Costly COVID-19- Costs of the Virus
Millions of jobs lost, unemployment claims to increase in the US, EU and all around the world, pharma companies are racing to find the vaccine, stock exchanges plummeting, gold price soaring, 4.29 lac people dead, with many more infected and an equal number recovered. Mass grave sites are rising up across the world, health professionals are dying, sports leagues have been canceled, Olympics canceled, all running events closed with a big NO. There is a cost this virus is extracting from the people-human cost, stress cost, and the financial cost. Rich people never had to worry, in any part of the world, they have access to the best isolation facilities and medical facilities always. Poor people always pay a heavy toll in normal situations, and more so in pandemics. What is the middle class up to?
Pre-virus stage: You are glued to numerous Whatsapp groups advertising cures from every medicine system available. You are amazed to find that Confucius had a cure for this and so had Raja Raja Cholan. Spanish flu photos swarm your phone, and you have memes telling you cautionary tales. Precaution levels in your family go up, you have aged parents with pre-existing illness, your levels go up a double notch. Aged parents need to be taken care of their existing bp/sugar levels, add to it is the responsibility of increasing their immunity. You try with “kabasura” water on an empty stomach(don't do it on empty stomach), try the usual concoctions of ginger, turmeric, green tea, hot water, lemon, sweet lime.
Homeopathy pills are advertised, and you take your usual doses for the very first time in your life. The middle class always have fear, for the law, for the money, for the protection, they always take calculated risks, and sometimes calculate and never risk. Existing medical insurance policies are checked, Facebook videos of the latest health remedies are tried and validated at home. Since you are in ever confusion stage, you choose between allopathy formulations of Vitamin C and D, and then alternate it with Ayurveda tonics of neem water and spice it up with homeopathy of the arsenic album.
The usual hand-wash and alcohol-based sanitizer, sun drying of vegetables, and vessels are not covered in these protocols. All these measures exact a human toll, often stress factor when one family member is lethargic, this virus is not selective in choosing those laggards, but affect everyone equally. I also happen to chance upon the news of domestic violence cases on the rise and divorce filings spiking through the world. All this is just due to families staying together in lockdown mode. N-95 masks cost you 300rs in amazon, re-washable ones cost you more, Dettol antiseptic liquids need to be bought. Online, departmental stores and pharmacies make a killing by stocking only the large volume and high priced one.
People have no choice to buy the available one, the middle class has access to WFH jobs, and credit cards, but imagine the plight of poor and needy. Power costs are rising through all homes, thanks to the ever hot climate in India, internet bills are not reimbursed, 95% of employees do not have access to good ergonomic designed chairs, space, and tables. This would add the health toll, in 3 months' time, breaking the back of the employee literally and figuratively. Snacks sales have increased, and I always saw empty snack shelves in stores, people are snacking up more due to lockdown and sedentary lifestyle. But this lockdown offers a glimmer of hope for childless couples, for many get to spend quality time with each other, and with reduced stress, pregnancies are also on the rise.
Contrary theorists argue as the law of nature, with diseased and weak people dying, replaced with young healthy babies.
With more companies axing payroll, existing employees are on a stress leash, being more productive than the usual time, traffic time now becoming office time, bathroom time becoming office time, and all-time becoming office time. Companies realize such WFH measures are yielding more productivity, all-time-on-call employees, lower real estate costs, lower electricity costs, lower maintenance costs, no costly shuttles services to maintain.
Many companies are forcing leave to employees since most of them seem to be not taking it, due to zero outside options and the stress of recession.
Mental health warrants another analysis and discussion altogether. We are used to trusting visible symptoms and ignore the virtual ones. Mental health is an often ignored topic with no channels to vent out frustration of stressed employees, couples, lovers, elders, and kids. Some resort to spiritual awakenings, often getting consumed into it, some rely on sports and other hobbies.
With no temples, no sports and no recreation now, the real challenge is to leverage your home, and the mind to harvest inner peace.
Virus and Post-Virus stage:
COVID-19 tests are mostly free throughout the world. The government pay for the costs associated with the tests, and there are more generic and cheaper options to test and validate the virus. Home containment measures are the cheapest option since the onus is on the infected patient to disinfect his home, eat healthy food, and take medicines. The patient is expected to take care of himself and his family. Since the virus is new, and the fatality rate is high, people have stressed out more in-home and telemedicine all a fancy for the majority section of the population. Indians have smartphones, but not all of them know to use location apps, all of them know to play games and watch videos. Expecting them to use a new telemedicine app, in an alien language, coupled with infection stress is unreasonable. Hospitalization costs are high, with treatment ranging from a lac to a few lacs. Number of private hospitals and government hospitals is at an equal number in Tamil Nadu at 1222 and 1217 respectively. Total ICU beds in Tamil Nadu are more than 8000, with more could be added to handle this pandemic. Public-Private partnership is key in handling this disease. Government doctors are at the forefront with more experience and expertise in dealing with such a surge.
High fiber foods cost you, disinfecting the facilities, surgical gloves, masks are for a price, sanitizing your clothes and body cost. With this new virus not yet added into health insurance, and will never be the total costs added to the plan due to the sheer number of cases and disease spread. If the infected patient develops symptoms, ventilators and ICU facilities charge a bomb. In the end, you win the battle, you heave a sigh of relief-of course with a cough due to the virus. But if you happen to be the unlucky ones, there are added cremation costs and 0% chance of the loved ones unable to be near you, during the most important time of your life.
All the costs of this virus are manageable but never the HUMAN cost. Here is a mighty thank you to all the fighters, frontline workers, and the general population of the world, except for the astronauts in ISS. There is no better time to escape the earth now, only to space not to beyond.
Inputs: Wikipedia, https://cddep.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/State-wise-estimates-of-current-beds-and-ventilators_24Apr2020.pdf, WSJ, Google