Covid-19 Escalating Risks

IMPACTS and escalating RISKS of the Covid-19 pandemic

This is an introduction to our work on escalating risks regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany and Iran – based on a review of press releases and scientific research between April 2020 and February 2021.

Vulnerable Groups

A crisis like COVID-19 usually has a large impact on other fields, disrupting social, cultural, economical domains in different ways. The crisis doesn’t hit all people equally – certain social groups are more vulnerable than others. This includes people with pre-existing conditions:

For example people with Type 2 diabetes seem to be at increased risk for severe illness from the SARS-COV-2 virus – a study from the US showed diabetes was with about 33% one of the most common co-morbidities in hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

Among the vulnerable groups are also women and children they are exposed to higher risks of domestic violence with women also suffering economically as they are more likely interrupting their careers to meet the demands of child care and homeschooling.

A large vulnerable group are the socially underprivileged, who often live in more confined housing and work in jobs that offer little protection from contacts. [According to a study from the Robert Koch Institute] In Germany, the COVID-19 mortality rate was 50-70 percent higher in socially disadvantaged areas. Also migrant communities are at greater risk because they are less likely to be reached by public crisis communication and support.

Other groups, such as the homeless, lack even the epidemic protection of a domestic isolation. Therefore, countries like Iran especially targeted marginalized groups e.g. drug users with special information campaigns.

Escalating Risks

In addition to the mentioned vulnerabilities there is the problem of escalating risks for example intersecting disasters – The longer a crisis like COVID-19 is not solved, the higher the probability that it will overlap with other crises.

For example in 2020 there were heavy wildfires in Australia, earthquakes in Turkey and floods in several Iranian provinces.

There is a danger of multiple risks aplifiying each other and feeding back into the COVID-19 crisis. An example of this is water scarcity in Iran. The arid country was already struggling with droughts and as a result of the crisis, in some cities water consumption increased by 35%.5 The stressed water reserves in turn endanger hygienic measures.

But the pandemic also had a severe economic impact increasing the vulnerability of many households due to effects like bancruptcies and unemployment.

At the same time, supply chain disruptions arose due to closed borders with Iran being subject to sanctions already before. This affected also the medical sector with a shortage of disinfectants and laboratory equipment.

Moreover, the medical sector was pushed to its capacity limits by the COVID-19 cases. Therefore other diseases could not be treated adequately and also preventive care was limited

Effekts and Dynamics of high case numbers

There are certain effects and dynamics of high case numbers. If case numbers rise above a particular level, new effects arise that can rapidly worsen the crisis this is because certain ressources like beds, ventilators medical staff are limited.

Also some pandemic counter measures like contacts tracing or testing reach their limits at a certain point. These ‘tipping points’ can be identified as sharp jumps in the mortality rate. Such ‘non linear effects’ are often major unknowns in a crisis, but can severely influence scope for action in crisis management.

Mind Map: Şermin Güven
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