The coronavirus pandemic poses a difficult problem for governments around the world, more so for those of developing countries, which lack the healthcare infrastructure and political control, that most developed countries have at their disposal.
The consensus around the world is that herd immunity is unachievable due to the mass deaths and political outrage such a move would invoke. Therefore, the next best step is to implement isolation techniques such as the ‘lockdown’ imposed by the UK government. However, with the majority of the population in developing countries living in urban areas and cramped conditions such as slums, it is difficult to steer clear of people and stop the spread entirely, as evidenced by the current hotspots of coronavirus coming primarily from developing urban areas, such as Delhi, Sao Paulo, and Cape Town.
A large threat that the pandemic poses is to hinder all progress with regards to improving disease treatment for HIV and malaria. With the demand for healthcare workers skyrocketing, their time must be prioritised to treating those with urgent needs, which could lead to positive trends stopping or even going into reverse. Thus, one of the most critical issues developing countries must counteract is trying to keep healthcare workers healthy and working during the pandemic. Without these workers staying safe, the virus will spiral out of control. Maintaining the wellbeing of healthcare workers and optimising their utility will go a long way in preventing the spread of the virus.
With the developing world afflicted by the virus much later than most of the western world, countries have been able to observe how various government procedures have worked in different countries, and how best to treat the virus. Although the situation in developing countries is different, given the significant number of cramped urban areas and members of the population forced to live in close proximity of one another, a lot can be learnt from what has or hasn’t worked in the past. The Swedish approach for example, which involved keeping as much of the society and economy as open as possible, would more than likely not work for many developing countries, as social distancing measures would be difficult to implement especially given the lack of space in urban areas.
Given that developing countries can expect a surge in cases in the coming months, governments should do everything in their power to improve medical infrastructure, to increase hospital capacity to allow health professionals to cater to as many people as possible and procure essential medical equipment such as ventilators.
Furthermore, another issue facing these developing countries is access to testing equipment and the inability to achieve an effective ‘track and trace’ scheme, given the lack of access to the internet. Therefore, to combat this, governments should introduce a form of lockdown, which is the easiest way of ensuring a lack of contact between people. This is especially important for those most vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly or those having pre-existing health conditions. However, the lack of access to the internet is an essential factor to be considered in the imposition of a lockdown, seeing as many people will be unable to work from home.
The act of public engagement and creating a sense of community will play a vital role in impeding fatalities resulting from the pandemic. If a whole community buys into an idea, then it is significantly more likely to come into fruition. If lockdowns are imposed, as have been done in many places, then it is imperative that the whole community embraces the idea, because only a few disobeying the rules can have an extreme impact. Governments can take steps to enforce this, whether it be by having patrol guards to maintain order, or as is the case in Botswana and South Africa, banning the sale of alcohol to prevent parties and huge gatherings during the lockdown period. In Botswana, the government gave no warning, which prevented the stockpiling of alcohol. Ergo, governments can assist in enforcing lockdown rules. Still, public engagement is needed to ensure that everyone gets behind the idea of a lockdown, or any large-scale coronavirus prevention system.
To effectively combat the virus, developing countries have significant steps to take. Maintaining the wellbeing of healthcare workers will ensure consistent treatment throughout the pandemic. By looking at previous responses, governments can create an approach which would work best for their country. Improving healthcare facility infrastructure will allow medical centres to cope with the spike in admissions. Finally, the hardest of these is creating a sense of community whereby everyone buys into the government solution. The need for such a sense of community is especially important in urban areas where everyone lives close to one another.