Blogbox | COVID-19

Corona and Kosovo: managing a crisis with few resources

Why Kosovo is in a more vulnerable position during this pandemic.

By - 17.03.2020

Although we live in a globalized world, finding solutions for the coronavirus differs from country to country. States like China and Italy were forced to take “aggressive” measures by quarantining their populations, South Korea established a mass testing system, while Germany and the United Kingdom took their time before closing their schools and introducing isolation measures. Considering the situation, the Kosovo Government is trying to minimize the damage through early measures of self-isolation.

COVID-19 does not affect everyone the same— the elderly, individuals suffering from chronic illnesses and the ones with weaker immune systems are at much higher risk.

Beside differences in people’s immune systems, there are also differences between those who are more exposed to the virus, because of their work in healthcare institutions, the police, stores, bakeries and pharmacies. Yet, there are and will be private businesses that will force their employees to show up at their workplace in the middle of a pandemic, which renders these workers vulnerable. Even the probability of infection is a class issue; someone who has savings can buy supplies for one month and work from home, but others with lower incomes need to go to work and are therefore much more exposed to infection.

It is similar to the film “Parasite” that took home four Oscars at the Academy Awards in February— one scene shows how torrential rain ruins one wealthy family’s weekend plans, but it completely floods the dark, basement apartment of a poor family. So, the same instance of rain affects the rich and the impoverished social classes differently.

Like individuals and families, countries also differ in terms of the resources they possess to fight the virus. Some countries like South Korea use technology that traces the movement of infected individuals through mobile phones, and it has enabled its citizens to drive to testing sites and get tested without leaving their cars. 

Singapore is using contact tracing in order to track down infected individuals. Healthcare workers create protocols with information on the whereabouts of patients over the last two weeks, if they remember, and then the police investigates through cameras and reaches out even to the taxi drivers who drove them.

However, poorer countries with weaker healthcare systems will find it more difficult to withstand this pandemic. 

What the Kosovo Government can do for now is maintain its measures to prevent the spread of the disease across the country, so that its frail healthcare system can hold out against the pandemic.

If Kosovo had a higher number of confirmed infections, then it would be incredibly hard to overcome the crisis. By and large, public hospitals in Kosovo have less resources compared to developed countries — there are fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and even medication available.

Developing, testing and providing a vaccine will take time, and it is estimated that it will take over a year and a half for COVID-19.

What the Kosovo Government can do for now is maintain its measures to prevent the spread of the disease across the country, so that its frail healthcare system can hold out against the pandemic. It has been said over and over again that social distancing works to minimize the damage by “flattening the curve” of new infections; the Kosovo Government decided to close its schools and other spaces that attract large numbers of people on March 11, two days before the first cases were confirmed in Kosovo.

Society must do its part

Previous governments in Kosovo have focused more on road infrastructure than healthcare, and that being so, the COVID-19 pandemic finds us with poorly-equipped hospitals, insufficient healthcare personnel, and limited resources to enable mass testing. So, the best possible way to prevail over this pandemic is social distancing; in other words, staying at home.

Everybody has a responsibility in this regard — going to the cafe because it’s sunny is incredibly irresponsible and can risk spreading the disease. The same goes for the massive influx of fellow Kosovars from Italy, Germany and Switzerland; the pandemic has already spread extensively in these countries, and coming to Kosovo can bring new virus cases, overwhelming the healthcare system.

We need to educate ourselves collectively about the seriousness of the situation and try to hold each other accountable to follow the advice of healthcare authorities and keeping calm.

Stockpiling also doesn’t benefit anybody. Besides increasing the risk of infecting people as they gather in closed spaces, it also overpowers store workers and depletes essentials for other people. Moreover, storing up temporarily makes scarce necessary articles such as protective masks and sanitizers, causing people to panic.

Since the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo, people began buying large amounts of flour, exhausting the supermarket supply and rendering other people anxious about its scarcity. In this light, maybe it would have been better for the government to limit the purchase of flour, something that private vendors have already begun doing. Some mills only sell two bags of flour per person; so, the first in line doesn’t buy more than they need, and the last one is not left with nothing.

Taking hurried and unconsidered steps spreads panic, and panic only exacerbates the situation. Consequently, we need to educate ourselves collectively about the seriousness of the situation and try to hold each other accountable to follow the advice of healthcare authorities and keep calm.

The success of self-isolation measures depends on discipline. If discipline is not present, then other restrictive measures have to be enacted. Albania is sending out police patrols to control unnecessary movement, meanwhile Singapore has fined people for lying at the airport about recent travel to China or other places with a high number of confirmed cases.

Workplaces that keep large numbers of employees in one place, like call centers, need to suspend operations temporarily. As large as the economic harm caused by COVID-19 could be, the harm to the health and lives of people is incomparably higher.

And to everyone else — please stay at home.

Feature image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.

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