The COVID-19 pandemic was first discovered at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. The Chinese authorities were first alerted that there was possibly a new or unknown virus that caused an extremely contagious respiratory illness when the number of people contracting an unknown respiratory illness like pneumonia.
Tests and research soon showed that this illness’s cause was a novel (new) coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This virus’s origins are still unknown, but it is known that the virus is a zoonosis. In other words, its original host was an animal like a bat. And it jumped to a human host under stressful conditions such as the Chinese wet markets.
Another excellent example of a zoonosis that jumps from an animal to a human host is the Ebola virus found in West and Central Africa. It is also a coronavirus and causes a haemorrhagic fever, which is fatal most of the time.
The journal article titled, “Evidence for SARS-CoV-2 Infection of Animal Hosts,” notes that “COVID-19 is the first known pandemic caused by a coronavirus…which is the third virus in the family Coronaviridae to cause fatal infections in humans after SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.”
Secondly, this article highlights the fact that animals are a causal element of the pandemic. “SARS-CoV-2 originated from [an] animal reservoir, most likely bats and/or pangolins.”
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic
There are three global challenges to this virus:
- It is highly contagious.
- It spreads rapidly via person-to-person droplet transmission.
- The world’s population does not have any natural immunity to this virus.
Thus, the only way to prevent its rapid spread is through social distancing or social isolation. In short, people have to stay away from each other to control and prevent its spread.
Consequently, most of the world’s governments implemented national lockdowns, closing all non-essential businesses, and confining residents to their homes. The only time people were allowed out was to seek medical care, exercise once a day, and shop for necessary supplies.
These actions resulted in an almost instantaneous shutdown of the global economy, driving the world into a recession not seen since the 1930s Great Depression. As a result, it is expected that the global economy will lose as much as $8.8 trillion (USD) over two years (2020 and 2021).
The mental health consequences of the stress and anxiety of the unknown, as well as the need to isolate from other people for the foreseeable future, are not fun either. The JAMA Network website published an article titled, “The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing”, highlighting the following:
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears likely that there will be substantial increases in anxiety and depression, substance use, [and] loneliness.”
This article’s authors also note that there is a shortage of literature available on the mental health consequences of an epidemic or pandemic. However, research demonstrates that there “are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioural disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse.”
Finally, the UK government has “issued psychological first aid guidance from Mental Health UK.”
Smoking and the pandemic: What you should know
The research paper titled “Understanding Postdisaster Substance Use and Psychological Distress Using Concepts from the Self-Medication Hypothesis and Social Cognitive Theory,” used Self-Medication Hypothesis and Social Cognitive Theory to explain the increase in psychological distress and substance abuse after a disaster.
This paper goes on to describe a disaster as “unexpected events that terrify, horrify, or engender substantial losses for many people simultaneously.”
This quotation describes the quintessential nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consequently, it stands to reason that there will be a substantial increase in substance abuse, including a dramatic increase in the number of tobacco cigarettes smoked a day.
However, in the article titled, “A million people have stopped smoking since the COVID pandemic hit Britain,” statistics confirm that the reality is different.
Research conducted by Action on Smoking and Health shows that more than 1 million people have stopped smoking since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. And about 440 000 people were unsuccessful in their attempts to quit.
At this juncture, it is essential to be mindful of the following points:
- Smokers who have quit smoking tobacco cigarettes have turned to e-cigarettes as a viable alternative, and a means to quit smoking.
- This article’s topic highlights the city of Manchester. However, as Manchester falls within the UK’s boundaries, the statistics and available information encompass the UK as a whole and not specifically a single city.
Note: The UK government has backed e-cigarettes and a better alternative to tobacco. A landmark review published in 2015 by Public Health England stated that independent experts found that e-cigarettes are about 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. And e-cigarettes also have the potential to help smokers quit.