With over 200 countries registering COVID-19 cases, uncertainty and questions envelope the world. Many questions persist as to how long the pandemic will last. What will the new world order look like, particularly in the context of economic disruption and geopolitical instability?
To date, the largest numbers of confirmed cases are in the United States, Italy, Spain, and France, and there is substantial variability of strategies. Many countries have implemented restrictive measures, including stay at home orders, to contain the spread of the virus. Differing responses and timelines have led many to question what is actually the best approach to halting the spread of the virus, and a range of mathematical models provide varying predictions.
COVID-19 has not only disrupted our lives: it has changed our ways of living and working. COVID-19 has also fundamentally changed the way nurses work in many ways. The threat of infection and the need to wear PPE has changed how we provide nursing care. Restricted visiting has meant many family members have been denied being with their loved one, even as they are dying.
The uptake of telehealth has been perhaps a positive outcome of COVID-19. The need to isolate has led to a rapid uptake of a broad range of services via video, telephone or email. This has enabled access to healthcare and may remain as a more popular mechanism of healthcare delivery. This rapid growth has led to increased cross-jurisdiction, cooperation, and growth of expertise. But this has also laid open a wide digital divide where many individuals do not have access to the internet or smartphones. In this way, COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis, with the potential to cause far-reaching devastating social, economic and political crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining global health crisis of our time, challenging global health infrastructure and governance. As the most trusted profession and as advocates for individuals, families and communities, nurses need to not only consider the immediate clinical context but also the broader social, political and economic context of the pandemic. Reflecting on changes in your country will be important in developing responsive and appropriate health care delivery systems.
COVID-19 does not affect us in isolation. In some areas of the world there are populations dealing with multiple conditions. This example from South Africa, published in online journal The Conversation, describes the increased risks for people with HIV and tuberculosis. In many countries, the huge economic impact will influence access to food and health services.
Take your learning further:
You can read more about economic consequences and the impact on health posed by COVID-19 in the additional case study examples in the See Also section below.
As you read, think about the similarities that exist between the countries featured. How well have each been able to address the social and economic impacts of the pandemic?