"The worst will be soon behind us - optimism amid Covid-19"
Yariv Cohen, Angaza Partner
The Covid-19 virus has brought many new elements into our day-to-day routine. The fear of an invisible enemy, social distancing, enhanced personal hygiene, and more, drastically changing our lives in only a few weeks. But most significant of all, is the withering uncertainty: an element that has quickly become irrelevant in recent years thanks to unprecedented scientific and technological progress. In an era where rain or traffic jam notifications are delivered to us on a regular basis, humanity was unprepared to face a global scale crisis where the unknown is the leading factor.
As to be expected in our hyper-connected world, the amount of information distributed on the web increases exponentially. In addition to the important scientific and medical information, distributing fake news, negative blogs, and international conspiracies are springing up like mushrooms after the rain.
Amidst the tremendous amount of information and while many countries are already dealing with a second wave, it seems that the negative news and stories are gaining momentum. And while the number of infections in the world continues to rise and the end of the crisis (both health and economic wise) is not yet in sight, pessimism and apprehension seem to occupy a central place in the collective mindset.
But alongside the pessimistic data and the (justified) fear of a second wave, there are also good news, that could (and should) make us a bit more optimistic.
1. The accumulation of knowledge enables much better treatment and prevention. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, our understanding of the virus has changed beyond recognition. Thanks to the best researchers and scientists in the world who are working day and night, we now have a better understanding of the virus, how it works and its effect on our body. In addition to the endless research hours, the efforts to gather and analyze the information that began several months ago are finally coming to fruition. All of these allow for a long list of breakthroughs, both in the way patients are treated and in the prevention of further infections. This knowledge will improve the chances of survival in critically ill patients, will aid in rehabilitation, and will reduce the number of infections.
For example, the World Health Organization only recently announced that the virus is also airborne. In addition, the organization stated that wearing masks significantly lowers the chances of infection. The better we understand the virus, the better our chances of fighting it. Every passing day brings us one step closer to our destination.
2. We are getting closer to a vaccine. While treating patients is an important effort, the only way humanity can eradicate the virus is through a vaccine, and the best teams around the world are in an ongoing race for the Holy Grail. According to recent reports from a number of companies in England and the US, the efforts are progressing at a satisfactory pace.
Various companies have already reported successful results in human trials, in which the vaccinated have developed antibodies that have made them resistant to infection, with only mild side effects. If development continues at this pace, the vaccine will become operational as early as next year. Then comes the next challenge: mass-producing and transporting billions of vaccines globally. The rapid progress in vaccine development brings, at least for now, many reasons for optimism.
3.Better, faster tests. Another significant effort that will enable life alongside the virus is the development of rapid and accurate testing. Today, in order to diagnose whether a person is infected with the virus, a laboratory test is needed, which lasts several hours and costs quite a bit of money. Today, many companies around the world are working on developing much cheaper,faster tests. Home saliva-tests that will provide answers within minutes, inhalers that can detect the virus within 60 seconds, and even voice-detection technology.
When these developments mature and prove to be effective, we will be able to perform tests on a huge scale every day. Thus, we can identify patients in real time, isolate them, and prevent further infection. This way we can also guarantee “clean” areas, and allow for large gatherings, flights, etc.
4. Public attention to Africa’s healthcare sector. For years, the health sector in sub-Saharan Africa has been one of the biggest challenges in the world. With undeveloped infrastructure, a huge shortage of skilled manpower, technologies, and the most basic infrastructure (like water and electricity), hundreds of millions of people live without access to the most basic medical diagnostic and treatment. This reality is about to change: the spread of the virus across the region has drawn widespread public attention to the dismal state of medical infrastructure and its tremendous impact on the lives of people. Public and global attention will enable budgets, collaborations and efforts to improve the situation, and to resolve one of the largest and most influential distresses in the world, long before the outbreak of the pandemic.
5. More innovative and groundbreaking ventures. The field of healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa presented, as mentioned, a tremendous challenge for many years, long before the outbreak of the corona pandemic. But familiar problems usually lead to familiar solutions; These have been tried many times before, and have not led to the desired effect. On the contrary, new problems allow for a new and innovative perspective, one that can succeed where so many have failed in the past.
To date, tremendous efforts have been made to improve basic infrastructure, such as the electrification of clinics. But this effort results in only a limited impact. Now, the spread of the virus in Africa has led many companies and ventures to offer new perspectives. Ignite, for example, launched an innovative project to equip remote clinics with advanced, solar-based medical technology. Other ventures promote telemedicine services, smart deliveries of medical equipment to remote communities, data collection via smartphones, and more. These projects will enable new solutions and can affect not only the medical teams fighting the pandemic, but the entire field of healthcare in the region.