Social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the disease itself and efforts to quarantine it, including political, cultural, and social implications.

Political impacts

A number of provincial-level administrators of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were dismissed over their handling of the quarantine efforts in Central China, a sign of discontent with the political establishment's response to the outbreak in those regions. Some experts believe this is likely in a move to protect Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping from people's anger over the coronavirus pandemic.[1] Some commentators have suggested that outcry over the disease could be a rare protest against the CPC.[2] Additionally, protests in the special administrative region of Hong Kong have strengthened due to fears of immigration from mainland China.[3] Taiwan has also voiced concern over being included in any travel ban involving the People's Republic of China (PRC) due to the "one-China policy" and its disputed political status.[4] Further afield, the treasurer of Australia was unable to keep a pledge to maintain a fiscal surplus due to the effect of the coronavirus on the economy.[5] A number of countries have been using the outbreak to show their support to China, such as when Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia made a special visit to China with an aim to showcase Cambodia's support to China in fighting the outbreak of the epidemic.[6]

The United States president Donald Trump was criticised for his response to the pandemic.[7][8][9] He was accused of making several misleading or false claims, of failing to provide adequate information, and of downplaying the pandemic's significance.[10] Trump was also criticised for having closed down the global health security unit of the United States National Security Council, which was founded to prepare the government for potential pandemics.[11]

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been heavily affected by the virus, with at least two dozen members (approximately 10%) of the Iranian legislature being infected, as well as at least 15 other current or former top government officials, including the vice-president.[12][13] Advisers to Ali Khamenei and Mohammad Javad Zarif have died from the disease.[14] The spread of the virus has raised questions about the future survival of the regime.[15]

Impact on sovereignty

Geoeconomics and country risk-experts have emphasized the potential erosion of political and economic sovereignty that may affect some already-enfeebled countries like Italy: Edward Luttwak has called Covid-19 "the virus of truth".[16] M. Nicolas Firzli, director of the World Pensions Council (WPC) and advisory-board member at the World Bank Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), refers to the pandemic as "the Greater Financial Crisis", that will "bring to the surface pent-up financial and geopolitical dysfunctions ... [many] national economies will suffer as a result, and their political sovereignty itself may be severely eroded".[17]

Civil rights and democracy

Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, and Yemen banned the printing and distribution of newspapers.[18] On 30 March, the parliament of Hungary granted Prime Minister Viktor Orban the power to rule by decree for an indefinite period.

Educational impact

 
A sign on a closed local school because of the coronavirus

The pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the widespread closures of schools and universities. According to data released by UNESCO on 25 March, school and university closures due to COVID-19 were implemented nationwide in 165 countries. Including localized closures, this affects over 1.5 billion students worldwide, accounting for 87% of enrolled learners.[19]

Coronavirus and inequality

Low income individuals are more likely to contract the coronavirus and to die from it.[20] In both New York City and Barcelona, low income neighborhoods are disproportionately hit by coronavirus cases. Hypotheses for why this is the case include that poorer families are more likely to live in crowded housing and work in the low skill jobs, such as supermarkets and elder care, which are deemed essential during the crisis.[21][22] In the United States, millions of low-income people may lack access to health care due to being uninsured or underinsured.[23] Many low income workers in service jobs have become unemployed.[24]

Religious impact

 
A church forced to close because of the coronavirus

The pandemic has impacted religion in various ways, including the cancellation of the worship services of various faiths, the closure of Sunday Schools, as well as the cancellation of pilgrimages surrounding observances and festivals.[25] Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have offered worship through livestream amidst the pandemic.[26] Relief wings of religious organisations have dispatched medical supplies and other aid to affected areas.[27] Adherents of many religions have gathered together to pray for an end to the pandemic, for those affected by it, as well as for the God they believe in to give physicians and scientists the wisdom to combat the disease;[28][29][30] in the United States, Trump designated 15 March 2020 as a National Day of Prayer for "God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our Nation".[31][32]

Psychological impact

On 18 March 2020, the World Health Organization issued a report related to mental health and psychosocial issues by addressing instructions and some social considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak.[33]

Due to doubts if pets or other livestock may pass on coronavirus to humans,[34] many people were reluctant to keep their pets fearing transmission, for instance in the Arab World, celebrities were urging people to keep and protect their pets.[35] Meanwhile, people in the U.K. tended to acquire more pets during the coronavirus lockdown.[36]

Suicide

The coronavirus pandemic has been followed by a concern for a potential spike in suicides, exacerbated by social isolation due to quarantine and social-distancing guidelines, fear, and unemployment and financial factors.[37][38]

Personal gatherings

The impact on personal gatherings has been strong as medical experts have advised, and local authorities often mandated stay-at-home orders to prevents gatherings of any size, not just the larger events that were initially restricted. Such gatherings may be replaced by teleconferencing, or in some cases with unconventional attempts to maintain social distancing with activities such as a balcony sing-along for a concert,[39] or a "birthday parade" for a birthday party.[40] Replacements for gatherings have been seen as significant to mental health during the crisis.[41]

Domestic violence

Many countries have reported an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence attributed to lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[42] Financial insecurity, stress, and uncertainty have lead to increased aggression at home, with abusers able to control large amounts of their victims' daily life.[43] United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a domestic violence "ceasefire".[44]

See also

References

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