Speaking at a media briefing on December 28, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General in his opening remarks said that December marked the first anniversary since WHO learned of cases of ‘pneumonia with unknown cause’ via a bulletin issued by the health authorities in Wuhan and ProMed.
The WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic more than nine months ago and since then, the illness it causes, known as COVID-19, has spread to nearly every country in the world.
By the year’s end, the disease had killed more than 1.8 million people and infected more than 82.8 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 46 million people have recovered.
On January 4, 2021, according to ‘Worldometer.info’, 85,767,055 people have contracted the disease and 1,855,565 have died. Presently 60,652,889 have recovered worldwide, while there are 23,258,601 active cases of whom 107,394 are in a critical condition.
The United States is the worst affected country in the world with 20,258,725 persons having contracted the disease. India with 10,3 million persons having contracted the disease comes a distant second and Brazil with 7,716,405 persons having contracted the disease has the 3rd highest number of COVID-19 patients.
Sri Lanka which controlled the virus during its first stage, was more or less unable to stop the spread of the virus when the second wave hit the country. Today over 45,242 Sri Lankans have contracted the virus, of whom 215 died and 37,817 persons have recovered.
Worldwide, of the over 85 million who contracted the virus, over 65 million have recovered. In our own country of the 45000 who fell ill over 37,000 have recovered. This is despite this country having minimum facilities and a plethora of particular political-party affiliated quacks who are deceiving the public with claims to have miracle cures for the virus.
What this effectively means is that the virus, despite all drawbacks, is controllable. Despite the speed and suddenness at which the virus struck, within a year we are seeing vaccines being rolled out. According to the ‘Guardian’, the one person whose act of scientific generosity ought to be remembered is Zhang Yongzhen, the scientist who works out of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre. Yongzhen was the first to map the whole genome sequence of Sars-CoV-2. He did so on January 5, 2020 and hoped to share it with researchers by uploading his work to the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
The professor knew he was dealing with a deadly virus – but he had no idea how dangerous it was. The pathogen has killed more than 1.7 million people and shut down nations, leaving a trail of economic disruption. Concerned that the NCBI would take its time, the scientist sanctioned the sequence’s global public release via an Australian colleague. On January 11, when Wuhan recorded its first COVID death, the virus’s genomic sequence was posted on an open access site. The 28,000 letters of COVID’s genetic code allowed Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, Moderna and BioNTech to design their vaccines in days.
It was no miracle, just one man’s selfless act.
Unfortunately, as British charity Oxfam has revealed, the vaccine’s will not reach a majority of the world’s population until late this year or in mid-2023 as richer nations on this planet have cornered stocks of vaccine far in excess of their needs.
What the world needs is more men like the Chinese professor Zhang Yongzhen who was ready to share his knowledge with humanity in general with no thought of private profit for himself.
Sadly, the pharmaceutical giants are preparing to use the pandemic to increase their profits, pricing their vaccines way beyond the means of the ordinary people and the poorer nations.
However, there are many simple things we as a people could do to help the COVID scientists combat the pandemic.
Health authorities have recommended a combination of wearing masks, regularly washing hands and physical distancing. However ‘we the people’ seem to be unable to observe these simple rules. Instead, we flout the rules, help spread the virus, enhance the profits of pharmaceutical giants and endanger the lives of those near and dear to us.
A vaccine to combat the virus has now been found. We need no longer fear the big bad wolf. Its combatable.
Let us overcome our fears, get our systems, economic and social up and running to face the new year.