The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center states that as of April 8, there are 1,452,378* cases of COVID-19 worldwide. As numbers climb and the disease strengthens its grip on the globe, the media, citizens, and governments of different countries respond in different ways.
The US, which leads the world with 401,166* cases, is trying to combat the virus in many ways, most notably by cancelling events, postponing school, and closing non-essential businesses as part of a social distancing initiative. On the economic side, the federal government has worked desperately to lower interest rates and create stimulus packages to lift the economy out of despair.
Other countries have been responding in their own ways based on the necessities of their people, resources available, and the severity of COVID-19’s presence within their borders.
As an example, Germany, with the third-most cases in Europe at 109,329*, has responded with similar veracity to the US. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced March 16 that a nationwide closure of facilities such as bars, clubs, museums, movie theaters, casinos, gyms, swimming pools, and playgrounds.
German teenager Emily Adams explained that despite the drastic measures taken by Germany to prevent further spread, she feels that everyone has already been, metaphorically speaking, infected.
“The virus is everywhere. Not only is the air probably contaminated, but so are all of the conversations. You leave the house to go the grocery store and the first thing you hear people talk about is coronavirus. You don’t even have to leave the house, just turn on the television and face the ever-present updates, statistics and reminders to please stay home. In a metaphorical way, we’re already infected,” Adams said.
Adams also mentioned how the German media heavily urges the public to not only stay home and practice social distancing, but also be alert as to what they are reading and make sure it is not fake and misleading.
“The virus is the number one topic whether it’s on television, the radio or the newspaper. German public media is desperately trying to cover every little piece of information and begs people to stay calm and to not believe everything they read and see since a lot of fake news have been spread on social media the last weeks,” Adams said.
Across Germany’s westernmost border sits a small neighbor, Belgium, which sits currently at 23,403* COVID-19 cases. Belgium’s response has included the closing of schools and non-essential businesses, as well as a ban on the non-essential movement of people.
On the federal level, despite short-term changes like tax reliefs, political tensions have hindered Belgium’s ability to create an effective long-term Coronavirus response.
Belgian student at the Institut Saint Marie La Louvière Théo Seghers explained how, while he is not worried about catching the virus himself, he does have anxiety about his parents and grandparents.
Seghers also mentioned how he is allowed out for fresh air and calls his friends often, both of which keep him mentally healthy in this stressful time.
“My parents let me go out, I’d have had several anxiety attacks if they didn’t. Things that I do when I have to stay home are watching series, doing homework, making art and calling my friends. Calling my friends is really what keeps me happy and healthy,” Seghers said.
Towards the south of Europe on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea sits Italy, the hardest-hit of all European countries. The nation has 135,586* cases, but according to Statale di Milano University Medical Statistics Professor Carlo La Vecchia, the real number could be as much as 5,000,000 if accounting for those who have symptoms and have not been tested, and as much as 10,000,000 or 20,000,000 if accounting for asymptomatic cases.
Italian Federico Porcari explained how uncertainty regarding regulations incline him to stay home all the time. According to Porcari, one must carry a permit with them to leave the house at all.
“I would like to go for a walk but the rules are uncertain and I would risk a fines or even criminal penalties. People must carry a permit every time they leave the house or get a fine, even if the reasons for their move are not considered valid by the police. The biggest problem is children who have not left the house for weeks,” Porcari said**.
Porcari believes that a lack of international cooperation will doom the world’s economy, and urged that we must all come together to fight the virus.
“A generalized blockade for more than two months would cause irreparable damage to the country. Furthermore, at this moment each country goes its own way and there is no coordination and this will certainly cause damage to the world economy,” Porcari said.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Despite anxieties about the unknown, Adams is confident that as a human race, we can come together and overcome the virus’ impacts.
“I’m sure as a developed society we can overcome the social and economic impact this virus has. But most importantly we need to stick together now metaphorically and encourage ourselves to still be ‘emotionally accessible’ though physical contact is limited. And we should all stay calm because there is not much we can do other than stick to the regulations,” Adams said.
*Statistics as of April 8, 12 p.m.
**Original responses in Italian, translated to English
Porcari interview conducted by Mary Petersen