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Return to Normal as Coronavirus Remains

Return to Normal as Coronavirus Remains

Monday, 22 June, 2020 - 07:00
Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Life returned to normal in Saudi Arabia on Sunday after nearly three months since lockdown was imposed. Life also returned to normal throughout most of the world after the worst health, social and economic crisis witnessed by the modern world.

Businesses and commercial and sports activities will resume according to strict health protocols even as the coronavirus monster continues to lurk without abating. In fact, the pandemic has become more widespread since the lockdown. The world today is forced to find a new different and practical equation to deal and coexist with the coronavirus. Infections have topped 8.67 million worldwide and 460,000 have died. Estimates, however, say that the actual infections are in the hundreds of millions given that it is impossible to test every single person on the planet no matter how advanced health means become.

We can say that the critical phase that saw the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of the year was like a trial for governments to buy time. They were confronted with the great danger of the collapse of health systems and hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed by patients. Some intensive case units could no longer take in more critical cases, as witnessed in Italy, Brazil and other countries.

During the first six months of the year, countries bolstered their health systems and found best ways to deal with rapidly growing infections. Most importantly, they came up with strict health protocols that could help curb the outbreak, which had become inevitable and unavoidable. Given that it is impossible to halt social and economic life any longer, countries now have to approach this enemy from an angle of incurring least harm, not preventing or uprooting the disease.

In my view, after six months of the pandemic, strictly addressing the number of infections is not the only way to deal with the coronavirus. There are two main factors that can determine the ability of countries to coexist with the disease on the long-term, at least until a cure or a vaccine is available: The first is the ability of health systems to take in critical cases, and the other, is lowering the number fatalities as much as possible.

In Germany, 2 percent of COVID-19 infections succumbed to the disease. This is a relatively low percentage compared to the rest or the world and compared to countries that have been hit hard by the outbreak. Take Italy, for example, where some 12 percent of infections have passed away.

Saudi Arabia has reported a 0.6 percent fatality rate, which is among the lowest in the world. This reflects success in confronting the coronavirus. Relative to the number of infections and the size of the population, this figure is among the lowest in the world.

The planet may be trying to return to the pre-coronavirus world, but the virus is still there, its infections are increasing and it is still deadly. Several aspects of the disease are still unknown, as is how come it differs from one country to another. However, one of the most important lessons to derive from the coronavirus is the dire need for more global vigilance in combating pandemics, given the threat of more disease outbreaks in the future. It also demands the need for adopting a united health policy that requires the cooperation of several sectors in fighting this pandemic and others. Health ministries are no longer the sole parties concerned with combating the coronavirus pandemic, but whole countries, with all of their departments, are involved in this war against this virus, which will unfortunately live with us for years to come.

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