Halfway through the year: Where are we with COVID-19?
Every year brings its surprises that no one can predict. But this year has been truly unprecedented. The coronavirus pandemic has swept through countries, communities, and households, leaving chaos in its wake. The social, economic, and health consequences have been truly detrimental. Halfway through this year, we thought it important to see what progress has been made against this invisible war.
(As of 01/06/2020)
Worldwide, there are 6.15 million confirmed cases, with 2.64 million recoveries and 372,000 confirmed deaths. Of this total, the UK accounts for 275,000 cases, with the USA contributing 1.83 million cases. Whilst these numbers seem large, it is potent to remember that behind each statistic is a person.
The Science Says…
There is no doubt that online resources have been crucial during the time. Whether it be communication tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, or online newspapers and social media, the internet has been at the centre of keeping in contact with others, and learning more about the virus. However, this great tool does not come without a dark underbelly. Online resources have also been puppeteered to spread fake news about the virus. So, we thought we would look at the facts (from reputable sources) and see what the science has to say.
Starting at the beginning, COVID-19, is a coronavirus. This is the name given to viruses that exist amongst animals, but can, as the present situation demonstrates, be transmitted to humans. The first cases of the virus were reported in Wuhan, China at the end of Dec 2019, however, new research suggests that the virus may have been present in China since November. Contrary to circulating information, it is not definitively known what caused the origination of the virus. At the beginning of the pandemic, pictures surfaced claiming that COVID-19 was transmitted to humans through a bat, or some animal sold at a market. However, it should be stressed that there has been no confirmation as to where the virus originally started.
In terms of transmission, the World Health Organisation says
The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth
Children have been another gray area throughout the pandemic. The swarm of information surrounding COVID-19 and children has quite frankly got many confused, with some wondering if children can even get the virus. Up until today, it is known that children are just as likely as adults to contract the virus. The main difference between adults and children appears in the severity of COVID-19. It is known that, whilst children are just as likely to get the virus, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms or die from the virus. Taking the UK as an example, only 0.01% of deaths are accounted for by those under 15, and 1% by those aged between 15-44. The majority of deaths, 75%, are suffered by those over 75. What is important to understand is that children can get the virus as easily as anyone else.
What are the rules?
By consulting scientific expertise, countries around the world are beginning to gradually relax lockdown measures, though specifics surrounding the easing differ between countries. In England, some children have gone back to school today for the first time since lockdown, whilst Scotland has decided to withhold school openings until August. In the past weeks, Germany, Denmark, Taiwan, and China have all opened schools to some extent as lockdown measures are lifted.
England is planning on opening non-essential shops on the 15th June, and other countries have similar plans to reopen the economy. However, all these re-openings rely heavily on social distancing and hygiene measures. In the UK, there are clear labels ensuring people stay two meters apart, and some parks in Toronto have opted for social distancing circles to support social distancing.
Whilst nations take steps to re-open their countries, they also look to scientists to discover a cure, more specifically a vaccine. Research sites across the world are carrying out clinical trials to test and research different drugs. After starting their research in January, the Oxford clinical trial has gained worldwide attention, and rightfully so. Whilst abiding by clinical protocol, the clinical trial has been credited for making quick progress, with hopes that, if successful, the vaccine could be made available by the end of September.
Human trials in the USA have also shown some early positive signs, with eight trial volunteers having antibodies as a result of the researched vaccine. It should be noted that whilst these results are promising, this is only phase 1 of the clinical trial. Phase 2 is planned to take place soon, with 600 participants, and Phase 3 following in July with thousands of participants.
Clearly, clinical trials are vital for fighting this pandemic. But at the centre of any clinical trial are the participants, like the 600 who will be involved in Phase 2 of clinical studies in the USA. Without these volunteers, clinical trials could not take place, and research into the Coronavirus as well as other illnesses would not happen. Therefore, it is vital for everyone to consider volunteering in clinical trials.