I frequently hear news anchors refer to this current planetary scourge as “a great leveller” that does not discriminate in terms of social status and is not deterred by borders. While I can understand the reasoning behind that conclusion it is open to challenge.
It is certainly the case that prominent personalities are or were among the afflicted 1.2 million, most notably the heir to the British throne Prince Charles, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee and Prince Albert II of Monaco along with dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities who, with few exceptions, emerge from the ordeal unscathed.
Some vulnerable patients in Britain have received letters from clinics and surgeries asking them to sign a form waiving their right to resuscitation or emergency medical procedures in the event of a sudden deterioration in their condition because of a COVID-19 infection
That said the wealthy and the influential do succeed in getting tested for the virus, a ‘privilege’ denied to so many around the world, and can rely on private health care to ensure they benefit from every treatment option, experimental or otherwise.
Secondly there is nothing levelling about government-mandated shelter-in-place orders impacting 3.9 billion people, representing almost 57 per cent of the global population.
Being forced to stay home alone or with loved ones in a spacious house with a garden and private pool, looking out onto the ocean, rolling green hills or manicured landscapes is frustrating for sure. People are rightly anxious to get back their lives and some semblance of normality.
But I struggle to imagine what a hellish experience lockdown must be like for large families with children in cramped apartments, low-paid workers sharing dormitory-type rooms or feuding couples.
How many with the virus told to self-isolate like CNN programme host Chris Cuomo who is living in his basement to protect his family, have the luxury of being able to do so?
How many of those in the slums of Johannesburg or Mumbai can stop themselves from literally brushing shoulders with their neighbours.
China, for instance, is witnessing a record-breaking rise in the divorce rate. Australian lawyer Marie Federov told the Gold Coast Bulleting that she sees a similar trend brewing in Queensland.
“Some people are like ships in the night so don’t really spend too much time together so they can tolerate one another in small doses,” she said.
Domestic violence is another of the virus’ nasty side-effects. Police in the Australian state of Victoria say requests for assistance have doubled.
Victims seek safety
France is experiencing a surge in reported incidents causing the government to provide hotel rooms where victims can seek safety as well as advisory centres inside malls.
Florida reports a 30 per cent spike in calls to its hotline by victims of child abuse during March.
As always the poor are at a disadvantage, left at the mercy of governments that may or may not have sufficient treatment resources.
In countries who ignored warnings to prepare for upcoming pandemics people are told not to bother overstretched hospitals until they are nearing death’s door unable to breathe.
In that event, the younger and fitter the sufferer the more chance he or she has of survival in countries which have resorted to triage patients according to their medical history and, more crucially, their age.
There seems to be a growing acceptance in the UK, the US and elsewhere that the elderly have fulfilled their role in society and simply burden state coffers.
In other words, they are disposable and should therefore be willing to forfeit life-saving intensive care treatment to be reserved for the young.
Medical ethics experts writing in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest a shortage of beds and ventilators in ICU’s “may mean giving priority to young patients and those with fewer coexisting conditions”.
Overwhelmed, understaffed and under-equipped
Doctors in New York which is overwhelmed, understaffed and under-equipped may be forced into making Sophie’s choices.
Some vulnerable patients in Britain have received letters from clinics and surgeries asking them to sign a form waiving their right to resuscitation or emergency medical procedures in the event of a sudden deterioration in their condition because of a COVID-19 infection.
“Scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a chance of surviving the infection,” it reads.
“It was like having my death warrant being sent by the grim reaper,” said one cancer patient, adding, “I’m not digging my grave yet”.
Besides the right to health care being touted by the UK as a human right, most of the letter’s recipients will have paid National Health contributions throughout their lives.
Last month, Telegraph journalist Michael Warner shocked readers. “Not to put a too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents,” he wrote.
In conclusion, this unseen enemy succeeds in crossing borders but the mortality rate varies from country to country ranging from 11 per cent in Italy down to O. 35 per cent in Israel.
Ultimately our best chance of survival is in our own hands. Wash them as often as possible and for goodness sake stay home until the madness is over.
— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East