How will coronavirus change the world?
Published on 29 June 2020 by Anna Andriyanova
Irina Panarina: How long will the lockdown last? Which measures seem the most appropriate? When will a vaccine be available? And so many other questions. That is what interests probably each one of us today. Many of these questions don’t have a definitive answer. However, there are some for which we can more easily make forecasts. And I will attempt to do so.
In many countries that have overcome major infections and focused their healthcare systems on treating the chronically ill rather that the people with the infectious disease, the scale of the epidemic has been catastrophic. In this situation, the main goal has become to prolong the spread of the infection to reduce the pressure on the healthcare system. Essentially, this has been done (I am referring to the introduction of restrictive measures) and has, of course, had an effect. However, in different countries the effect turned out to be different. A lot has depended on the population being disciplined.
Nevertheless, at the moment it is hard to evaluate actions by different state governments. We have an extraordinarily difficult task in front of us - to protect the people and not to let the economy fail. And, of course, everyone understands that following the economic drop, a demographic drop will occur – life expectancy will start to go down, primarily among the chronically ill patients who have been relegated to second place, accordingly, the level and the speed of the care they receive has been reduced.
By the way, I recently came across the following forecast for the UK in an international publication: if the lockdown measures last three months, the economy may fall by 35 per cent. As for life expectancy, according to the analysis of the British experts, a reduction of 6 per cent of the country's GDP will throw back the demographic profile 7-8 years back. The demographic indicators most sensitive to an economic contraction are childhood mortality and those related to chronic illness. That is something that strongly depends on the quality of the healthcare system.
How long will we have to wear masks? When will a vaccine be ready? These questions are closely related. Because we will be wearing masks until a vaccine is available and most of the population have been vaccinated. According to the most optimistic forecasts, a vaccine will appear no sooner than this autumn. We will need another half a year to produce it in the required quantities. I’m afraid that for the next year personal protective equipment will become an integral part of our lives.
Right now, scientists in many countries are engaged in the development of a vaccine. And because this is a question of national security, governments are not short on investment. Everyone understands that the virus will be returning, besides, it is thought that it quickly mutates, and so the only way to fight it effectively will be the creation of an effective vaccine.
Symptom treatments will appear sooner. In several countries, clinical trials of various molecules, combinations and drugs used to treat other conditions are being conducted. But currently these do not have a sufficient evidence base. Still, recently in the USA a conclusion of a drug trial has been announced that showed fairly high effectiveness.
Researchers working at biopharmaceutical companies are trying to synthesise proteins, monoclonal antibodies, that may be able to neutralise the virus. The virus strain is known. Thus, in the coming months we will have many more solutions than now.
But what is encouraging, is that the regulatory system has shown that it can act quickly. Across the
whole world new procedures have been adopted that allow for accelerated registration for drugs that may have any potential to be effective against the coronavirus.
And fortunately, Russia isn’t an exception. Right now, we are witnessing timely solutions at the level of the government and clear and prompt work from the regulator – the absence of delays, fast registration procedures, authorisation to import and use unregistered medicines, rapid approval to conduct clinical trials with the subsequent drug registration in the country.
As to the forecasts.
I think that the COVID-19 epidemic will lead to growth in local production. Essentially, the pandemic has broken the globalisation processes. Now, the pharmaceutical producers that acquire substances and components outside of their national territories have found themselves in a very difficult situation. Many producers, especially the Russian ones, depend on Indian and Chinese raw material suppliers. Because of that, the obvious decision, dictated by national security interests, is to develop a full production cycle within the country. And some countries have already made such statements. In the “peace” time this is, of course, irrational.
The landscape of the global healthcare system will change. Digitalisation, a popular word, will leave the experimental stage and become a fundamental instrument of medical practice. Telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, various gadgets – all of this will develop. First of all, this will be done to reduce the pressure of chronic pathologies on the system without impairing the effectiveness of treatments. And the quality of life for patients with improve because of the introduction of new digital instruments. I think that digitalisation will partially level the economic consequences of the pandemic, particularly in healthcare. And in such a paradigm, all companies and businesses that have these solutions will see a relatively successful future.