While talking about different dimensions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the world economy, Sheikh Tasmima Mrenmoi emphasises on the importance mental health
THE outbreak of the pandemic seemed to have disturbed the entire world, which include the political, social, economic, religious and financial structures and institutions of the world. The developed countries which have the strongest economies like the USA, China, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and many others are at tatters.
The stock markets around the world have been compromised and the cost of oil has also been compromised at a pretty high rate. Therefore, it cannot be said how the economy will be affected by COVID-19 in the future. There have been arguments amongst economists that the pandemic will leave severe negative impacts in the global economy.
Currently there are no consumers to purchase the goods and services available in the global or local markets. This issue can be seen very clearly in the travel and tourism companies. There are no consumers, no one to run the business for. The business has completely ceased. Since the virus can spread at a rapid rate, countries placed restrictions on travel. People can no longer travel from one city to another, let alone travelling from one country to another.
Similarly, as mentioned above, the oil and car industries and other transportation industries are no longer in use. As the companies start cutting off staff to make up for the loss they have been facing, there is a high possibility that this will create a downward economic spiral when the unemployed can no longer afford to purchase unaffected goods and services.
For example, in retail business the increase in unemployment will lead to reduction in sales, due to shutdown of shopfronts, and the business owners giving responsibilities to the online retail segment. Economists have been worrying that global pandemic might lead to global recession on the scale of the Great Depression.
However, as they say, there is always a rainbow after the storm. Since the storm does not seem to end anytime soon, we need to find shelter amidst the storm and have some good deal of survival instinct in order to survive this storm. Many governments around the world have advised the business to go online and keep their staff employed throughout the pandemic. Consequently, many governments are also increasing their incentives to its citizens.
In addition, as seen and experienced in Bangladesh and other countries, the e-commerce business, food delivery, and the healthcare industry may have been benefited and also provided some economic growth to overcome the damage. Once the pandemic is over, it is at least possible that the global economy will experience a rebound. There might be a reduced supply of goods and services to meet lower demand could create mid-term shortages and price increases, however, with the right collaboration of government and its citizens, worse apocalyptic predictions may not come to pass.
'While the fund has penciled in a rebound of 5.8 per cent growth next year, it said that recovery is “only partial as the level of economic activity is projected to remain below the level we had projected for 2021, before the virus hit.” The cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around nine trillion dollars, greater than the economies of Japan and Germany, combined,’ Gita Gopinath, IMF’s chief economist wrote.
The COVID-19 not only affects the global economy, but has been negatively affecting people’s mental health, many are already facing mental illness and substance use disorders. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly 45 per cent of the adults cannot cope with the pandemic, and mental health is at its peak. Once the pandemic wears off, there is a possibility that the mental health issue may still affect, there is going to be a constant fear of the virus spreading. This may also lead to greater isolation and potential financial distress.
In addition, the feeling of constant repercussions of the pandemic may haunt for a long while. The constant fear of losing loved ones and falling ill are common. The majority of the governments have declared mandatory stay at home orders for the students, staff, college and university professors. This isolation may cause not only mental issues but physical issues as well. Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a trustee in the KFF, said that the maximum people experiencing this loneliness as a public health concern in itself, might be associating themselves with reduced lifespan and greater risk of both mental and physical illnesses.
Quarantine being a cure to many it, may lead to negative mental health impacts to others. One of the major risk factor, may cause to increase the formations of ideas or concepts for suicide. In addition, as the unemployment rises, and recession gets near, suicide cases may increase. When the Great Depression occurred, a lot of unemployed people ended up committing suicide.
People with marginal income may be frustrated by now, most of them have gone clueless on how to run the household. Their mental health impacts from worry or stress over coronavirus with income issues as well. According to a research, it has been indicated that the physicians are also prone to suffering from mental health issues, including depression and substance use disorder. Even the physicians, maybe at the risk of committing suicide.
A recent study showed the mental health of the health workers in China, during the coronavirus outbreak, found them feeling depressed, anxious and felt an overall psychological burden, handling the patients and dealing with deaths and what not.
Regarding the mental health and substance use, the WHO gave away a list of considerations. They did so to focus on the mental well-being of people all around the world, of all ages, also the health workers and the financially unstable ones. The COVID-19 is likely to have long term and short term implications for mental health.
For the ones with insurance coverage, may have little or no issue as they don’t have to pay the full price for in-network options and other health services specifically for mental health and substance use care disorder. On the other hand, those who have no insurance coverage may have to pay the full price for all the health care options.
People all around the world are losing jobs, and as they do so, they also lose job-based insurance coverage as well. However, there are ways, in which they can regain coverage, through options such as Medicaid, COBRA, or the ACA Marketplace, but others may remain uninsured.
Many mental health providers are recently using telemedicine, as a means of providing help in light of social distancing, however many are failing to do so. The recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) are providing help to many all around the world. CARES Act seemed to arrange mental health care to the veterans through telemedicine and other means of remote care services. These facilities may reduce some of the extreme need for remote mental health and substance use services.
Additionally, the CARES Act has extended the duration of medical care to its patients, ensuring their safety and providing services to increase care access and quality at community behavioral health clinics. As new cases of coronavirus are still rising, the mental health issue might seem to become a long term issue all around the world.
Closure of schools are also seriously affecting mental health of more than a billion active students. UNESCO is playing a huge role in supporting countries, to lighten the immediate impact of school closures, especially for the more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to ease the continuity of education for all through remote learning. According to a 220 study conducted by Burgess & Sievertsen, ‘Given the evidence of the importance of assessments for learning, schools should also consider postponing rather than skipping internal assessments. For new graduates, policies should support their entry to the labour market to avoid longer unemployment periods.’
Surely, coronavirus came as a shock to most around the world but it is unlikely to be the last. There are possibilities that this pandemic will have its effects on people in the bleakest manner, even after the condition eases.
Sheikh Tasmima Mrenmoi is a student of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.
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