Over the past few years, countries that haven’t been compliant with COVID-19 (a international standards organization) have been under a lot of pressure to make sure that their businesses are in line with these guidelines.
People have been forced to deal with various government restrictions including curfews, wearing of masks, social distancing and more.
This article is about the negative impact of Covid-19 measures and restrictions. Dr. Grace Muchangi sought the opinions of top public health specialists in the world. Here is what they said.
Effects on Mental Health
Many adults are also reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.
According to Dr. Wanjiru Njugi, reduced social mobility has brought with it adverse implications such as psychological harm that arise from the quarantines, confusion among the quarantined individuals, anger and resentment, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This, he adds, may increase the risk of substance abuse among vulnerable persons.
Mental illnesses also increased, according to Head of Public Affairs at Novartis SSA, Nathan Mulure, and other mental health issues were shown to be on the rise during lockdowns, says Public Health Specialist, Martin Muchangi.
Having to beat the curfew or facing the law are a major concern for most people, especially in Africa.
In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. But as new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour are also expected to rise.((WHO: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/publications-and-technical-guidance/mental-health-and-covid-19))
According to BELL Consultants CEO, Michael Kiragu, this can have serious consequences to the general public mental health.
Fear of arrest and harassment by law enforcement agencies, as negative consequences on mental health, BELL Consultants CEO Michael Kiragu.
Loss of Jobs and Livelihoods
According to BELL Consultants CEO Michael Kiragu, Public Health Communicator Lisa Karani, Epidemiologist Jack Musembi, and Public Health Specialists Dr. Wanjiru Njugi Dr. Lawrence Mbae, and Martin Muchangi the restrictions on movement caused negative effects on economies due to unemployment, loss of jobs, closure of businesses and lack of funds.
This led to decreased household earnings, especially affecting disadvantaged groups from low-income countries, says Jack Musembi.
Decreased Access to Health Care Services
As the COVID‐19 pandemic broke out in Africa, various sectors of health systems in LMICs have been threatened including pharmacy clinical, and hospital sectors respectively. This will have grave consequences on the delivery of healthcare services ((Impact of Access to Health due to Covid-19: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hpm.3067))
Dr. Wanjiru Njugi and Nathan Mulure both agreed that the enforcement of restricted movement and lockdowns caused delays in treatment and diagnosis of patients for both treatable and chronic conditions, especially for cancer patients, stressed Dr. Wanjiru Njugi, whose illness may progress due to lack of access to screening or treatment services.
Martin Muchangi says that the disruption due to COVID 19 threatened the continuity of other health services and this may have led to the loss of gains made in maternal and child health services, as communities tended to avoid health facilities, according to Solomon Omariba
Social Stigma Due to Covid-19 Diagnosis
Anecdotal evidence indicate that stigma associated with the COVID-19 can make people hide when they are sick and can also make people delay in seeking treatment. Individuals can contribute to the reduction of stigma associated with COVID-19, especially those who work at the frontlines and also share information. ((WHO Nigeria: https://www.afro.who.int/news/social-stigma-threatens-covid-19-response-patients-heal-faster-everyones-support))
Public Health Specialist Lisa Karani says that Quarantine and isolation led to the stigmatization of those quarantined and isolated.
Rape and Gender-based Violence
In Malawi, under lockdown, cases of gender-based violence and sexual abuse have increased, but reporting has decreased. Most girls are unable to go out and report [incidents] and have to keep living with their abusers and fearing for their lives.((Civicus: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/interviews/4463-malawi-girls-need-protection-not-just-against-covid-19-but-also-against-endemic-violations-of-their-rights))
Stress brought about by reduced household earnings and other stressful conditions led to increased violence largely affecting women and children.
Malnutrition in the Vulnerable Population
Estimates from the International Food Policy Research Institute suggest that because of the pandemic an additional 140 million people will be thrown into living in extreme poverty on less than US$1·90 per day in 2020((International Food Policy Research Institute: https://www.ifpri.org/blog/poverty-and-food-insecurity-could-grow-dramatically-covid-19-spreads))
Access to proper nutrition was also highlighted as a negative effect of the public health measures, due to food insecurity brought about decreased earnings (Michael Kiragu) or inability to make proper food choices (Dr. Wanjiru Njugi).
Michael Kiragu also added that schoolchildren who rely on school feeding programs for nutrition were also negatively affected during the pandemic due to the prolonged closure of schools, and this could have negatively impacted their nutrition status.
What Can be Done
We shall discuss with these and other experts in the coming weeks how to reduce the impacts of Covid-19 to public health systems.
What is your opinion about these issues and how do you think Public Health Experts can mitigate them?