The world has never seen a highly transmissible viral pandemic that would cross the hi-tech international boundaries so efficiently. Every country – big or small, rich or poor, powerful or weak, is on the knees. Despite the success of technological advancement and medical sophistication, it seems humanity is to learn a blunt and important lesson from Mother Nature. We, as humans, might need to think out of the box, in terms of our behaviour, in the economic systems and in the ecology we are living in.
Against more than 2.26 million inflicted patients, 155,000 deaths and more than half a million recovered from the illness, in almost all countries on Earth till 18th of April 2020 and lethality of the virus is still being gauged, the world has suffered, probably the hardest, after nearly a century.
An infectious disease of COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome which was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan city in Eastern China. The World Health Organization, the WHO, classified the disease as a global pandemic on the 12th of March 2019. Fatality is below 5% the World over, though this has differed from country to country and with different age groups and backgrounds. People with weaker immune systems, with smoking history and elders, are believed to be a high risk of being contaminated.
Droplets produced during cough, sneeze and talking, do usually fall on surfaces where they can survive for several days. People may become infected by touching the surface and transmitting the virus into the body by mainly touching hands to mouth, nose and eyes. Symptoms seen in patients are fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhoea, sore throat, loss of smell and abdominal pain. As the disease develops within the body, pneumonia and multi-organ failure are normally the cause of death. One of the worrying features often recorded about the disease is its asymptomatic or clinically silent characters, where a carrier patient shows no symptoms of the disease.
With the number of infections and deaths soaring every day, often geometrically, and no vaccine or medicine introduced, a large part of the world has responded its system and tried to avoid further infections, by enforcing lockdown in specific areas, allowing emergencies only to function, measures that would cut human to human transactions and harsh curfews.
Against a quarter of humans inside their houses and a jaw-dropping rate of infection globally, there have been some trajectories to find possible routes out of the lockdown and to bring back normality. One of the few positive effects of the shutdown the world has, though temporarily, is a drastic drop in pollution which is happily witnessed. Use of online and social media has understandably rocketed up in recent weeks. Many have started realizing the need for WFH (work from home) and weighing possibilities of online meetings and transactions. Rumours, myths and fake news, mostly with ill intentions, have sadly been surging worldwide.
As the world experiences the severity of human and economic costs, it awaits vaccines to ward off the virus or therapeutic medicines for treatment. There have been numerous frantic efforts and hurried researches going on to develop solutions. At this time, the world is pinning its hope on medical success soon, the question of how long it will take is what only time can answer.
Frontline fighters our heroes
At the forefront of the fight are the doctors, nurses, health workers and hospital staff working day and night and often continue without their families around for days and weeks. Many, during the combat to save lives of patients, have lost their own lives as well. The world is full of appreciation to those unsung heroes and heroes on the frontline.
Health workers have complained about the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment), logistics and equipment. The government and society have immediate roles to address the issue. A medical practitioner has compared the lack of accessories to a picture where a dancer has to dance without music.
Experts say Nepal had entered the 2nd phase (local transmission) of the virus outbreak two weeks ago. It has 30 cases of the virus from nearly 16,000 tested. An urgent need is felt, currently at 542 tests per a million people, to intensify its testing range and prepare for the worst scenarios. Experts have, due to its reliability and universal acceptability, suggested the authorities perform and rely on PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) rather than RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test).
With numbers slowly growing throughout the country and with a fragile health care system, critics have warned of a ticking time bomb. There have been frantic efforts to brush up the health system and infrastructures.
The newer vocabulary during the crisis
For the last few weeks, the world has rather unwillingly, learnt to use or experience newer words. People are under lockdown, in quarantine or isolation. Many of them are maintaining ‘social distance’, handwashing, WFH.
The health workers are testing RDT and PCR to determine the infection. The authorities are desperate to contact tracing and struggling to flatten the curve against the unseen pandemic. Scientists and researchers concurrently have never felt such intense pressure to come up with a vaccine to kill COVID-19 or the coronavirus.
Impact on World Tourism
According to the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization, about 10% of global GDP is contributed by tourism. It contributes to 8.8 trillion US$ in 2019 and offers 1 in every 10 jobs worldwide.
The picture has changed, as the world kneels to the effect of COVID-19. IATA forecasts 55% down in airlines revenue around the globe in 2020, in comparison to the previous year. Companies are forced to lay off staff, or cut salaries hugely and suspend their operation. WTO has warned that around 50 million jobs in the tourism industry, mainly in Asia, could be lost.
Tourism in Nepal
Nepal received 1.2 million tourists in 2019, a robust return of more than double tourist arrivals into the country, in comparison to 2015. The tourism industry generated US$ 643 million for Nepal in the year 2018. Though already cancelled, but by declaring Visit Nepal 2020, it had pinned on to reposition itself as a safe and diverse tourism destination.
The tourism industry is regarded as one of the efficient engines of the economy and takes Nepal on the road to development. Several airlines and hotels have expressed their fear of their survival. The tourism industry and the private sector are expecting the governments – from federal to municipal- to come forward to rescue and recover the industry largely knocked down.
Against the crisis of COVID-19 looming over and a global recession forecasted, the economic impact of it in Nepal is still to be gauged. In the backdrop that Nepal bounced back after Maoist conflict a decade ago and from the devastating earthquake a couple of years ago, optimists believe that the industry has not been decimated and is very resilient. Despite the hard hit, the industry is expected to swirl back if guided by a series of rescue and recovery intervention from the government at earliest.
The way forward
Of course not physically, but this is the time for all stakeholders to join hand and come together to show the resilience, not through words but actions. We all as citizens are inside our homes as advised by the authorities and experts. Authorities are believed to be working overtime to mitigate the chances of infections and to roll our relief and recovery plans for citizens and to overhaul the economy.
However long and severe the crisis is going to be, the world will surely pass the dark tunnel. The time welcomes everyone to show bravery, by showing discipline during the crisis and demands resilience from the tourism industry. For now, by staying home, we can travel and traverse tomorrow.