The Novel Coronavirus Epidemic/Pandemic: Impact on Global Health, Mobility and Economy

10th February, 2020

The current crisis of Corona Virus dominating the global climate is a topic causing much apprehension and hence requiring immediate attention. A panel of notable pathologists and scientists gathered at Habib University to deliver key points regarding the epidemic, for the awareness of the Public Lecture audience.

Professor Shahana Urooj Kazmi is currently Dean and Director of LCMS Karachi. She earned her training as a microbiologist from University of Maryland and has remained as Dean, Pro Vice Chancellor as well as Vice Chancellor for the Microbiology department at Karachi University. She has also had the prestige of serving as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) ambassador for seven years and has to her name more than hundred published research papers. In 1974, she founded the Pakistan Society of Microbiology, which she currently heads.

Dr. Kazmi initiated the talk by running through the short history of the virus from its first detection to its current rise as a pandemic. Corona Virus first came under the radar, in the city of Wuhan, China, following an outbreak of pneumonia in December 2019. It is speculated but not confirmed that the virus, also termed, 2019-nCoV, spread through a seafood market housing exotic species such as snakes that may have been host carriers of coronavirus. The speaker informed that instances of the corona has been found previously to spread through animals, such as bats in the case of the SARS virus of 2002 and camels during the MERS epidemic of 2012. However, the novel coronavirus has proved contagious, transmitting from person to person through respiratory means. Dr. Kazmi stated that one infected patient could potentially pass on the pathogen to two to four persons. The virus’ uniqueness renders it immune to vaccines or cures of other viruses from the coronaviridae family. As of yet, given the lack of information regarding it, no remedy for the coronavirus has been developedthe .

Wuhan city remains deeply impacted, with more than 815 deaths reported and number of affected patients increasing each day. Two buildings have been converted to hospitals to cater to the spiraling need of the city, which was cordoned off in an attempt to contain the epidemic. However, in spite of the regulations and screening checks placed at air and sea ports, the coronavirus has spilled across borders and threatens to evolve into a pandemic.

A dozen countries other than China have been affected with reports indicating a total of 37000 people infected. In response, countries like the US have placed a travel ban on flight arrivals from China. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a public health emergency, prompting countries, including Pakistan to implement monitoring systems at airports for direct flights from Wuhan. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the government has made arrangements for safety equipment such as thermal screening guns and measures are being taken for the protection of Pakistani citizens. As a precaution, it was decided that Pakistani students in China were not to be evacuated till they tested negative for the coronavirus. The travel restrictions and regulatory measures have further led to restricted global mobility and considerable economic losses. The Chinese stock market crashed after its delayed opening, impacting employment and the global trade business as well as supply chains.