Impacts – Politics, Education, Economics, Environment, Culture, Potential long-term impacts, Xenophobia and racism
Main article: Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on politics
A number of provincial-level administrators of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were dismissed over their handling of the quarantine efforts in Central China, a sign of discontent with the political establishment’s response to the outbreak in those regions. Some experts believe this is likely in a move to protect Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping from people’s anger over the coronavirus outbreak.
In early March, the Italian government criticized the European Union‘s lack of solidarity with coronavirus-affected Italy. On 22 March 2020, after a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Russian president Vladimir Putin arranged the Russian army to send military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy.
The Iranian government has been heavily affected by the virus. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wrote a public letter to world leaders asking for help on 14 March 2020, saying that his country doesn’t have access to international markets due to the United States sanctions against Iran.
The outbreak has prompted calls for the United States to adopt social policies common in other wealthy countries, including universal health care, universal child care, paid family leave, and higher levels of funding for public health. Political analysts anticipated it may negatively affect Donald Trump‘s chances of re-election in the 2020 presidential election.
Diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea worsened due to the pandemic. South Korea criticized Japan’s “ambiguous and passive quarantine efforts”, after Japan announced anybody coming from South Korea will be placed in two weeks’ quarantine at government-designated sites.
Main article: Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on education
Learners affected by school closures caused by COVID-19 Localised school closures Country-wide school closures No school closures
As of 20 March, more than 960 million children and other students were affected by temporary or indefinite government-mandated school closures. Of these, 105 countries shut schools nationwide, affecting students who would normally attend pre-primary to upper-secondary classes, and 15 countries implemented localized closures, affecting an additional 640 million school children and other students.
On 23 March 2020, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) released a statement announcing the cancellation of Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma and Cambridge Pre-U examinations for the May/June 2020 series across all countries.
Even when school closures were temporary, the measures carried high social and economic costs, affecting people across communities, but their impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems and consequent economic cost to families who could not work.
In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programs, open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
Main article: Socio-economic impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemicSee also: Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on aviation, on science and technology, and on financial marketsSee also: Russia–Saudi Arabia oil price war and 2020 stock market crash
Coronavirus fears have led to panic buying of essentials in Singapore and elsewhere, including toilet paper, dried and/or instant noodles, bread, rice, vegetables, disinfectant and rubbing alcohol
The coronavirus outbreak has been attributed to several instances of supply shortages, stemming from: globally increased usage of equipment to fight the outbreaks, panic buying and disruption to factory and logistic operations. The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about shortages to drugs and medical equipment due to increased consumer demand and supplier disruption. Several localities, such as the United States, Italy, and Hong Kong, also witnessed panic buying that led to shelves being cleared of grocery essentials such as food, toilet paper and bottled water, inducing supply shortages. The technology industry in particular has been warning about delays to shipments of electronic goods. According to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom, the demand for personal protection equipment has risen 100-fold and this demand has led to the increase in prices of up to twenty times the normal price and also induced delays on the supply of medical items for four to six months. This has also caused a shortage of personal protective equipment worldwide, with the WHO warning that this will endanger health workers.
As mainland China is a major economy and a manufacturing hub, the viral outbreak has been seen to pose a major destabilizing threat to the global economy. Agathe Demarais of the Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast that markets will remain volatile until a clearer image emerges on potential outcomes. In January 2020, some analysts estimated that the economic fallout of the epidemic on global growth could surpass that of the SARS outbreak. One estimate from an expert at Washington University in St. Louis gave a $300+ billion impact on the world’s supply chain that could last up to two years. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries reportedly “scrambled” after a steep decline in oil prices due to lower demand from China. Global stock markets fell on 24 February due to a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China. On 27 February, due to mounting worries about the coronavirus outbreak, various US stock indexes including the NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, posted their sharpest falls since 2008, with the Dow falling 1,191 points, the largest one-day drop since the financial crisis of 2007–08. All three indexes ended the week down more than 10%. On 28 February, Scope Ratings GmbH affirmed China’s sovereign credit rating, but maintained a Negative Outlook. Stocks plunged again based on coronavirus fears, the largest fall being on 16 March 2020. Many consider an economic recession to be likely.
The near-empty arrival hall of Seoul–Incheon International Airport in South Korea on 6 March
Tourism is one of the worst affected sectors due to travel bans, closing of public places including travel attractions, and advise of governments against any travel all over the world. As a consequence, numerous airlines have cancelled flights due to lower demand, including British Airways, China Eastern and Qantas, while British regional airline Flybe collapsed. Several train stations and ferry ports have also been closed. The epidemic coincided with the Chunyun, a major travel season associated with the Chinese New Year holiday. A number of events involving large crowds were cancelled by national and regional governments, including annual New Year festivals, with private companies also independently closing their shops and tourist attractions such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland. Many Lunar New Year events and tourist attractions have been closed to prevent mass gatherings, including the Forbidden City in Beijing and traditional temple fairs. In 24 of China’s 31 provinces, municipalities and regions, authorities extended the New Year’s holiday to 10 February, instructing most workplaces not to re-open until that date. These regions represented 80% of the country’s GDP and 90% of exports. Hong Kong raised its infectious disease response level to the highest and declared an emergency, closing schools until March and cancelling its New Year celebrations.
Retail sector has been impacted globally, with store hours reductions or temporary closures. This resulted in 30% drop in daily footfall by 18 March, with additional restrictions, such as closure of all 150+ shopping centres nationally by Simon Property Group, by mall operators around the world.
Despite the high prevalence of COVID-19 cases in Northern Italy and the Wuhan region, and the ensuing high demand for food products, both areas have been spared from acute food shortages. Effective measures by China and Italy against the hoarding and illicit trade of critical products have been carried out with success, avoiding acute food shortages that were anticipated in Europe as well as in North America. Northern Italy with its significant agricultural production has not seen a large reduction, but prices may increase according to industry representatives. Empty food shelves were only encountered temporarily, even in Wuhan city, while Chinese government officials released pork reserves to assure sufficient nourishment of the population. Similar laws exist in Italy, that require food producers to keep reserves for such emergencies.
Empty A1 motorway in Slovenia
Due to the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on travel and industry, many regions experienced a drop in air pollution. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reported that methods to contain the spread of coronavirus, such as quarantines and travel bans, resulted in a 25% reduction of carbon emission in China. In the first month of lockdowns, China produced approximately 200 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide than the same period in 2019, due to the reduction in air traffic, oil refining, and coal consumption. One expert estimated that this reduction may have saved at least 77,000 lives. Between 1 January and 11 March 2020, the European Space Agency observed a marked decline in nitrous oxide emissions from cars, power plants and factories in the Po Valley region in northern Italy, coinciding with lockdowns in the region. In Venice, the water in the canals cleared up and experienced an increased presence of fish and waterfowl; the Venice mayor’s office clarified that the increase in water clarity was due to the settling of sediment that is disturbed by boat traffic and mentioned the decrease in air pollution along the waterways.
Despite a temporary decline in global carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency warned that the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak may prevent or delay companies from investing in green energy. However, extended quarantine periods have boosted adoption of remote work policies. As a consequence of the unprecedented use of disposable face masks, significant numbers are entering the natural environment, adding to the worldwide burden of plastic waste.
Another recent and rapidly accelerating fallout of the disease is the cancellation of religious services, major events in sports, the film industry, and other social events, such as music festivals and concerts, technology conferences, fashion shows and sports.
The Vatican announced that Holy Week observances in Rome, which occur during the last week of the Christian penitential season of Lent, have been cancelled. Many dioceses have recommended older Christians to stay at home rather than attending Mass on Sundays; some churches have made church services available via radio, online livestreaming or television while others are offering drive-in worship. With the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rome closing its churches and chapels and St. Peter’s Square is emptied of Christian pilgrims, other religious bodies also cancelled services and limiting public gatherings in churches, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras. Iran’s Health Ministry announced the cancellation of Friday prayers in areas affected by the outbreak and shrines were later closed, while Saudi Arabia banned the entry of foreign pilgrims as well as its residents to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to the worldwide sporting calendar since the Second World War. Most major sporting events have been either cancelled or postponed, including the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League, 2019–20 Premier League, UEFA Euro 2020, 2019–20 NBA season, and 2019–20 NHL season. The outbreak disrupted plans for the 2020 Summer Olympics (originally scheduled to start at the end of July); the International Olympic Committee announced on 24 March that the event will be “rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”.
Casinos and other gaming venues worldwide have closed and live poker tournaments have been either postponed or cancelled. This has led many gamblers to move online, with many online gambling sites reporting doubling of their rate of new sign-ups.
The entertainment industry has also been affected, with various music groups suspending or cancelling concert tours. Many large theatres such as those on Broadway also suspended all performances. Some artists have explored ways to continue to produce and share work over the internet as an alternative to traditional live performance, such as live streaming concerts or creating web-based “festivals” for artists to perform, distribute and publicize their work.
Potential long-term impacts
See also: Globalization and disease
The political, cultural, and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic may together cause major changes in human society. Commentators have suggested this could include an increase in remote work, localization of global supply chains, and increased political polarization.
Xenophobia and racism
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, heightened prejudice, xenophobia and racism have been noted toward people of European, Chinese and other East Asian descent, as incidents of fear, suspicion and hostility have been observed in many countries, particularly in Europe, East Asia, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Some countries in Africa saw rising anti-Chinese sentiment as well. There has been support for the Chinese, both on and offline, towards those in virus-stricken areas, but many residents of Wuhan and Hubei have reported experiencing discrimination based on their regional origin. Since the progression of the outbreak to new hot-spot countries, people from Italy, the centre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, have also been subjected to suspicion and xenophobia.
Citizens in countries including Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea, initially signed petitions lobbying their government to ban Chinese people from entering their countries in an effort to stop the disease spreading. In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDontComeToJapan had been trending on Twitter. Chinese people in the United Kingdom said they were facing increasing levels of racist abuse, with cases of assaults reported. In the United States, there have been widespread incidents of xenophobia and racism against Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans. U.S. president Donald Trump has faced criticism for referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”, a term considered by detractors to be Sinophobic. In response, Trump tweeted: “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world.” Protesters in Ukraine attacked buses carrying Ukrainian and foreign evacuees from Wuhan to Novi Sanzhary. Students from Northeast India, which shares a border with China, who study in major Indian cities have reportedly experienced harassment related to the coronavirus outbreak. The Bharatiya Janata Party‘s State unit president in West Bengal Dilip Ghosh stated that the Chinese had destroyed nature and “that’s why the God took revenge against them.” The remarks were later condemned by the Chinese consulate in Kolkata, calling it “erroneous”.
Islamists have exploited the disease to foster anti-Western sentiment. In Hong Kong, anti-Western sentiment has risen as expats are accused of introducing a ‘second wave’ of the disease. Anti-Caucasian sentiment has also risen in Thailand, where Westerners are accused of spreading the disease.
There were rumours in India that some Muslims who returned from Dubai refused to undergo coronavirus testing for religious reasons. The news was then amplified by bloggers and some social media channels, but it was later debunked and confirmed to be false. Local authorities in Bolivia quarantined Japanese nationals despite them having no coronavirus-related symptoms. In the Russian cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg, Chinese nationals were targeted by quarantine enforcing campaigns, as well as police raids, which were condemned by human rights advocates as racial profiling. The Chinese Embassy in Germany has acknowledged a rise in hostile cases against its citizens since the outbreak. Children of Asian descent were ostracized and mocked over their origins in middle schools near Paris. Many French-Vietnamese report also being subject to harassment since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
As the pandemic has progressed, there have also been isolated instances of prejudice against Westerners, particularly Western tourists accused of importing the disease. Most notably, a post to the Twitter account of the Thai Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, urged Thais to be “more careful of Westerners than Asians”. It claimed many Western tourists refused to wear masks and “dressed dirtily and never shower”. The post attracted negative feedback in Thailand and the UK and was quickly removed. Mr Charnvirakulk claimed he was not responsible for it.
On 30 January, the WHO’s Emergency Committee issued a statement advising all countries to be mindful of the “principles of Article 3 of the IHR (the International Health Regulations)”, which the WHO says is a caution against “actions that promote stigma or discrimination” when conducting national response measures to the outbreak.