Covid-19 Global impact

  • Posted on: 12 April 2020
  • By: laila Akel

With a mortality rate of around 2%, Coronavirus’ (Covid-19) impact on the world would not match that of history’s deadliest pandemics. However, as Coronavirus spreads across the world, the chances that it will have a severe and lasting impact increases. The virus continues to spread across the world and the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths continue to increase, and as a result, new and more strict measures are constantly being adopted by governments to contain the spread of the virus, measures that would have a long lasting  economical, and political effect.

A public health emergency, combined with a global recession caused by the spread of Coronavirus and the measures taken in bid to contain it, have the potential to change politics around the world. At this stage, the most obvious risks concern: China, the US presidential election, a rise in international tensions, and the threat to the world’s poorest countries, and to refugees. The pandemic and the measures taken in an attempt to contain it have had a negative effect on economic and political stability, creating a range of security risks as well. These include civil unrest, financially motivated crime, and cyber attacks, among others. 

The overall decline in mass protest movements across the world is one significant global change resulting from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic

In Hong Kong, the spread of Coronavirus and the strict measures taken by the authorities to contain the spread of the virus have forced anti-government protests - which were first reported in June 2019- to largely subside. A new Hong Kong regulation banning public gatherings of more than four people, enacted on March 28th in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, even stoked fears in Hong Kong that it might be used to crack down on political dissent. 

While in Algeria, students who have been at the forefront of the year-long anti-government protests, voluntarily canceled all nationwide demonstrations following the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, even before the Algerian government issued a ban on demonstrations on March 18th. The intermittent unrest in Sudan has continued, with Sudanese protesters also now accusing the authorities of taking advantage of the pandemic to suppress the movement.

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the city of Wuhan, China, has also led to an increase in acts and displays of Sinophobia around the world as well as prejudice, discrimination, violence and racism against people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent. Discriminatory acts in Hong Kong were also observed against mainland Chinese, and by mainland Chinese against those from Hubei province. And as the pandemic spreads to Europe and the United States, discrimination against people from these hotspots has been also reported and is expected to continue. 

Furthermore, misinformation campaigns and fake news concerning the Coronavirus has the potential to ignite protests and cause unrest. On February 20th for example, 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign nationals were flown from Wuhan to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. Six buses then transferred them to a medical facility in Novi Sanzhary, where they were met by protesters who blocked roads, hurled the buses with rocks, and eventually clashed with police officers and the riot police after a fake email circulated, claiming to be from the Ukrainian Health Ministry, falsely stating that a number of the evacuees had contracted the virus. Nine police officers sustained injuries during the clashes and 24 protesters were arrested for attacking police officers and members of the riot police. 

Another outcome of the spread of Covid-19 and the measures taken in bid to prevent the spread of the virus further is the increase of Coronavirus-related-crimes; burglaries of New York City commercial establishments have increased by 75% between March 12th and March 31st. There were 254 incidents during that period compared with 145 for the same period last year.

Coronavirus-related-cyber crimes are also on the rise. A number of ransomware apps that pose as Coronavirus update applications have been spreading. Higher-level cyberattacks mainly targeting hospitals and other healthcare services tasked with responding to the outbreak have also been reported. In the Czech Republic, a successful cyberattack targeted a hospital with one of the country’s biggest Coronavirus testing laboratories, forcing its entire network to shut down, urgent surgical operations to be rescheduled, and patients to be moved to nearby hospitals. The attack, which was reported on March 13th, also delayed dozens of Coronavirus test results and affected the hospital’s data transfer and storage.

The spread of Coronavirus and the mismanagement of the outbreak by governments have the potential to cause political instability. Iran’s handling of the spread of the virus has been considered by many as the worst in the Middle East, which has exponentially increased the risk of political instability in the country. Initially, the Iranian government downplayed the severity and extent of the outbreak, which caused the virus to rapidly spread across the country over a short period of time. In addition, many believe that it is highly likely that the statistics that the Iranian government has been releasing have also been understated in order to prevent mass panic and showcase the government as capable of handling the outbreak. Anti-government sentiments have already been on the rise in Iran over the recent years. And it is expected that the Iranian government’s mismanagement of the outbreak to add to the local population’s dissatisfaction with the current Iranian regime and further destabilize it.