This is the week the number of people infected with coronavirus worldwide officially exceeds two million. Since this figure only relates to detected cases, the real number is likely much higher.
The pandemic is ongoing, and while some countries begin confinement, others hope to ease it soon. At the same time, it is inevitable to think about how the world might change once this is all over, and if a return to “normality” is even possible.
This sixth weekly column by our team of international health editors summarises some of the recently published articles from The Conversation’s global network.
This is our weekly roundup of expert info about the Coronavirus.
The Conversation, a not-for-profit group, works with a wide range of academics across its global network. Together we produce evidence-based analysis and insights from across academia. The articles are free to read – there is no paywall – and to republish.
Treatments, promises and risks
Developing treatments and vaccines against a disease takes years, often decades, but right now we do not have the luxury of time. To this end, many researchers are testing the effectiveness of old, already approved drugs against SARS-CoV-2. Some of the findings so far relate to:
- The effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. This controversial purported treatment for COVID-19, championed by Donald Trump, the US president, has had many doubts cast on its effectiveness. Katherine Seley-Radtke of the University of Maryland summarises the many questions raised by this antimalarial drug.
- Antibodies in the blood of survivors. Our immune system is a powerful weapon against infection. Ann Sheehy of the College of the Holy Cross tells us how blood plasma from recovered patients could help fight coronavirus.
- The importance of reducing risks. Social distancing is a fundamental measure to delay the advancement of coronavirus, but its success depends on understanding social interactions must be redefined. Catharine Chambers and Daniel Harris of the University of Toronto explain why we should not make exceptions or let our guard down.
Issues of race and gender
The pandemic is not affecting everyone equally. The effects of coronavirus differ greatly between different classes, races and genders. Our authors have covered:
- How racism impacts health. Data is now available that indicates African Americans are suffering more severely during the epidemic. Roberta K Timothy of the University of Toronto explains the causes and proposes solutions.
- Clinical trials not reaching Africa. There are over 150 ongoing clinical trials researching the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Only three are taking place in Africa, and all of them in Egypt. Jenniffer-Mabuka-Maroa, from the African Academy of Sciences, believes the continent has the necessary infrastructures to assist the research.
- The consequences for women. Not only does confinement disproportionally affect the work/life balance of women generally, it raises many issues for women suffering domestic violence. María López Belloso, from the University of Deusto, Spain, defends (in Spanish) the incorporation of a gender perspective in the data and analysis of the pandemic.
Populism and dictatorship
- The price of populism. Jonatan A Lassa and Miranda Booth, from Charles Darwin University (Australia), discuss the role populist leaders have had in the global failure to respond to COVID-19. Despite this, they fear those same leaders will be able to take advantage of this crisis.
- The Ghanaian law against coronavirus. The government of Ghana has approved an act to combat the pandemic that opens the door to violations of human rights and freedoms. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, from the University of Ghana, discusses the law, its problems and risks.
- Advice from Nelson Mandela. The South African leader spent decades in a tiny cell, where he had to learn to keep his body active. Gavin Evans of Birkbeck, University of London explains how the Nobel Prize winner managed to keep his body and mind healthy thanks to a strict routine.
- Parallels with the Spanish Civil War. Spain has not experienced a situation similar to the current one since the Civil War of 1936. In a similar fashion to today, volunteering and messages of consolation played an important role in overcoming the tragedy. Dolores Ruiz Berdún, from the University of Alcalá (Spain), explains the commonality between past and present (in Spanish).
Looking to the future
- The Chinese economy needs the rest of the world. The pandemic is a global challenge, and no less for the world’s largest exporter. China struggles to regain lost ground, but it cannot do it alone. Rusli Abdulah of the Institute for the Development of the Economy and Finance (Indonesia) explains why.
- Phasing back to ‘normality’. After more than a month of confinement in some countries, citizens are wondering when things will return the way they were. Ignacio López-Goñi, from the University of Navarra (Spain), explains the phased return to life as it was, and how to guarantee its success.
Questions and answers
- Can mothers continue to breastfeed? Although the mortality of COVID-19 in children and babies is low compared to other ages, that does not mean that they cannot experience more severe symptoms. Andini Pramono, from the Australian National University, explains how to breastfeed safely in the midst of the pandemic.
- What does “recovered” mean? Most coronavirus patients return to full health. So Tom Duszynski of Indiana University answers some questions about how our bodies fight the virus … and how the immune system prevents new infections.
- What about the masks? Kieran Moore of Queen’s University, Ontario, answers the most frequently asked questions about SARS-CoV-2, such as the advisability of wearing face masks, the length of school closings and how long we can be infected before showing symptoms.