There have been several events in the United Kingdom and the world that I personally witnessed and best described as “unprecedented!” The June 23, 2016 EU Brexit Referendum and the November 09, 2016 Trump winning the US presidency were of the biggest few.
But there is no other event in the world that has made the word “unprecedented” such a cliché than the novel corona virus or Covid-19. It appeared in November and identified in December 2019 as a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. The first recorded case outside of China was in Thailand in January 2020 and has since spread to 188 countries and territories.
On January 30, 2020, the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In March, WHO made the assessment and declaration that Covid-19 can be characterised as pandemic due to alarming levels of spread, severity, and infection.
Five months later, over 6 million cases were confirmed; 377,966 deaths and thankfully, almost 3 million recoveries but may bear lifelong toll on their health.
Source: Politico, ECDC, Johns Hopkins University, Muhammad Mustadi, Worldometers
NB: Philippines has 18,997 confirmed cases, 966 deaths and 4,063 recovered cases.
If we were to compare Covid-19 statistics with other pandemics in the last 100 years,
HIV/AIDS Pandemic (2005-2012) death toll: 36 million
Flu Pandemic (1968) death toll: 1 million
Asian Flu (1956-1958) death toll: 2 million
Flu Pandemic (1918) death toll: 20-50 million
Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910-1911) death toll: 800K+
The final statistics could look different as Covid-19 crisis is ongoing and with fears of a second wave of infections as countries ease lockdown and open borders to mitigate further impact on health, the economy, employment, and livelihood.
In the UK, the first two patients were Chinese nationals from the same family. Four months later, it ranked 5th globally in confirmed cases and 2nd highest after the U.S. in deaths. It has the 2nd number of infections after Spain and 4th confirmed infections per 1M citizens in the EU. (See chart) So, was the UK’s approach wrong or something to do with the nuances of the country and other contributing factors?
Eight temporary hospitals were set up for Covid-19 in England (and each of the home nations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). NHS Nightingale Hospital London with 4,000 beds is the biggest to reflect the high percentage of infection. This London hospital is said to be the largest critical care unit in the world.
The NHS is one of the most cherished institutions in the UK. It was set up in 1948 after the second world war to provide health care for all UK citizens based on need for medical care rather than ability to pay. It’s the third biggest employer in the world at one point employing around 1.2 million+ migrant workers from 16 nationalities.
Filipinos are the third biggest with almost 20K+ staff, after British nationals with over a million while Indians number 21K+. There could be additional 20K+ Filipinos working in the private sector such as private nursing homes, private nurses and carers.
Medical frontliners are considered heroes and accorded special treatment. Since the start of the pandemic, the whole country has gathered every Thursday at 8pm to clap for them.
See my companion piece, In Their Words: Filipino Frontliners in the UK Conquering the COVID pandemic to learn how these frontliners are staying strong.