COVID-19 declared a pandemic, what does that mean for you?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic.
This means that the WHO has observed and acknowledged that COVID-19 has global implications and that it has little potential of being contained to one specific region or continent.
While the identification of the virus as a pandemic doesn’t necessarily make a difference for Trinidad and Tobago currently, it could affect the way we respond to the virus should it reach to our shores.
1. The government
Pandemics allow governments and their relevant agencies to have more permission than otherwise to access emergency funding and additional resources in the event that it becomes necessary. For Trinidad and Tobago, we may see withdrawals from our Heritage and Stabilisation fund or any other contingency funds set up by the government for national emergencies.
Ministries of National Security can legally carry out and declare states of emergency in the event that the virus poses an imminent threat. They can impose lockdowns, quarantines and any other restraining methods relevant to curbing the spread of the virus.
2. Private sector
The public sector can employ these mechanisms too, but the declaration of a pandemic also allows private business owners to make stronger suggestions for proper hygienic behaviours among staff. Whether it’s instructing employees to use hand sanitizer between transactions or to avoid physical contact altogether, businesses can ramp up their efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.
More than ever, employers and managers can take more stringent health-related measures among staff, even if there are no confirmed cases within the company or department. You can be legitimately sent home if you are sick or encouraged to stay away from the workplace if you express symptoms of sickness.
3. More virus education
While information and news about the virus would have been forthcoming from the onset, the declaration of a pandemic encourages health agencies like the Ministry of Health, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) or the WHO to ramp up their education efforts when it comes to the virus. Officials may become more present on social and traditional media, in order to bring awareness to the virus and its possible effects.
4. Medical interaction
At doctor visits, the declaration of a pandemic encourages patients to be completely transparent about their symptoms. Leaving out even the most minor details can cause a medical professional to misdiagnose a patient. As a result, complete honesty is paramount. It is also necessary to disclose to your doctor whether you have travelled to and from any of the areas affected by COVID-19 at your appointment.
As a patient, you can also ask your doctor to wash their hands before tending to you. You are also within your right to strongly suggest being tested for the novel coronavirus.