to COVID-19 were associated with hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations. The researchers concluded that the “Health agencies must monitor the false information with COVID-19 in real-time and collaborate with government stakeholders and local communities to debunk the misinformation.”
#7. Rise of Robots
The advent of COVID-19 has given rise to new concerns regarding physical contact in industries where social distancing is difficult. For example, warehousing, hospitality, retail, etc. Robots are the only reliable alternative that can perform tasks like humans in these industries.
According to research, often automation gains momentum in the course of a recession. In the pandemic, many industries started employing machines to carry out tasks like cutting salads at restaurants, checking guests into hotels, collecting fees at toll booths, etc. Also, online shopping skyrocketed during the pandemic. In short, robots will help in enhancing the productivity of the economies.
#8. Getting a furry friend
With strict orders to stay indoors for an unknown period, many people have made their minds to get a pet during the quarantine.
The Novel Coronavirus has accelerated the adoption of pets, particularly dogs. According to the Washington Post, many pet stores, breeders, and shelters reported an upsurge in dog supplies and accessories, so much so, the demand far exceeded the supply. Some shelters stated that the number of adoptions in 2020 was doubled compared to the previous year, and they had to resort to waiting lists to handle the sudden rise in demand.
According to NPR, increased adoption of pets, is not only good for animals that needed a loving owner and sweet home, but also for their humans, given the mood-boosting and health benefits of pets.
#9. Lowered emissions
The normal hustle and bustle of cities dropped significantly as people were strictly ordered to stay at home to contain the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. As a result, carbon emissions across the globe decreased dramatically. According to a report published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, on 19 May 2020, the global carbon emissions reduced by 17% at the beginning of 2020, compared to the levels in 2019. As a matter of fact, this was one of the biggest drops recorded in history. However, this temporary drop in carbon dioxide emissions is nowhere near enough to undo the repercussions of man-made climate change.
Richard Betts – Head of Climate Impacts Research, Met Office Hadley Centre, England, stated that “Although this might lead to the largest cut in emissions since Second World War, it will barely make a dent in the current accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
#10. New vaccine
Development of a new vaccine is not as easy as it sounds and generally takes years, even decades at times. But advancements in technology have enabled researchers and healthcare providers to shorten the timeframe of vaccine development in the case of COVID-19. Researchers from various parts of the globe, including the US, were able to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, take it from test labs to clinical trials, in just 12 months.
At the beginning of 2020, Novel Coronavirus and the virus that causes it – SARS-CoV-2, were something new to science. However, once the virus was identified, scientists were able to perform detailed research and develop vaccines at an accelerated space with the help of enabling technologies like data science, AI, ML, etc.
By mid-March, 2020, early clinical trials had started, and by late summer, the vaccines were qualified for more advanced trials with hundreds of human participants. In December 2020, the US approved two COVID-19 vaccines, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, as the results of the vaccines’ trials were quite promising. In both vaccines, a molecule called mRNA is used to stimulate an immune response against the COVID-19 virus. In fact, this is the first time any mRNA vaccine has been approved for use in humans. The vaccines were proclaimed as a remarkable scientific advancement and the first doses were given to the US healthcare workers in mid-December.
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