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SAARC leadership holds video conference on coronavirus Outbreak

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In the wake of the Corovirus pandemic leaders of SAARC nations met via video conference on Sunday to discuss measures to stop the spread of the virus. Pakistan was represented in the conference by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza. Other SAARC countries were represented by the respective heads of State or Heads of Governments.

Addressing the South Asian leaders Dr Zafar Mirza said Covid-19 Pandemic is a global health emergency, the likes of which have not been witnessed in the past century. At the same time, while it has been characterized as a global pandemic, it is deemed “controllable” as well. Least of all SAARC, which is home to one-fifth of humanity, several of the world’s largest mega-cities, and many of the most densely populated regions, he added.

Dr Mirza said Pakistan shares the common concern over the potential of Covid-19 affecting South Asia. All our countries now have confirmed cases. Dr Mirza said WHO’s four-pronged advice offers a reasonable way forward- preparation and readiness, detection, prevention and treatment, reduction and suppression, and innovation and improvement. He said Pakistan has been involved in containment efforts right from the outset of the outbreak.

“We have been alert to the dangers, and have put in place appropriate protocols for the safety and health of our people” he added. SAPM on Health said we have been matching our measures to real-time threat assessments. While, we have stressed the need for caution, we have strongly advised against panic. A calm and deliberate response is the need for the hour, In consultation with WHO, we have been taking steps to restrict movement to and from the affected areas, regulate lights, institute detection measures at entry points, and establish quarantine controls at border crossings Diagnosed cases are being quarantined, and contacts traced proactively.

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Dr. Mirza shared that Prime Minister Imran Khan is personally overseeing these efforts. Resultantly, Pakistan has managed so far to contain, an achievement the WHO has recognized and commended. Our National Security Committee met on 13 March, for the first time on a national health issue, and has decided to take further steps to contain the spread he informed.

The four pillars of our response strategy include Governance and Finance, Prevention, Mitigation, and Communication. Dr Zafar Mirza mentioning the steps taken by Pakistan Government said we have decided to close all educational institutions for three weeks, close the entire western border for two weeks, restrict international flights to three airports only, ban all public gatherings, and reinforce screening and administrative measures at seaports.

The National Disaster Management Authority has been mandated to lead the inter-agency effort at the federal and provincial levels he said. Effective coordination at all levels is deemed critically important. The pandemic forces us to think not in terms of nations and States, but as a collective. The unprecedented challenge, therefore, warrants unprecedented responses. We must recognize that national and local responses remain the most critically important.

It is equally important to pursue evidence and science-based responses. Stigmatization and stereotyping are counter-productive. The SAARC Secretariat is best placed to coordinate SAARC’s endeavours With this in view, Pakistan proposes that the SAARC Secretariat be mandated to establish a Working Group of respective national authorities for information and data exchange as well as coordination for responses in real-time, learn from and disseminate the experience of SAARC Observer States, particularly China that is effectively addressing the challenge and can share valuable insights. The challenge at hand, demands sagacity, vision and synergy stressed Pakistan SAPM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza.

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“Disease X” and 9 Other Pathogens to Watch for the Next Pandemic: WHO’s Warning

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modern white car with world health organization flag and sticker

Introduction

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the next pandemic could be caused by “Disease X.” This is a term used to describe a hypothetical pathogen that could emerge and cause widespread illness and death. While there is no specific disease that has been identified as “Disease X,” there are several pathogens that researchers are keeping a watchful eye on due to their potential to cause a pandemic.

Some of the pathogens that are of concern include Ebola, SARS, and Nipah. These are all viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past and have the potential to mutate and become more contagious or deadly. Other pathogens that are on the watch list include Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and Zika virus.

The WHO has a key role in pandemic preparedness, including monitoring and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases around the world. They work closely with governments, healthcare providers, and other organizations to coordinate research and surveillance efforts and develop strategies to prevent and control the spread of diseases.

Key Takeaways

  • “Disease X” is a hypothetical pathogen that could cause the next pandemic.
  • Researchers are keeping a watchful eye on several pathogens, including Ebola, SARS, and Nipah, due to their potential to cause a pandemic.
  • The WHO plays a key role in pandemic preparedness, including monitoring and responding to outbreaks, coordinating research and surveillance efforts, and developing strategies to prevent and control the spread of diseases.

Understanding ‘Disease X’

‘Disease X’ is a term coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) to describe a hypothetical pathogen that could cause a future pandemic. It represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.

The WHO added Disease X to a short list of pathogens deemed a top priority for research, alongside known killers like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Ebola. Covid-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, was an example of a Disease X when it touched off the pandemic at the end of 2019.

Researchers are keeping a watchful eye on nine pathogens that could cause the next pandemic, including Ebola, SARS, and Nipah. These pathogens have the potential to cause significant morbidity and mortality, and there are currently no vaccines or effective treatments for them.

To prepare for the next pandemic, it is crucial to understand the characteristics of Disease X and other potential pathogens. This includes their mode of transmission, incubation period, clinical presentation, and potential for mutation. By studying these factors, researchers can develop effective strategies for the prevention, detection, and control of future pandemics.

In conclusion, Disease X represents a potential threat to global health security. However, by remaining vigilant and investing in research and preparedness, we can minimize the impact of future pandemics.

Pathogens to Watch

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified nine pathogens that researchers are keeping a watchful eye on, including Ebola, SARS, and Nipah virus. These pathogens have the potential to cause the next pandemic, including the mysterious Disease X.

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Ebola

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe and often fatal illness that spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals or humans. The 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. According to the WHO, the risk of Ebola spreading to other countries remains high.

SARS

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The outbreak affected 26 countries and resulted in over 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. Although the outbreak was contained, the virus still poses a threat as it can be transmitted through respiratory droplets.

Nipah Virus

Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The virus was first identified during an outbreak in Malaysia in 1998 and has since caused several outbreaks in Bangladesh and India. The virus can cause severe respiratory illness and encephalitis, and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for the virus.

Other pathogens on the WHO’s list include Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, Zika, and Disease X. Researchers continue to monitor these pathogens and work towards developing vaccines and treatments to prevent the next pandemic.

WHO’s Role in Pandemic Preparedness

The World Health Organization (WHO) plays a critical role in pandemic preparedness and response. As part of its mandate, the WHO monitors disease outbreaks around the world and provides guidance to countries on how to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases.

In the case of “Disease X,” the WHO has identified nine pathogens that researchers are keeping a watchful eye on, including Ebola, SARS, and Nipah. The goal is to be prepared for any potential outbreak, even if the specific pathogen is not yet known.

To achieve this, the WHO works closely with governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders to develop and implement strategies for pandemic preparedness. This includes:

  • Providing technical support and guidance to countries on how to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Developing and disseminating guidelines and best practices for pandemic preparedness and response.
  • Conducting research to better understand the transmission and impact of infectious diseases.
  • Coordinating global efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for emerging infectious diseases.
  • Supporting the development of surveillance systems to detect and respond to disease outbreaks.

Through these efforts, the WHO is working to ensure that the world is better prepared for the next pandemic, whatever form it may take.

Research and Surveillance Efforts

The World Health Organization (WHO) added ‘Disease X’ to a short list of pathogens deemed a top priority for research, alongside known killers like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Ebola. Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. It is a so-called ‘known unknown’ that the WHO says we need to be prepared for, which is why the mystery malady is now on the agency’s R&D Blueprint of priority diseases 1.

Researchers are keeping a watchful eye on nine pathogens that could cause the next pandemic, including Ebola, SARS, Nipah, and Disease X. The WHO has stressed the importance of investing in research and development to prevent and control potential pandemics. The organization has also called for increased surveillance and preparedness efforts to detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases 1.

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Surveillance efforts involve monitoring the spread of infectious diseases and identifying potential outbreaks before they become widespread. This includes tracking disease patterns, monitoring animal populations, and detecting unusual cases of illness. Researchers are also developing new diagnostic tools and vaccines to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases 2.

In addition to surveillance efforts, researchers are also studying the genetic makeup of pathogens to better understand how they spread and evolve. This includes analyzing the genetic sequences of viruses and bacteria to identify potential drug targets and develop new treatments. By understanding the genetic makeup of pathogens, researchers hope to develop more effective strategies for preventing and controlling infectious diseases 3.

Footnotes

  1. What Is Disease X? How Scientists Are Preparing for the Next Pandemic 2
  2. Surveillance and Preparedness for Emerging Infectious Diseases
  3. Genomics and Infectious Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the characteristics of ‘Disease X’ that make it a potential pandemic threat?

‘Disease X’ is a term used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to describe a hypothetical pathogen that could cause the next global pandemic. The characteristics of ‘Disease X’ are unknown, but it is believed to be a novel virus or bacteria that could emerge unexpectedly and spread rapidly across the globe. The potential pandemic threat of ‘Disease X’ lies in its ability to cause severe illness, high mortality rates, and its potential to spread easily from person to person.

How is the World Health Organization monitoring emerging pathogens with pandemic potential?

The WHO is closely monitoring emerging pathogens with pandemic potential through its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). GOARN is a network of experts and institutions that work together to detect, assess, and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases. GOARN provides technical support and expertise to countries and regions affected by outbreaks, and helps to coordinate the international response to global health emergencies.

What measures can be taken to prevent the outbreak of diseases like Ebola, SARS, or Nipah?

Preventing the outbreak of diseases like Ebola, SARS, or Nipah requires a multi-faceted approach that includes early detection, rapid response, and effective containment measures. This includes strengthening health systems, improving surveillance and laboratory capacity, and developing effective vaccines and treatments. It also involves promoting public awareness and education and implementing measures to reduce the risk of transmission, such as hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing masks.

What are the common factors among pathogens that pose a high risk for global health?

Pathogens that pose a high risk for global health often share common characteristics, such as the ability to spread easily from person to person, high mortality rates, and the absence of effective vaccines or treatments. They may also be zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans, and may have the potential to cause severe respiratory illness.

How does the international community respond to the threat of a new pandemic?

The international community responds to the threat of a new pandemic through a coordinated and collaborative effort that involves governments, public health agencies, and international organizations. This includes sharing information, expertise, and resources, and working together to develop effective strategies for prevention, detection, and response. It also involves implementing measures to reduce the risk of transmission, such as travel restrictions, quarantine measures, and social distancing guidelines.

What are the latest advancements in vaccine development for combating future pandemics?

The latest advancements in vaccine development for combating future pandemics include the use of new technologies, such as mRNA vaccines, which have shown promising results in clinical trials. Other approaches include the use of viral vectors, adjuvants, and novel antigen design strategies. These advancements have the potential to accelerate the development of effective vaccines for emerging pathogens and to improve our ability to respond to future pandemics.

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Human Organ Trade in Global Perspective

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Human Organ Trade has become a lucrative business in the black market as some medical professionals, Nurses and middlemen are involved in this malpractice putting the lives of vulnerable poor people at risk .

Even some poverty-ridden communities sell their organs to feed their children and cover their domestic costs. The Middlemen sell the organs in millions  of dollars while offering peanuts to the organ sellers.

Though , there are strict restrictions in place on such illegal practices globally, yet the Organ Trafficking continues unabatedly throughout the world especially in Africa, Asia and the countries where poverty ratio is relatively high and the nations hit by political turmoil and instability .

Iran is the only country where organ transplant has state permission and everyone can buy and sell organs as per WHO reports. Iran’s economy has been paralyzed due to strict US economic sanctions. The other reasons of trafficking may be the maximum number of unemployment, bad governance, backwardness, illiteracy and poverty that prompts people to sell their organs such as Liver, kidney etc to support their family and children during hard times. Human Organ trafficking has also been prevented in UN resolutions .

 Some analysts are of the view that there are some organized International groups having networks operating globally who exploit the poor segments to sell their organs by offering huge amounts of money and sell the same in lucrative International markets pocketing millions of dollars in so-called illegal Human organ Trade.

There are bitter facts about these malpractices that some well-known Medical Practitioners and  Hospitals are running this secret business and playing havoc with the precious lives of the  Poor people disregarding the laws in place or Human rights.

The Asian countries such as  India, Iran and  Pakistan have a high level of cases especially related to bonded labour and  Brick Kiln Workers whose wages are withheld by the owners and compelling them to sell their organs to cover their  debts ,daily livelihood and Health costs since no health insurance facility is provided to these poor brick kiln workers.

The  African countries are relatively facing economic challenges, Political upheavals , rampant corruption, poor law and order situation . As a result of such issues , there is a high ratio of  unemployment and lack of business opportunities. 

These vulnerable poor communities are lured and trapped by Organ Trafficking Mafia by offering millions of dollars and depriving them of their organs such as Kidney, Liver etc.

The countries like Nigeria, Egypt, Philippines, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh have fallen prey to these  Organ Trafficking mafias and despite some restrictions imposed by health Regulatory bodies worldwide including  WHO, the  Organ Trade and Transplantation continue unabated around the world regardless of any ban or legal issues as these mafias enjoy support from strongmen in power corridors and continue their illegal Organ Sale and Purchase business pocketing millions of dollars in black-markets while paying peanuts to organ sellers.

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Despite UN general Assembly Resolutions against Human Organ Trafficking, the practice continues globally putting human rights at risk especially in Asian, African countries where poverty monster is gobbling the poor by compelling them to take an unethical decision that may prove disastrous in the Long run .

The international Health body (WHO)  Study, as well as the related media reports, have revealed shocking facts that most of human organ trafficking cases happened with  African  Migrant  Refugees in  Egypt, Libya, as they were compelled to sell their  Organs for the sake of livelihood as migrants, had limited citizenry rights in Egypt.

 Human Organ trafficking and transplantation cases were reported in great numbers in Egypt as there were 250000 cases and the majority of them were related to migrant  African refugee as reported by WHO report.

The study also revealed that most of the transplantation cases were related to persons with drug addiction, diabetic patients and the rich people who are used to alcoholic drinks that damaged their kidneys and immune system.

These patients were the forerunners in the purchase of notorious human organs to save their lives and feed the huge chunk of the funds to the hospitals conducting transplants in India, Iran, Pakistan, China, Egypt and Other parts of the world

According to WHO,  the cost of Transplantation varies from the country to country and region to region but the average cost ranges from  $30000 -$40000 US dollars for Kidney related transplantation. The Organ trade is reported to have touched  $160000 in international markets by so-called middlemen and doctors. 

These facts are very shocking to the extent that even after costly organ Transplantation, 70% to 78% of patients reported health and physical complications in  India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and other  African Nations.

India leads in  Transplantation cases in Asia as it has a network of  Organ Transplantation Hospitals serving internal and external citizens. Pakistan has also Organ Transplantation Hospitals both in Public and Private sector the Prominent ones are  SIUT, GIMS, Shifa, AKU, Ziauddin Hospitals. But these hospitals conduct transplants surgeries by authorized family donors for their blood relations.

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It is good to step that  Pakistan has established  Human Organ Transplant Authority  (HOTA)to regulate the transplant practices and maintain dignity especially organs donated by deceased people in their will to help people such as visually impaired.

Though UN has adopted various resolutions against  Human organ Trafficking Globally, yet all the member nations must frame laws to regulate  Transplants and ban illegal organ trafficking done by some nefarious Groups and individuals risking the lives of the poor segments of society by exploiting their needs, wants, hardships and compelling them to sell their organs to these unscrupulous people who have no regard for humanity or dignity of people.

These criminals have established well-organized networks, the International Police  (Interpol) may be tasked to burst and break their global network.

The countries such as Sudan, Tanzania, Nigeria and Eritrea are also stalled with Illegal Human Organ trafficking as transplants were executed in Egypt.

Back in 2018, Egyptian criminal court had sentenced over 37 persons including Doctors, nurses Medical Staff and Middlemen involved in the illegal trade of Human Organs. They were captured in the raid on a tip-off and millions of dollars were retrieved from them. The investigation heralds serious revelations that how these malafide groups operate globally having no regard for humanity.

The news reports confirm that Egypt is reportedly a big market for organ sale as people sell their body organs to wealthy foreigners for illegal riches and perks offered to them and the middlemen facilitate such deals thwarting  International law and human rights.

The Human organ trafficking is a global issue and all the countries should be united to frame strict laws and put strict restrictions on those concerned with health systems such as doctors, nurses and medical professionals to stop such illegal practices by awarding exemplary hard punishments who are found involved in such inhuman and illegal organ trade.

 There is a great need to establish A global Body of  UN to control, Contain and Prevent Illegal Human Organ trade to save the vulnerable communities falling prey to these wealthy Foreigners who risk the lives of poor communities by luring them with some hard cash and play with their precious lives.

 Some organ sellers shared sad stories that how their organs were stolen from their body without their consent on free treatment offers. Illegal Organ trade has been a global issue and the timely steps of UN and member states can help contain this menace and protect underprivileged people from the grip of these nefarious people.

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Global Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19

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The Pandemic originating from Wuhan China has enveloped the whole world and the catastrophe caused by covid-19 is beyond speculation.  Schools, Colleges, Universities and business are closed for an indefinite period and the World has gone into self-isolation while the countries imposed lockdown in the world in the severely hit areas to contain the outbreak at massive scale.

The pandemic has affected all the countries especially China, France, Italy, Germany, US, UK, Iran, Egypt and third world countries i.e Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and  Afghanistan and some African countries.

There are some countries which are severely impacted socially and economically while some countries have sustained moderate impact owing to taking timely preventive measures as per circulated guidelines of WHO and Local Health ministries of respective Countries.

With President Donald  Trump clipping the wings of  UN’s apex health body by cutting the financial support amid the Global Pandemic, the catastrophe is expected to go from bad to worse as WHO  will experience the funds’ shortage that will ultimately contribute to a deep humanitarian crisis

The world posts a bleak picture already as all business activities have been suspended, the markets have been closed for an indefinite period, the stock markets crashed and the unemployment ratio suddenly jumped to historical high due to covid-19 Pandemic. Even OPEC members have decided to cut the oil production given the pandemic situation. 

The Global economy has been severely impacted by the shocks of the deadly virus that prompted companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Face book, Twitter to ask their employees to work from home to avoid contracting  Covid-19.

All the industries have been impacted badly that include entertainment, Sports, food franchise has completely shutdown creating panicking situation all around as once busiest streets and markets have started presenting deserted look.

This global economic warrants that if the early remedy to cure covid-19 is not discovered, the future will be dreadful to predict. The mighty economies such as China, the US, France, Italy, UK, Germany has been seriously impacted by this deadly virus. The situation is haunting the people around the world, bringing misery of greater proportion as compared to Word War II, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Plage and Yaws.

The Daily Wage workers, Private workers, drivers, hawkers, shop keepers and thousands of similar workers have lost their jobs and the opportunity to earn their livelihood. The companies have preferred work from home option for their employees to limit the outbreak and avoid contracting covid-19.

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It is alarming that hundreds of workers have filed as unemployed. The lengthy lockdowns have created serious humanitarian and economic crises and the experts are of the view that the circumstances are fast moving towards the global recessions and may take a long time to recover from this catastrophe.

Though China has been able to contain Covid-19 and even lifted restrictions on outgoing flights with some strict SOPs, yet the Covid 19 seems to be an invisible predator waiting for its prey regardless of any region. The virus has impacted all the zones i.e with the cooler, hotter or moderate atmosphere.

The only solution to fight this pandemic is social distancing, maintaining the hygienic environment and avoiding crowdy spaces. The Governments around the world have imposed strict lockdowns and the frontline fighters (Health workers) around the world doing a marvellous job to protect their fellowmen even at the cost of falling prey to this deadly virus.

While fighting this pandemic. Many health workers have been tested positive. Even, some frontline soldiers lost their fight to this pandemic and laid down their lives to secure the future of their respective country.

Education is being imparted through digital platforms as online education is increasing for students. Though students are facing some issues such as the connectivity, Sound quality, Video Quality, yet in this emergency, the Schools, Colleges, Universities and other online course websites are striving to provide some light of  Knowledge in these difficult times.

The booming industries such as restaurants, hotels, motels and  Aviation have been closed for an indefinite period.

Coronavirus Pandemic has brought catastrophe in the world impacting all the industries and has caused economic slowdown throughout the world in all the major continents who are thickly populated such as Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Unfortunately, despite 151598 deaths worldwide and over 2.21 Million confirmed cases covid-19, all eyes are hooked towards the discovery of vaccine to treat the patients and save their lives. At the moment, only plasma therapy is being conducted and some common medicines are being used such as cough, flu fever-related medicine.

Though human trials have been started by some  Pharmaceutical companies, the experts are of the view that it may take one and half year for the vaccine to be available in the market. It is also estimated to be the costliest vaccine ever keeping in view its global implications and rapid speed of pandemic spread in the world.

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It is estimated that Europe, Asia, Middle East to suffer a lot especially, Italy, France, UK, Iran and US as the ratio of deaths is higher than other countries especially US where average deaths per days have surpassed all other nations that prompted Trump to cut funding to world health Organization accusing it of mishandling the pandemic and delayed response to mitigate its implication while  WHO head has refuted the allegations.

The covid-19 has also impacted Sports, News & Media, Entertainment and Services Industries to the extent that. All the sporting events have been suspended, series and Leagues have been rescheduled and big events such as  PSL, IPL, FIFA  World Cup, Olympics Games and others have been completely cancelled raising concerns among the players. Even the players are facing the trauma having travel history to the epicentre of Covid-19 Pandemic and tested positive.

 The Entertainment industry has been heavily impacted as all the dramas, Films and comedy shooting and recording has been postponed till indefinite period and all the events including concerts have cancelled due to covid-19 and actors have lost the source of living.

The services industry especially the skilled and non-skilled have been subjected to starvation as all the roadside small business such as Hair Cutting Salons, Cobblers, Gold and blacksmith shops, Electricians, Booksellers, daily wages workers and Masons have lost their living owing to lockdowns globally.

 Finally, the Print and Electronic  Media are partially impacted though they are a very vulnerable community as they have been busy in coverage of the pandemic around the world and are prone to contracting the deadly virus due to close contact with Patients at Quarantine Centres and the Health specialists working at the hospital and temporary health centres specially set up for an emergency.

The Print Media has been hit hard as people consider it risky to read a Print copy of newspapers over covid-19 fears and prefer paper or online edition of the newspapers. Hence, such a trend has impacted the Newspaper  Sales badly.

On the other hand, electronic media such as News Channels, Radio and Digital Media such as Websites, YouTube are grabbing people’ attention.

The Social Media is also buzzing with Covid-19 updates though  Social Media and Silicon Valley companies have asked their employees to work from home and follow the preventive measures these include Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Search Giant  Google.

The world should be united to fight this global pandemic that is haunting the world. The US should release funds to help WHO work effectively for global health and expedite the process of vaccine discovery as each day will deprive the near and dear ones of the families around the world. With collaborative efforts, the world can win this war against the pandemic.

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