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] Research suggests that the pandemic was a contributing factor to his failure to win reelection in the 2020 United States presidential election.[12]

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.[13][14] Advisers to Ali Khamenei and Mohammad Javad Zarif have died from the disease.[15] The spread of the virus has raised questions about the future survival of the regime.[16]

Sovereignty

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.

World peace

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have worsened conflict dynamics;[19] it has also led to a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding a global ceasefire. On March 23, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued an appeal for a global ceasefire as part of the United Nations' response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.[20][21] On 24 June 2020, 170 UN Member States and Observers signed a non-binding statement in support of the appeal,[22] rising to 172 on 25 June 2020. On 1 July 2020, the UN Security Council passed resolution S/RES/2532 (2020), demanding a "a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda," expressing support for "the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Special Representatives and Special Envoys in that respect," calling for "all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause" of at least 90 consecutive days, and calling for greater international cooperation to address the pandemic.[23]

Educational impact

A sign on a local school closed 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.[24][25]

Coronavirus and inequality

Low income individuals are more likely to contract the coronavirus and to die from it.[26] 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.[27][28] In the United States, millions of low-income people may lack access to health care due to being uninsured or underinsured.[29] Millions of Americans lost their health insurance after losing their jobs.[30][31][32] Many low income workers in service jobs have become unemployed.[33]

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.[34] Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have offered worship through livestream amidst the pandemic.[35] Relief wings of religious organisations have dispatched medical supplies and other aid to affected areas.[36] 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;[37][38][39] 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".[40][41]

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.[42]

Due to doubts if pets or other livestock may pass on coronavirus to humans,[43] 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.[44] Meanwhile, people in the U.K. tended to acquire more pets during the coronavirus lockdown.[45]

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.[46][47]

Risk perception

Chaos and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have made a catastrophic future seem less remote and action to prevent it more necessary. However, it may also have the opposite effect by having minds focus on the more immediate threat of the pandemic rather than the climate crisis or the prevention of other disasters.[48][additional citation(s) needed]

Personal gatherings

First Annual COVID-19 half-marathon finish line at Lake Artemesia, Maryland.

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,[49] or a "birthday parade" for a birthday party.[50] Replacements for gatherings have been seen as significant to mental health during the crisis.[51] Social isolation among alcohol users has also adopted a trend towards Kalsarikänni or "pantsdrunking", a Finnish antisocial drinking culture.[52][53][54][55]

Domestic violence

Many countries have reported an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence attributed to lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[56] Financial insecurity, stress, and uncertainty have lead to increased aggression at home, with abusers able to control large amounts of their victims' daily life.[57] United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a domestic violence "ceasefire".[58]

Elderly care

Older people are particularly affected by COVID-19. They need special attention during the COVID-19 crisis, and their voices, opinions and concerns are important in formulating responses.[59]

Global data are extremely uncertain at present, nonetheless, the heightened risks of COVID-19 for older persons are evident in all national data. The scale of testing and nature of reporting vary between governments and hence there is risk of misinformation by generalizing from the experience and reports of a given country.[59]

While the number of older persons is relatively and absolutely smaller in developing countries, particularly in Africa, this coincides with other serious structural risks. Countries with the fewest older persons (such as many of the least developed countries), have the fewest health resources, limited experience caring for older patients (including few geriatric specialists), less institutional care for older persons, and far fewer public or NGO support structures for outreach, screening and community-based care of older persons.[59]

Older persons living in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, are particularly vulnerable to infection and adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Older persons who live alone may face barriers to obtaining accurate information, food, medication, and other essential supplies during quarantine conditions and community outreach is required. Older persons, especially in isolation, those with cognitive decline, and those who are highly care-dependent, need a continuum of practical and emotional support through informal networks (families), health workers, caregivers, and volunteers.[59]

People with disabilities

People with disabilities are at greater risk for contracting and dying from COVID-19. This is especially true for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.[60] Data from the United States indicate that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are four times more likely to contract COVID and twice as likely to die from the disease;[61] this is likely due to the fact that people with disabilities are overrepresented in care facilities where COVID is known to spread more easily. People with disabilities are also more likely to have co-morbidities that put them at higher risk for developing COVID-related complications and may have a more difficult time socially distancing due to their support needs.[62]

People with disabilities are more likely to experience isolation and other forms of mental distress as a result of the pandemic.[63] Women and children with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic abuse during pandemics.[64]

School closures have presented children with disabilities with a host of challenges.[65][66] Many children with disabilities have seen disruptions to critical physical and occupational therapies. Many of the assistive technologies people with disabilities use are not compatible with the platforms schools are using for remote learning.[67] A large number of children with disabilities also live in poverty and may not have access to the internet and technology required for remote learning. These children may also experience a variety of social and psychological issues as the result of school closures, including food insecurity, anxiety, as well as delays in their development.[68]

See also

References

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