We Know What COVID-19 is by Now, But What Does it Mean for the Rest of the World?


Alberto Giuliani, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pia Sharma

The average American must hear the word “Coronavirus” at least five times a day. Because of the over-spread of media and corona-related propaganda, a short overview of its misconceptions and economic, social, and political impacts are necessary for the students of WESS to look out for and be aware of. 

Not only has coronavirus, or COVID-19, influenced the fashion divisions of those choosing to throw on a cute surgical mask with their outfit of the day- which might actually increase your risk of respiratory infection- corona has also economically, politically, and socially influenced society on a global scale.

Economic impacts

In economics, externalities are a consequence or benefit that affects an uninvolved party who did not choose to be subject to the consequence or benefit. This may seem completely irrelevant or unrelated to the coronavirus but the environment, in a general sense more so than an ecological one, is a main and frequent cause of market decline. COVID-19 has impacted the sales of many businesses, specifically those run by Chinese corporations and any other countries that have cases of corona. Businesses are closing because people are sick and not working, not to mention that a portion of the loss in sales of Chinese corporations and businesses is a result of the spread of xenophobia along with the disease. The stigma that all Chinese people carry the coronavirus even in America, when it is likely that they haven’t visited the country since the outbreak, has impacted the profits earned by restaurants in New York City serving Asian, specifically Chinese, cuisine. The externality that is caused by the virus ends up becoming the separate-party consumers that are dependent on the economies of the countries suffering from corona. S+P 500, an index that measures the stock performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the country, is one of the most commonly followed index because of its accuracy in representing the performance of the U.S. stock market. S+P fell approximately 10% within the last week of February which is the most it has declined in the time span of a week since October of 2008. This a concern for the stock market and the US economy as a whole however this is a similar response to the spread of HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and Zika virus. The decline in the market is not a good sign but looking at past pandemics, it is likely the decline will be short-lived despite its posing a threat to the American economy.

Political influence

Most influential politicians have addressed their country’s people on how exactly to go about avoiding the virus. President Trump held a news conference at the White House on February 26th where Trump states ””We’re very, very ready for this,” and adds how the 15 people who contracted the virus in America are all expected to recover. This appears to be some very reassuring news however in New Delhi, India Trump assures his audience that “a lot of brainpower is being put behind it. 2.5 billion dollars we’re putting in…. There’s a very good chance you’re not gonna die.”. It is concerning how little our president knows about the pandemic and considering his use of the word “probably” when describing the likelihood of contracting a fatal virus is reason enough to doubt his credibility and knowledge on the virus. It is extremely important that political officials begin to get a better grip on the illness and what it means for the public for many reasons. One of which is avoiding the political impact it has had on Iran. Iran has the highest number of corona cases outside China and the adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Mohammad Mirmohammadi, died from corona on March 2nd. While health issues leave Iran in a state of panic, Iran’s health minister, Iraj Harirchi, appeared on state television and press conferences assuring the country that mass quarantines weren’t necessary to contain corona. He then revealed only days after that he had contracted the virus himself. Meanwhile, he had shown symptoms of sweating and coughing, even looking feverish, during these interviews. This is a major concern for the country because not only has the health minister fallen sick, the guy who’s supposed to protect the country from all health threats, but he had been spreading the disease as he went around telling people to remain calm.

Social Impacts

As mentioned before, xenophobia was very much present all around the world before the coronavirus hit. Now that it has, it has been used as an excuse to justify racist acts. A Chinese woman in the subway in NYC was wearing a mask when a man called her a “diseased bitch”. The woman allegedly told him repeatedly to go away but he punched and kicked the woman just for wearing the mask. On a lesser scale, there have been reports of people of Asian descent who have been publicly accused of spreading the virus. There are rumors that Japan could be forced to call off the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because of the virus. Tourist activity declines as being in international airports increases the risk of the spread of this airborne disease which then again contributes to the decline in the economy since tourists bring a large sum of money to major countries.

Despite the economic and social concern of corona, there is the concept of mass hysteria to take into account. Mass hysteria is the mass psychological illness that is classified as a collective obsessional behavior. In this case, communities of people will hear news, media, or propaganda about an illness, obsess over it, then begin to experience physiological symptoms affecting the nervous system which convinces the individual they have the illness despite there being no physical cause of the illness itself. There are many examples in history such as the Salem Witch Trials, Tanzania Laughter epidemic, Dancing plagues and so on. Corona is definitely not caused or literally spread by a physiological illusion but the propaganda spread on the media contributes to the worldwide panic of COVID-19 since there are a multitude of other illnesses, diseases, and viruses that pose a higher risk of fatality and overall danger to the general public. The virus is definitely something to be wary of but the extreme worldwide panic only goes to show the extent of the power of the media.