COVID-19: perspectives on the immeasurable challenge of the 21st century

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Alice Soares Orçay, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Santo Amaro (UNISA), in São Paulo, Brazil. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic situation of COVID-19. The virus was observed in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and quickly spread to the other countries and continents of the world. Due to the heterogeneity of factors related to the virus, such as antigenic sex, age, and morbidities, especially its global impact, the COVID-19 pandemic is considered the greatest challenge of the 21st century.

There are more than 600 million cases of the disease, reaching the exorbitant number of more than 6 million deaths worldwide. The images broadcast daily in the media reached the viewer as scenarios that saddened and caused despair. Health professionals worked hard to meet the demands of those affected by the unknown virus, science was promptly in favor of life, and vaccines, still in 2020, began to appear: it was like a breath of fresh air for the population.

However, the challenges did not stop, as new variants appeared and new outbreaks of the disease continue throughout the countries; it is not the end yet.

The impacts of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 are not yet absolutely measurable, since so many people, sectors, and systems have been affected around the world.

The repercussions on healthcare activities are represented by the overloading of the number of people infected with the virus and the postponement of consultations, exams, and elective procedures, mainly due to the swelling of healthcare systems and social isolation. The absence of contingency plans is an important factor in this regard. Meanwhile, in the economic and international policy sector, the consequences are negative and asymmetric, accentuated by vulnerability in the production and consumption chains. In addition, isolation and social distancing have affected the quality of life, the routine and, above all, the mental health of individuals.

On the other hand, the start of the vaccination process in record time brought new perspectives to contain the pandemic, reducing the number of cases and deaths, with more than 60% of the world’s population vaccinated.

There is still a lot to be done: vaccination coverage, re-establishment of sectors, mainly, health, economy and education, analysis of individuals with sequels after infection by COVID-19, there are many challenges ahead. Fully vaccinated people are showing new infections of the virus and studies on immunity decline, new variants and other determinants are crucial. The education sector needs to make up for the delays in education for children and youth, who were impacted during the pandemic. Still, an important challenge is to understand the sequelae that arise in COVID-19 patients, as well as long-term unfoldings.

“If you want to predict the future, study the past.” Confucius, philosopher and thinker.

If society wishes to avoid other conditions of global proportion such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to study previous pandemics in depth and, more deeply, the one we have recently experienced and still experience.

About the author

Ana Alice Soares Orçay is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Santo Amaro (UNISA), in São Paulo, Brazil. She is currently the Local Vice President for External Affairs (LVPE) of IFMSA BRAZIL UNISA. She is very interested in the scientific field of health research.

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