This is the very first time that the new generation of the 21st century is witnessing such unprecedented and testing times. At the time when the new version of an old enemy shook its heads in the Wuhan city of China, no one had, perhaps, imagined that it’s going to become the talk of the town. Within days to months, the infection penetrated deep into the communities across China as well as other countries of the world.
Now almost every article, every publication, every industry as well as people no matter what race or identity they possess; relates so well to the discussion about the novel coronavirus and its tumultuous after-effects. The impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic are so prevalent and disastrous that they affect people of almost every age group and gender. We are here to go through the social impacts of COVID-19.
From migrant workers to low-income people, from unemployment rates to devastating mental and physical health, from the disruption in daily life activities to reduced educational activities; COVID-19 has touched every social aspect of life on this planet Earth.
However, if the countries of the world take this pandemic as an opportunity to work on a collective reform program as well as the strengthening of the healthcare and social protection facilities then they can at least join hands to face the worst social, economic, as well as humanitarian crisis caused due to new version of coronavirus. The exact volume of the impact is still counting. Let’s have a look at some of the social impacts that the new monster of the 21st century (COVID-19) caused.
The social impacts of COVID-19 are many in number and all are associated with the enforced lockdown(to discourage the increasing infection rates) in one way or the other. The very first social impact of new viruses is the uncertainty that it brings to people who are homeless. The homeless people, because they may be unable to safely shelter in place, are highly exposed to the dangers of the coronavirus.
People without access to running water, refugees, migrants, or displaced persons also stand to suffer disproportionately both from the pandemic and its aftermath – whether due to limited movement, fewer employment opportunities, increased xenophobia, etc.
The nationwide lockdown that was imposed in India on March 24 at short notice has caused immense distress and crisis for the inter-state migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers are walking across India in a desperate attempt to reunite with their families in their native places. The countrywide lockdown that was imposed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis has derailed their livelihoods.
Although, the Indian government announced special trains to ferry the stranded and starving migrant workers to their homes but it’s largely been a piecemeal approach. In an untoward incident, 40 migrant workers suffered injuries after a bus carrying them met an accident in the Jaleswar area of Balasore district.
These workers were traveling from Kerala to West Bengal’s Kolkata on a bus when the driver lost control over the wheels due to darkness. In a separate incident, at least 24 migrant workers trying to return home during a nationwide lockdown have been killed in a crash between two lorries in northern India. Dozens of the migrant workers have been killed in road and rail accidents. Many of them got infected with COVID-19 to add their mysteries.
The COVID-19 has also increased unemployment in developed as well as developing countries in the world. Millions of Pakistani laborers struggle amid COVID-19 lockdown. According to a media report, hundreds of charged laborers, including women, gathered outside a garment factory in Karachi to protest against their forced layoff. Laborers are not getting their salaries. Several other such incidents have been documented in which daily wagers and contract employees are being laid off without any notice.
The informal (unregistered) laborers account for 75% of the country’s total 65 million workforces and will be the worst hit. Around 40% of them are in the agriculture sector, while remaining work in services, manufacturing, and other sectors, according to the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and & Research (PILER). Although, the government has recently announced incentives for the private companies who will not fire their employees amid the economic slowdown.
However, according to the labor unions, thousands of laborers have been fired in the last two months in Pakistan. The government has also launched Ehsas Emergency Cash Program to provide financial assistance of 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($75) each to some 12 million poor families but this is a kind of short term policy approach.
According to the Ministry of Planning, 12.3 million to 18.5 million Pakistanis will lose their jobs, whereas the economy will concede a colossal loss of 2-2.5 trillion Pakistani rupees ($12.42-15.52 billion) due to “moderate to severe shocks from the coronavirus outbreak.
Unemployment is also on the rise in most developed economies of the world. About 2.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, according to the US Labor Department. In just nine weeks, 38.6 million have sought unemployment benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected healthcare services as well. Since people are being asked to practice physical distancing and minimize outside activities, many people who would otherwise be using healthcare are now choosing to stay home. People are postponing care that is not urgent. This includes imaging procedures, surgeries, visits to fill prescriptions, etc.
Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, but the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on healthcare systems everywhere has, in turn, affected many people’s primary care provider.
Moreover, the International Council of Nurses estimates at least 90,000 healthcare workers infected, more than 260 nurses died as of May 6, 2020, in fighting the pandemic. Nurses and healthcare workers have been put at greater risk because of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and poor preparedness for this pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak affects all segments of the population and older persons are particularly susceptible to the risk of infection from COVID-19, especially those with chronic health conditions. Older persons are not just struggling with greater health risks but are also likely to be less capable of supporting themselves in isolation.
Although social distancing is necessary to reduce the spread of the disease, if not implemented correctly, such measures can also lead to the increased social isolation of older persons at a time when they may be at the most need of support.
One possible reason for the increased sufferings of older adults may be the immune system that grows weaker as one gets older, and many people develop other health conditions as they age which might be the second reason for the increased risk factor for older people.
Another thing that is hitting hard on old age people is the state of isolation that is necessary for COVID-19 safety protocols. The constant state of isolation and prolonged social distancing can depress the old population rendering them mentally unstable.
Persons with disabilities are also hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Persons with disabilities face social dilemmas and discrimination even during normal days. Their pre-existing health conditions in some cases which leave them more at risk of developing serious illness or dying make them even more vulnerable to the infections.
The preventive measures against the COVID-19 outbreak can entail challenges for persons with disabilities. For instance, some persons with disabilities may have difficulties in implementing measures to keep the virus at bay, including personal hygiene and recommended frequent cleaning.
Cleaning homes and washing hands frequently can be challenging, due to physical impairments, environmental barriers, or interrupted services. Others may not be able to practice social distancing or cannot isolate themselves as thoroughly as other people, because they require regular help and support from other people for everyday self-care tasks. They are equally vulnerable to financial constraints especially in the poor and developing world where the labor force remains largely unregistered.
Disruption in education is yet another serious social impact on the world population. Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to UNESCO, these nationwide closures are impacting almost 70% of the world’s student population. More than one billion youth are now no longer physically in school after the closure of schools and universities across many jurisdictions.
The disruption in education and learning could have medium and long-term consequences on the quality of education. In developing countries like Pakistan, it is more challenging to continue the online education system because thousands among the students reside in rural areas where fast and affordable internet connectivity is still a dream in the pipeline. The looming energy crisis and resulting hours-long load-shedding also interrupt the efforts to continue education via digital connectivity.