The major question for all citizens is how our governments coped and what lessons can we learn.
They only thing for certain is that most governments where ill prepared, some more than others. In many ways the lessons from China can be used as guide to how to address challenges of large-scale epidemics and pandemics in the future.
Let us put the current pandemic in a historical context, see the list of well known pandemics on my blog page, https://www.spartaconsulting.co.uk/post/death-by-infection )
The numbers are staggering in some cases, over 200 million deaths.
What we can learn however is from the Chinese you had it, contained it, and are now getting back to normal, despite some PR disasters. I have borrowed ideas heavily from China experience and experts. Stress and anxiety in the public made the situation worse:
1. The uncertain incubation period of the virus and its possible asymptomatic transmission cause additional fear and anxiety.
2. The government’s initial downplaying of the epidemic’s severity eroded public trust in the government’s decision-making transparency and competency.
3. Unprecedented large-scale quarantine measures in all major cities, which essentially confine residents to their homes, are likely to have a negative psychosocial effect on residents.
4. Reports of shortages of medical protective supplies, medical staff, and hospital beds in Wuhan and the surrounding areas soon followed the citywide quarantine and caused enormous concern throughout the nation.
5. An “infodemic”—an overabundance of (mis)information on social media and elsewhere—poses a major risk to public mental health during this health crisis.
6. In addition, psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, developed in high-risk persons, especially survivors and frontline healthcare workers.
National Health Commission of China, based on its experience, released a notification on January 26, 2020, providing guiding on psychological crisis interventions to reduce the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. This highlighted the following points
7. Crisis intervention should be part of the public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
8. The intervention teams should comprise psychological outreach teams led by psychiatrists and mental health professionals and psychological support hotline teams.
9. A major challenge this approach severe shortage of mental healthcare providers.
10. Unevenly distributed healthcare resources, and the limitations posed by the mass quarantine.
The challenges reported in China indicate that, for many developing countries, telemedicine should be considered, given the widespread adoption of smartphones, to help remove barriers to accessing quality care for mental health.
1. Task-shifting or -sharing (i.e., shifting service delivery of specific tasks from professionals to persons with fewer qualifications or creating a new cadre of providers with specific training) might help, especially in low-resource areas.
2. Countries should also consider requesting support and guidance from global mental healthcare authorities and research communities through international collaborations.
3. The Chinese lesson is that public mental health interventions should be formally integrated into public health preparedness and emergency response plans to effectively curb all outbreaks.
4 As the virus spreads globally, governments must address public mental health needs by developing and implementing well-coordinated strategic plans to meet these needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By combined joint action on the public’s physical and mental health, helps citizens to cope with the crisis and bounce back from disasters, making society more resilient. It seems from the pitiful response of politicians and policy leaders in many parts of the world; the public have the mental scares and consequences of bad leadership post Covid-19.