COVID-19 pandemic is considered as the most crucial, the greatest challenge that humankind has faced since the 2nd World War. As per the July 29th WHO report, it has affected over 196,982,881 people and killed more than 4,208,695 people worldwide. Till now there is no report of any clinically approved antiviral drugs effective against COVID-19. Almost all the nations are struggling to slow down the transmission of the disease by testing & treating patients, quarantining suspected persons through contact tracing, restricting large gatherings, maintaining complete or partial lockdown, etc.(1).
It has rapidly spread around the world, posing enormous health, economic, environmental and social challenges to the entire human population. Africa accounts 3.4% of the disease burden with the available data source; of which Ethiopia ranks the 5th with the case burden of more than 11,711 active cases with one of the lowest testing capacity of 25 persons per million population(2). Except the fortunate lighter case fatality, we, as a nation, are dealing with all the other overlooked challenges of social, economic psychological, stretched health services of the community as a whole.
Among the major unwanted impacts of the pandemic, 7.1 and 12% of the population in China had anxiety and depression respectively. The study showed that the psychological impacts were highly associated with perceived possibility of sequelae even after being cured of COVID-19, daily online time, the source of the information relevant to COVID-19, frequency of receiving information regarding COVID-19, and negative feelings triggered by social media. There needs to be a consistent message from authorities to reduce the panic and confusion of the public, and to decrease public exposure to persistently negative information(2).
Different studies done early in the course in Ethiopia showed that the psychological impact of COVID-19 was even higher with anxiety ranged from 27.7% to 100% and depression 12.4% to 55.7%(3).
A facility-based cross-sectional study conducted from June 1 to July 30, 2020 among chronic medical patients in Mettu Karl Referral Hospital, Ethiopia, showed that the prevalence of depression and anxiety among chronic medical patients was 55.7% and 61.8% respectively(4).
Cross-sectional study conducted in urban residents in West Shewa Zone showed that, the proportion of COVID-19-induced anxiety disorder was found to be 18.1%, low perceived risk is one of the associated factor(5).
Despite these emotional distresses, our actual practices of physical distance, hand hygiene and wearing mask are deemed to be suboptimal.
And, where are we now?
Despite all the gaps, the second wave in our country seemed to be decreasing starting from early in May through the end of June making our situation look a bit less dire. The introduction of the vaccination has also diluted the fear and precautions of the handful proportion of the population.
However, the pattern in this month of August appears to warn the possibility of a more concerning third wave with delta variant, the status of which is yet to be known in Ethiopia. More importantly, we are in the worst shape of all time in the pandemic era if the current level of preventive measures we follow is considered.
In addition to claiming thousands of lives, it is obvious that the pandemic has economically costed the country a lot; playing its great share in the observed inflation. We escalate and stick to the preventive measures or watch our nation continue paying the price of human lives and economic losses. Better efforts are expected from individuals, associations, professionals, political leaders, religious leaders and others.
1. Chakraborty I, Maity P. COVID-19 outbreak: Migration, effects on society, global environment and prevention. Science of the Total Environment. 2020;728:138882.
2. Ren Z, Zhou Y, Liu Y. The psychological burden experienced by Chinese citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak: prevalence and determinants. BMC Public Health. 2020;20(1):1-10.
3. Bekele F, Machessa DF, Sefera B. Prevalence and associated factors of psychological impact of COVID-19 among community, health care workers and patients in Ethiopia: A systematic review. Annals of Medicine and Surgery. 2021:102403.
4. Hajure M, Tariku M, Mohammedhussein M, Dule A. Depression, anxiety and associated factors among chronic medical patients amid COVID-19 pandemic in Mettu Karl Referral Hospital, Mettu, Ethiopia, 2020. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment. 2020;16:2511.
5. Birhanu A, Tiki T, Mekuria M, Yilma D, Melese G, Seifu B. COVID-19-induced anxiety and associated factors among urban residents in West Shewa Zone, Central Ethiopia, 2020. Psychology Research and Behavior Management. 2021;14:99.
Author: Garoma Kitessa, MD, MPH
August 12, 2021