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    Abstract
   Introduction
    Covid-19 Pandemi...
   Extreme Restrictions
    Harsh Measures o...
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   Conclusions
    References

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REVIEW ARTICLE  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 9  |  Page : 420-430
COVID-19 pandemic hype: Losers and gainers


1 Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Samvedna Happiness Hospital, Ahmedabad, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Submission01-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance08-Sep-2020
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2020
 

   Abstract 


Background: Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the WHO as a Global Public Health Emergency the COVID-19 pandemic has been hyped by the media.
Aim: To review the literature on COVID-19 pandemic hype, losers and gainers. Method: Literature on COVID-19 pandemic hype, January to August 2020, was retrieved from pubmed, google scholar and news media, and reviewed.
Results: The COVID-19 Pandemic has been hyped directly by highly disturbing messages from the WHO, news of famous people getting infected and dying because of the coronavirus, and highlighted news in media. Indirect hype has been by fake news and verambitious attempt to contain the virus. There have been many losers and gainers of the corona hype.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic hype has caused huge loss to the world community, but substantial gains are also being witnessed. Media coverage should be balanced. Intensive public awareness programs coupled with best possible medical treatment to symptomatic cases are recommended.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic hype: Losers and gainers

How to cite this article:
Sharma I, Vashnav M, Sharma R. COVID-19 pandemic hype: Losers and gainers. Indian J Psychiatry 2020;62, Suppl S3:420-30

How to cite this URL:
Sharma I, Vashnav M, Sharma R. COVID-19 pandemic hype: Losers and gainers. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 9];62, Suppl S3:420-30. Available from: https://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2020/62/9/420/296508





   Introduction Top


On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency.[1] The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and two international conveyances.[2] The pandemic has affected the life of most people. The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to human life has been hyped so that people become serious and take the necessary precautions to contain the virus. While some have responded appropriately in a balanced manner, others are exhibiting an exaggerated response to the pandemic. A “fear psychosis” akin to a “global mass hysteria” is fast spreading in many people, leading to adverse psychosocial outcomes. Alongside, many opportunists have taken the pandemic as golden opportunity to thrive and prosper. This paper shall review the available literature with respect to the hype of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the losers and gainers of the hype.


   Covid-19 Pandemic Hype Top


The hype has been direct, by highlighting the negative aspects of the pandemic, and indirect, by enforcing strict measures, more than warranted to contain the virus.

COVID-19 pandemic – direct hype

Highly disturbing messages

The hype from the apex body, the WHO, and has trickled down the ladder, via the government, judiciary, to the public at large.

  1. On January 23, 2020, in Wuhan, China, transport links were shutdown. The WHO said cutting off a city as large as Wuhan is unprecedented in public health history[3]
  2. On January 30, 2020, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention confirmed the 1st case of human-to-human transmission in the United States (US).[4] WHO's response was These cases of human to human transmission are the most worrisome[2]
  3. A Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared by the WHO on January 30, 2020[1]
  4. On January 31, 2020, the USA declared Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency,[5] issued 14-day quarantine rules for US citizens entering the USA from China, and an order to deny entry to foreigners who had traveled to China within the past 2 weeks[2]
  5. On March 16, 2020, at the media briefing on COVID-19, the key message[6] of the WHO Director-General for all the countries was test, test, test. This is a serious disease. Test every suspected case. If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to 2 days before they developed symptoms, and test those people too
  6. On March 16, 2020, the WHO and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) issued a joint statement[7] that the ICC would send regular advice to its network of more than 45 million businesses, to protect their workers, customers, and local communities, and to support the production and distribution of essential supplies. This was an unprecedented private sector call to action to the global business community[4]
  7. On March 27, 2020 – BBC reported: Coronavirus: India super spreader quarantines 40,000 people following a COVID-19 outbreak linked to just one man. The 70-year-old died of coronavirus – a fact found out only after his death[8]
  8. On May 14, 2020, the WHO warned, This virus may just become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. Also, Michael Ryan, the emergencies Director stated HIV has gone away-but we have come to terms with the virus[9]
  9. On May 28, 2020: Even after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and deployed, the corona virus will likely remain for years to come, and may eventually, become endemic like HIV, measles and chicken pox, was the expert's opinion the Washington Post reported[10]
  10. On June 26, 2020: The epidemic is growing very rapidly: Indian Government adviser fears corona virus crisis will worsen and the surprisingly low death rate could be misleading[11]
  11. On July 30, 2020: Virus surge as summer wanes in Australia indicates what US, Europe can expect this winter. The surge indicates that subsequent COVID-19 waves could be worse, especially when people will seek shelter from colder weather in enclosed spaces[12]
  12. On August 9, 2020: Victoria records 17 coronavirus deaths on Australia's deadliest day of pandemic so far[13]
  13. On August 10, 2020: Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. My message is crystal clear, suppress, suppress, suppress the virus were the opening remarks of the WHO Director-General at the media briefing on COVID-19.[14]


The above news has created widespread fear and feeling of imminent danger in people.

News of “Famous people” getting infected with COVID-19 or succumbing to COVID-19

Several famous people across the world including India have been affected by COVID-19 virus. Prince Charles, the next in line to the Royal throne, and Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson, from Britain;[15] Sophie Trudeau, wife of PM of Canada;[15] Begoña Gómez, wife of Spanish PM;[15] Mikhail Mishustin, PM of Russia;[15] and Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil;[16] have all tested positive for COVID-19 virus.

In India, politicians, celebrities, journalists to doctors have been affected. Pranab Mukerjee, former President of India;[17] Amit Shah, Home Minister; BS Yediyurappa, Karnataka Chief Minister; Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Rajya Sabha MP; Banwarilal Purohit, Tamil Nadu Governor; Kamal Rani Verma, cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh; the Scindias (Jyotiraditya Scindia and Madhavi Raje Scindia), and many other politicians have tested positive. Among the celebrities are the Bachchans (Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwariya Rai, and their daughter); singer Kanika Kapoor; music composer, Wajid Khan; Indian Boxer Dingko Singh; and others.[18] Fifty-three out of 157 journalists have tested positive in Mumbai itself.[19]

Many big people have also succumbed to the virus. The death of J Anbazhagan, DMK MLA, was the first death of a politician in Tamil Nadu due to COVID-19.[20] Ten journalists from the country including a television journalist (crime reporter) from Hyderabad,[21],[22] and Rakesh Chaturvedi, a senior journalist from the PM constituency, Varanasi,[23] have succumbed to COVID-19 between April 24 and Aug 7, 2020. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) reported that nearly 200 doctors, 53 in Tamil Nadu itself, had succumbed to COVID-19. The mortality rate was “alarming.” The IMA urged PM Modi for immediate action.[24]

The above news is very scary, especially to the common man, as it conveys that when big people, who have the best facilities at hand, are not safe, then how can others be. Further, when doctors themselves are becoming victims of COVID, then probably no one would be spared.

Data on COVID-19 have been hyped in the print and digital media

  1. Since the declaration of the COVID Global Public Health Emergency, “Rolling updates of COVID-19 data” are being displayed prominently at several websites; the list is very long (www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen, www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, www.apple.com, www.epo.org, www.daad.com, www.technocrunch.com, and www.fda.gov). For example, Worldometer.com has eight coronavirus sections: Coronavirus update, Case statistics and graphs, Death statistics and graphs, Mortality rate, Incubation period, Age sex and existing condition, Symptoms, and Countries with cases: Basic list-detailed list. On August 11, 2020, the data was as follows: (1) Coronavirus cases: 21,487,828; deaths: 766,027; recovered: 14,243,436; active cases 6,478,365; closed cases; 15,009,463
  2. To assess the dangerousness of the novel coronavirus, the WHO on January 23, 2020, estimated R0(transmission rate) to be between 1.4 and 2.5.[25] Subsequently, the case fatality rate (CFR) was tentatively estimated at around 2% on January 29, 2020.[26]
  3. Comparison with other epidemics:


  4. Every year, an estimated 290,000–650,000 in the world die due to complications of seasonal influenza,[1] which corresponds to 795–1781 deaths per day. This is much higher than the daily death rate due to COVID-19 (calculated as on August 14, 2020)

    On January 30, the novel coronavirus total case count surpassed 8096 cases worldwide, which was the final SARS count in 2003.[1] However, corona SARS affected only 29 countries, while COVID-19 has affected 213 countries, so the average cases per country is much lower. Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, with the largest outbreaks in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Korea. It infected 2494 people and killed 858 (CFR 34.4%). Significantly, most of the human cases were attributed to human-to-human infections in health-care settings[27]

  5. From March 2020 onward, the media has been very active. On most days, almost half of the space in the daily newspapers (excluding advertisements) comprises news on COVID-19. News is being highlighted in big bold letters, often with catchy words, to sensationalize it. For example:


“Coronavirus: Global cases reach 20 m with more than half of infections coming from US, India and Brazil;“[28] “294,000 in 24 h is highest global increase in cases: WHO;“[29] “Record 64399 fresh corona cases, 861 fatalities in India;“[30] “Coronavirus: India's tally nears 24 lakh after record single-day spike;“[31] “in Mumbai's slums, over half of population probably infected with coronavirus, survey says“[32]

“Double intensive care unit (ICU) COVID beds in Lucknow by August-end;“[33] and “Beds can't treat more doc, nurses needed, say experts“[34]

COVID-19 news is being hyped in the media to highlight the seriousness of the problem. However, this has been very disturbing, leading to a pervasive feeling fear and insecurity.

Unbalanced reporting

Reporting of positive aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic has either been avoided or minimized. For example:

  1. The increase in the number of positive cases is largely due to the intensive drive to test all suspected cases
  2. The mortality rate due to COVID-19 virus in the country is still very low (0.0036%; 38/1 m) and the recovery rate (71.2%; 1,863,239/2,594,612)[1] is quite high
  3. The mortality rates have been inflated as it is now clear in 70% of deaths were due co-morbidities and not because COVID-19 as such[35]
  4. From April 3, 2020 onward, the mortality rate (30.4%) has been steady declining and from April 4, 2020, the recovery rate (69.82%) has been showing a steep rise[1]
  5. Asymptomatic cases have rare chance to spread the coronavirus[36]
  6. More than 50% of slum dwellers in Mumbai tested positive for the coronavirus.[32] This is evidence for the initiation of herd immunity. Thus, increase in the number of cases should not be perceived as signs of omen, especially in the young adults who have good immunity
  7. As per anecdotal reports, there has been a substantial reduction in acute coronary syndrome attending emergency departments during the lockdown, although it has not been clarified that this reflects actual decrease in morbidity[37]
  8. The death rate due to coronavirus in India is 242.9/day, much lower than that from other common causes of death. For example, coronary disease accounted for 2.8 million deaths in 2016 and projected to be over 3 million in 2020[38] and over 1.51 lakh people died in road accidents in 2018.[39] As per WHO report, one in 15 Indians will die of the cancer.[40]


COVID-19 pandemic – indirect hype

Fake news

Misinformation and false claims and with regard to the coronavirus have been flooding the social media. For example, a fake office memorandum (OM), dated March 13, 2020, stated: Subject: Clarification regarding declaration of holidays for the–Maharashtra–Gujrat-Uttar Pradesh-Sikkim, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare declares holiday from the period of 14 March, 2020–2021 March, 2020… In cases of any breach of the order a fine of Rs 5,000/day will be applicable per day, became viral on Facebook and Twitter. The Press Information Bureau immediately issued a statement that the OM is fake and action under the extant law is being initiated.[41]

Overambitious attempt to contain the coronavirus

India is attempting to trace every contact as per WHO guideline. This is virtually impossible in India with a population of over 135.26 crores.

Mandatory use of mask

On March 9, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recommended the use of mask by the general public, but stated that, persons having no symptoms were not to use a medical mask as this would create a false sense of security which could lead to neglecting other essential measures.[42] Thereafter, on June 9, 2020, use of face covers/masks were made mandatory in offices by the Ministry.[43] Later, wearing masks was made mandatory in public places with the threat of penal action in case of violation by the state governments,[44],[45] and as well as in gyms. Gyms opened on August 5, 2020, with the rider 'Use of mask and face covers is mandatory; visors to be used during exercising.'[46]

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases and a good majority of people not wearing masks in public places, vigorous measures were undertaken. In Prayagraj, more than 5000 people were fined on a single day and around Rs. 4.84 lakhs realized.[47] Recently, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Ballia was suspended as he was caught on camera assaulting people for not wearing masks. The SDM even entered a shop and dragged out two men and beat them up mercilessly with sticks.[48]

With this scenario in the background, it is pertinent to mention that no recommendations were issued by the government on the maximum duration of safe use. This is despite available evidence on the risks of mask use. Health-care professionals have reported various adverse effects such as head ache, acne, skin break down, and cognitive impairment with prolonged mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic.[49] An experimental study provided evidence for increased heart rate, heat stress, and subjective sensations, as a result of wearing different kinds of facemasks with and without nano-functional treatments.[50] Likewise, there are side effects of use of face masks by public. The quality and volume of speech between people wearing masks is considerably compromised because of which they unconsciously come closer. Besides, masks may make breathing more difficult, and may worsen the clinical condition of infected people if the enhanced breathing pushes the viral load down into the lungs.[51] The risk of wearing face mask during driving and exercise is well reported.[52] A driver in an SUV car crashed into a pole in New Jersey on April 23, 2020, and a 26-year-old male from Wuhan city in China, jogging with a face mask on, complained of chest pain and was admitted in an emergency hospital where he was found to have lung collapse.[52]

Lockdown


   Extreme Restrictions Top


There has been almost total crippling of even essential services such as public transport and non-COVID-19 medical services, closure of all factories run by interstate migrant workers, etc., during the COVID-19 lockdown.


   Harsh Measures of Lockdown Top


In Tamil Nadu, 184,748 instances of lockdown violations were seen, and FIRs were registered for all of them, a fine of Rs. 82.32 lakh was collected, and 1.56 lakh vehicles were seized.[45] The Supreme Court rejected the plea to quash cases against lockdown violators.[53] In Maharashtra, police resorted to harsh and humiliating measures to enforce lockdown directives. For example, senior citizens and women were made to hold placards with messages such as they are an enemy to the society and humanity, and photographs of the violators with such messages were clicked and made viral on social media and print media, against which the Nagpur Court gave a judgment.[54] In Kolkata, among those arrested, specific charges were registered against fifty lockdown violators under section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act.[55]

The situation was so bad that even courts had to respond. Bombay high court (HC) told the Nagpur police to avoid humiliating treatment to lockdown violators.[54] The Gujarat and Allahabad HCs was sympathetic toward migrants who were arrested following the violent clash with police. The HCs stated that the migrants were victims of the COVID-19 crisis, not criminals, and granted bail to them.[56]

Forced COVID testing and forced isolation/quarantine

Suspected contacts, or those with a travel history, have been subjected to such measures and that too without COVID-19 testing. At Prayagraj, nearly 2500 people applied for home isolation in the city, but the applications of 368 patients were turned down because the rapid response team disapproved their living conditions.[57]

Forced quarantine culminating in suicide

Many persons of different age groups, who were forced into mandatory institutional[58] or home quarantine,[59] killed themselves.

Court's intervention

Judiciary's intervention highlights the seriousness of the problem.

On August 7, 2020, the HC of Prayagraj rapped CMO for “silence” over the facts of COVID-19 testing despite a court's previous order.[60] Then, on August 17, 2020, Prayagraj HC sought reply from the district magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police on the situation of noncompliance of COVID-19 orders. The court observed that the photographs attached to the contempt application are very shocking. These photographs show that road apps and plans are only on paper.[61]

Fake news, stringent measures, clashes with the police, arrests, court cases, judicial intervention, immense hardships to people, and several deaths, and all this over just a few months, have sent shock waves down the spines of people and hyped the COVID-19 pandemic in a huge way.

Why the hype?

No one wants to die, and certainly not the royal people (government officials), so the government is doing its best because any laxity would bounce back on the government itself. The hype is apparently deliberate to create intense fear in people, otherwise they would not follow the restrictions imposed on them to contain the virus.

Losers and losses

Losers

The losers are the health-care professionals, paraprofessionals, ancillary hospital staff, second-line workers (police personnel), the potential cases, confirmed positive cases, families of COVID-19 patients, as well as people in the general population.

Losses

Mental ill health

COVID-19 stress, which includes fear of being infected, lockdown, and other measures to contain the virus can adversely affect the mental health of people by the way of emergence of excessive fear and worry about one's own health and that of loved ones; worry about finances, job, or loss of support services one relies upon; changes in sleep or eating patterns; poor concentration; worsening of chronic health problems, both physical and mental; and increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other substances.[62]

Morbidities

Emergence of new psychiatric symptoms, and morbidities, are being witnessed after the COVID-19 lockdown. Most studies have been online. A cross-sectional study of 1257 health-care workers treating patients exposed to COVID-19 in during the peak of the pandemic reported the most common symptoms as distress (71.5%), followed by depression (50.4%), anxiety (44.6%), and insomnia (34.0%).[63] Patients with COVID-19 have been reported to have neuropsychiatric symptoms consistent with delirium.[64]

Many suicides across the world have been attributed to the COVID-pandemic-stress in the form of social isolation/distancing, lockdown creating economic recession, anxiety and pressure in medical health-care professionals, and social boycott and discrimination.[65] The first death in India was from South India on February 12, 2020, by a 50-year-old male who wrongly correlated his normal viral infection to COVID-19.[66] From March 19 to May 2, 2020, suicide was the leading cause for over 300 “noncoronavirus deaths” reported in India due to distress triggered by the nationwide lockdown in India.[67]

Avoiding treatment

Patients suffering from life-threatening diseases have been avoiding hospital visits and surgeries, thus endangering their health and risking their lives. Recently, at the Fortis Hospital, New Delhi, two women, one in Indian Administrative Service and an Information Technology consultant, who had benign breast lumps, passed into Stage IV cancer because they avoided treatment during the COVID-19 lockdown. A similar case of oral cancer relapsed and succumbed to the cancer because he did not visit the hospital during the lockdown.[68]

Mortality

With primary focus on COVID-19 patients, there has been gross neglect of non-COVID-19 care to virtual collapse of the health system. Many critically ill patients have died across the country because many private hospitals refused to take them for various reasons.[69] In Kolkata, two teens died because three hospitals refused admission.[70]

Domestic violence

A total of 1477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women between March 25 and May 31, 2020; this 68-day period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years.[71]

Fear psychosis

Many people have been gripped by a “fear psychosis,” akin to a Global Mass Hysteria, which is being manifested in many ways:

  1. Self-isolation: Many people, especially senior citizens, and private practitioners have self-isolated themselves almost completely since the lockdown and are living in constant fear
  2. Suicide due to isolation/forced quarantine has driven many people in the country, both children and adults, to take their lives[58],[59]
  3. Stigma and discrimination.


  4. Reports of stigma and discrimination[65] are because of the fear psychos is, excessive fear of being infected by the coronavirus, the invisible enemy. Thus, virtually everyone is perceived as a threat, a potential COVID-19 patient. A 93-year-old mother who was COVID-19 positive and had recovered was not allowed entry into her home even though the doctors declared her stable and fit for home quarantine. This was because the family perceived it would not be safe for them to have her in.[72] Similarly, a 36-year-old Muslim male committed suicide due to religious discrimination and avoidance by neighbors, and also because of his moral conscience to not infect the other members of his community.[73]

  5. Fear of COVID-19 testing: Many people are not getting themselves tested because of fear of the consequence of a positive report, such as forced isolation/quarantine and being ostracized by people around them. Between March 19 and May 2020, eighty people killed themselves due to loneliness and fear of being tested positive for the virus.[74]


Economic loss

Virtually, no economic sector has been spared from harm. On March 23, 2020, PM Narendra Modi mandated a complete nationwide lockdown for 21 days, including all apparel and other factories.[75] Thereafter, the lockdown has continued in phases partially or fully across the country.

India has suffered indirect economic losses due the lockdown of about Rs. 30.3 lakh crore; with Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu being the worst hit.[76] The livelihoods of a large proportion of the country's nearly 40 million inter-state migrants have been adversely affected. Within the span of a few days, about 50,000–60,000 migrants returned from urban centers to rural areas of origin.[77]

Gainers

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for many to survive and prosper. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic is a golden opportunity to flourish and proper, make hay while the sun shines.

Private hospitals

Patients in different parts of the country complained that private hospitals charged exorbitantly since the COVID-19 lockdown.[72],[78] In Bengaluru, Rs. 38,000 advance was demanded only to admit a patient; a bill of Rs. 1, 78, 000 was made for just 10 days, and charges leveled at the rate of Rs. 50,000 per day for general ward and Rs. 90,000 per day for the ICU.[78] The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission (WBCERC) vide an order barred private hospitals from charging more than 20% of the estimated cost of treatment or Rs. 50,000, whichever is less, as advance deposit during admission. Despite this, a patient in Kolkata could not be admitted as she had arranged only Rs. 80,000, not Rs. 3 lakhs, the advance deposit required. Doctors' associations, and general public, condemned the private hospital on social media for overcharging.[70] and the WBCERC registered a Suo motu case against the private hospital.[70]

In Tamil Nadu, after several reports of hospitals fleecing patients, the state government capped the rates for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals. Soon after, Be Well Hospitals, Kilpauk, lost its recognition as a COVID-19 facility for charging ₹12, 20, 000 for treating a patient for 19 days.[79] Insurers have questioned high costs of COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals and sought governments' intervention to set package rates.[80]

Medical equipment enterprises

Many businessmen, both big and small, have switched to in-demand products such as masks, sanitizers, foot-operated touch-free sanitizer dispensers, personal protection equipment (PPE), and cardboard beds for quarantine centers and even plan to export their new products. Over 150 new players entered the hand sanitizer market in March 2020 alone, and 400 Indian garment manufacturers ventured into the PPE's business just in 2 months (April to June).[81] In district Dimapur, Runaway Nagaland, an all-women group of 35, earlier engaged in making Naga jewelry and handicraft accessories, is now into making cotton and handloom masks. Runaway Nagaland produced 20,000 masks in <2 months and has been getting bulk orders from corporates and nongovernmental organizations from across the country. About 90% of Runway Nagaland's revenue in the last 1 month came from masks. Car companies, Ford, General Motors, and Tesla Motors, have teamed with medical and PPE manufacturers for production and supply of ventilators, respirators, and face shields.[82]

Pharmaceutical companies

The pharma industry is not only surviving, but also profiting handsomely from the pandemic. “Pharmaceutical companies view COVID-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit,” said Gerald Posner.[83]

Drugs

India sold more than 29 million hydroxychloroquine doses to the USA.[84] India's Hetero Labs, generic drug maker and a leading producer of antiretroviral drugs, has launched Favivir (favipiravir).[85] Many others companies in India (Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Zendara Pharma, Sun Pharmaceuticals Ltd.,[86] and Dr Reddy's Laboratories)[87] are also developing or selling favipiravir in India, and still many others are in the race to do so. Shares in Sun Pharma, climbed after the news of FluGuard (favipiravir), and were last up 1.7% in an upbeat Mumbai market.[88] Dr Reddy's Laboratories has been granted exclusive rights to develop sell and distribute Avigan (favipiravir) in India. In all other countries except Japan, China, and Russia, both Dr Reddy's Company and Global Response Aid have been granted rights for the same. Dr Reddy's company is currently in talks with various regulators across the globe (USA [FDA], Brazil, Columbia, and South Africa and Kuwait) to expand its market.[87] Gilead, a US pharmaceutical firm, and five generic pharmaceutical companies in India and Pakistan (Cipla Limited, Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs Ltd., Jubilant Lifesciences, and Mylan), are going to manufacture remdesivir for 127 countries.[89] Dr Reddy's Laboratories also intends to launch remdesivir in September 2020.[87]

Vaccines

Many pharma companies across the world are in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine as the predicted profits are huge. Funding for a vaccine has never been greater, billions of dollars have poured in from across the world, but the USA, China, and Europe have invested the most.[90] China leads COVID-19 vaccine race at war-time speed and set to become the country's second and the world's third to enter final stage testing later in July 2020.[91] In many other countries, governments are coordinating closely with the private sector. As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine has been getting intensified, the top candidates are: University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna (Global), Pfizer and BioNTech (Global); Inovio, Novovax (USA); GlaxoSmith Kline, Imperial College of London, Morningside (UK); and 12 others.[92] Seven Indian players (Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila, Panacea Biotec, Indian Immunologicals, Mynvax, and Biological E) are also in the race.[93] The WHO has informed that 172 countries and multiple candidate vaccines are engaged in COVID-19 vaccine Global Access Facility; it is becoming a major race to see who can develop the first vaccine.[94] On August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country had registered the world's first vaccine against the novel coronavirus.[95]

With news that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine candidate – the frontrunner in the American market – seemed to be generating an immune response in Phase 1 trial subjects, the company's stock valuation also surged, hitting $29 billion. Likewise, Inovio Pharmaceuticals has seen its market capitalization balloon to $371 million on June 30, compared with $89.5 million at the end of last year.[96] Inovio's stock price has also soared more than 500% this year, to about $20 a share.[97] Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, stated that calculations suggest that its revenue on the vaccine could be enormous. Selling 1.3 billion doses at $19.50 per dose, could by the end of next year translate to nearly $13 billion.[98]

E-commerce

Closure of physical stores and fear of public places have resulted in a shift toward online retail, benefitting the e-commerce sector. With lockdown, the only available method was internet shopping for a variety of products ranging from food, medicines, computer appliances, etc.

The biggest beneficiaries of the lockdown have been grocery businesses including Grofers, BigBasket, and grocery arms of Flipkart and Amazon. Amazon and Flipkart-led e-commerce recovery crossed the pre-COVID level to $36.5 billion – around 20% jump – in June 2020 itself.[99] Food delivery apps such as Zomato worked their way up in the time of corona. As per Zomato's annual report, the pandemic has positively affected the health of the business and accelerated the company's journey toward profitability.[100]

In India, as consumers gorged pasta, noodles, salty snacks, and biscuits, during the lockdown, the sales jumped. 220 additional grams of noodles were bought by an average household during this period.[101]

Home entertainment and social media platforms

As people have been forced to stay at home, Netflix and Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and other social media platforms have increased in popularity and prospered.[102] To woo customers, Netflix announced an extension for Google Chrome known as Netflix Party, allowing people to host virtual movie nights and watch shows and films remotely with friends. Barclaycard reported a 12.4% growth in digital content subscription among British consumers in February 2020 itself. Peloton, which sells high-end exercise bikes and offers a streaming service, has also had a rise in stock market value.[102]

Digital platforms

PM Narendra Modi issued guidelines for workplace amid the national lockdown. Companies must work with up to 50% staff strength; large meetings with ten or more people were strictly prohibited; and seniors, especially those with comorbid conditions, and parents of children who are below the age of 5, are to work from home.[103] Thus, most enterprises have resorted to digital work/meeting platforms, the only way out. This has led shares in video-conferencing businesses such as Slack and Zoom to skyrocket. Slack, for example, experienced a 30.3% boom in stock market value in February, while Zoom enjoyed an 11% rise in shares. Panopto, which offers streaming services and software for e-learning, also witnessed a 1000% surge in interest in their products.[102]

Private transport service

With complete ban on air travel, trains, and inter-state road transport for the general public during the lock down,[104] private taxis services are charging exorbitantly and fleecing people.

Others

There have been many other gains such as, improvement in air quality,[105] lesser admissions due to coronary vascular diseases;[37] opportunity to men to stay at home and spend more time with family, and learn and help in domestic chores; to parents to teach children especially the difficult subjects; to students to prepare for competitive exams such as NEET and UPPSC.


   Discussion Top


It is now evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hyped, directly by the digital and print media and indirectly by imposing severe restrictions to ward off the invisible life-threatening enemy, the coronavirus. Apparently, the restrictions imposed to contain the virus have been much more than warranted. The consequences have been grave. Many lives have been lost and several people have suffered immensely. Although the exact figures are not available, the deaths, losses, and sufferings due non-COVID-19 causes (lockdown and other restrictions) are clearly, more than due to coronavirus per se (coronavirus infection). Side by side, the silver lining is also visible with many enterprises, especially the pharma companies, profiting from the corona hype, with the gains being directly proportional to deaths and catastrophe from the coronavirus. Time will show whether in due course the gains outgrow the losses.

Herd immunity is the natural way to deal with this maelstrom. For this, about 50%–60% of the community should get infected with the virus. Lockdown and social distancing are a hindrance to the development of herd immunity. The moot point here is whether we have the right to interfere in nature's way of handling the pandemic. If yes, then to what extent? My submission is that: No one invited the coronavirus, but it came in a big way. God (nature) brought it, so nature will take care of it (by herd immunity). Media coverage should fair and balanced. Hard and stringent measures to contain the virus should be used sparingly. Intensive general awareness programs targeting the public at large can be embarked upon on how to protect oneself, one's near and dear ones, and others. Along with this, the best possible medical treatment should be provided to symptomatic cases. This will save many lives and prevent sufferings to many.


   Conclusions Top


The corona hype from the WHO has trickled down the ladder to the public at large. Losses and gains from the hype are evident. A pragmatic approach is suggested. Media coverage should be fair and balanced. Hard and stringent measures to contain the virus should be used sparingly. Intensive general awareness programs targeting the public at large can be undertaken on how to protect one self and others. Along with this, best possible medical treatment may be provided to symptomatic cases. This will save many lives and prevent suffering to many.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_1060_20

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