At the time of writing this, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic lockdown has reached its 119th day. There have been those such as New Zealand that have completely eradicated the virus within its borders and the first to declare itself a “Covid free nation” (although admittedly the island country did not have much cases to begin with). Nevertheless, cases in other nations like Canada and Japan have dropped dramatically over the past few months credited to the thousands of doctors, specialists, and medical staff working overtime to develop a cure. The United States, however, does not hold well.
Despite a high GDP, the United States ranks poorly in healthcare and coverage. Currently, about 27 million Americans – roughly 8% of the population – do not have any medical insurance. Of those insured, about 75 million – 25% – struggle with paying the tumultuous medical fees. The same $32 insulin vial prescribed for diabetes in Canada is $300 in the United States. This is part of the reason why citizens are under tremendous pressure over the treatment of the aggravating symptoms; many of them are unable to get proper treatment without being burdened with costs. Medical care is a fundamental human right not to be mistaken with the pursuit of profits. Furthermore, prices for the Remdesivir drug are settled at a non-negotiable $390 per vial for insured patients.
With a low production and unwavering demand, it’s reasonable that prices will naturally begin to rise against a supply shortage. However, considering that the United States spends the most on health care at around $3.6 trillion, or roughly 17% of the country’s GDP, it’s strange how it lags behind in both production and personal protective equipment (PPE) for its medical professionals. This places doctors at great risk of contracting the virus, with a few downright refusing to treat patients without the necessary equipment. Reports in mid June showed that in major populous states such as New York, there were enough PPE stocked for only three weeks. In few states such as Florida, thermometers were not in supply at all. Around the world, staff and frontline workers have depended on garbage bags as a rudimentary form of protection, which demanding governmental officials for proper equipment.
Kolkata-based oncologist Dr. Indranil Khan spoke out about the pressing issue of the inadequacy of equipment against a rapidly mutating retrovirus. He was later apprehended on March 29 as a direct violation of free speech. The act of suppressing those who lay their lives for the health and safety of the community as a form of political persecution is cruel and appalling.
That’s not to mention the continuous harassment against doctors in India. The fear and anxiety surrounding the disease has seeped into residential colonies, where doctors and medical staff are ostracised by their peers. The seed of hatred grows off of fear, and soon people began to take extreme measures. The government had to step in after doctors were abused, beaten, and even spat on.
There is much that needs to be done aside from distributing a cure. We cannot appreciate doctors, nurses, and staff enough for their efforts, so we must show it by providing additional compensation. Private firms must also begin to mass produce and distribute PPEs to workers so they may resume treatment efficiently. Finally, to curb the social stigma against medical staff, there must be a clear-cut communication between the medical community and the public in a way in an honest but easy to follow approach. The disease itself can be mitigated. It’s the ignorance, apathy, and plain stupidity that are the real killers.