COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the strain of a novel coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). People infected by the novel virus with crown-like spikes on the surface experience mild to moderate respiratory illness or pneumonia. Those with strong immunity recover from the infection, but older people and those with existing health problems such as heart disease, respiratory illness, or diabetes have a harder time recovering.
The coronavirus spreads via tiny droplets of saliva or mucus of an infected person who sneezes or coughs. The spread of the virus can be prevented by the washing of hands with soap and water, rubbing with alcohol or disinfectant, not touching the face, wearing a facial mask when in a crowded place, practicing spatial distancing, and isolating an infected person.
First detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, the virus more likely originated in animals such as bats or pangolins that came in contact with humans in a Wuhan wet market. SARS-CoV-2 is not the first coronavirus to transmit to humans. In 2002, there was an outbreak of SARS-CoV in Guangdong, China, infecting more than 8,000 people and claiming over 700 lives. In 2012, a strain of coronavirus, MERS-CoV, was identified in Saudi Arabia.
By the first quarter of 2020, the human-to-human transmission of the virus increased at an unprecedented speed, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic. The health crisis disrupted governments, economies, businesses, and social interactions around the world. It cost the jobs of millions of people in affected countries.
Countries and governments responded differently at the outset of the global health crisis. Most countries declared lockdowns in major cities with COVID-19 cases. Some governments heeded the warnings of health experts, letting their health officials manage the situation. South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia succeeded in their initial responses and measures taken on controlling the spread of the disease. But other governments downplayed the threat and politicized the pandemic with the consequence of a rising number of people getting infected.
Redefined work and productivity
As governments imposed lockdowns and restrictions on social interactions such as social distancing, thousands of small and medium-sized businesses declared bankruptcies. Resilient companies have redefined work and productivity with the use of technology and productivity tools. Remote work, or working from home, has become the norm during the pandemic. People in the medical profession who are in the frontlines of the crisis and other essential workforce in security, logistics, and food production are unable to telecommute and thus face greater risk.
As of this writing, there’s no clinically approved vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.