A year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The microscopic coronavirus, in one way or another, has changed the lives of the 7.8 billion people on Earth.
While the long-term impact of this global health crisis may take years to understand, its immediate effect has already changed the world as we know it. In the infographic below, we break down the latest figures and reports to help you understand the global repercussions of the pandemic.
For each topic, we analyze the most comprehensive and reliable data sets available globally. Numbers are often presented as averages across a country, so it is important to remember that averages can mask inequalities, especially when it comes to areas or populations at risk that are not reported.
Main causes of death
At least 2.7 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. While the world’s leading causes of death for 2020 have yet to be released, compared to 2019, COVID is among the top five causes of death.
In 2019, 55.4 million people died worldwide. Heart disease killed the most people (8.9 million), followed by strokes (6.2 million) and lung disease (3.2 million). Collectively, they are known as non-communicable diseases, which means that they are not transmitted from person to person. On the contrary, the highly contagious coronavirus is a communicable disease.
The graph below shows how one year of coronavirus deaths compares to the leading causes of death in 2019.
In the US, the country with the highest number of deaths from COVID-19, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the coronavirus has killed more Americans in one year (540,000) than the flu in the last 10 years combined (368,000).
The WHO estimates that nearly 1 billion people around the world live with a mental disorder. In 2019, 703,000 people took their own lives, making suicide the 17th most common cause of death. Despite that, countries spend only about 2 percent of their national health budgets on mental health.
The UN has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause a long-term increase in the number and severity of mental health problems. Evidence on the mental health consequences of lockdowns and social distancing is still being studied. While we do not have large-scale data on the effect that COVID-19 has had on mental health globally, several smaller studies (PDF) indicate higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Here are five tips from Dr. Devora Kestel, Director of the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, on how to protect our mental health.
Blockades around the world
By definition, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a disease. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the world’s population has experienced lockdown measures, lasting from weeks to months.
According to data compiled by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, more than 100 countries and territories in 2021 have reintroduced stay-at-home orders with a few exceptions, such as essential travel, daily exercise, or grocery shopping.
The chart below summarizes the duration of lockdowns nationwide for 12 months (January 16, 2020 to January 15, 2021).
According to World Bank estimates, the world economy contracted 4.3 percent in 2020, wiping out trillions of dollars. Countries that were already facing economic difficulties got into even more debt. An Oxfam International report estimates that it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest people to recover from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the bright side, the World Bank expects the global economy to expand by 4 percent in 2021 with the launch of vaccines and investments that will lead the recovery.
The graph below shows the effect COVID-19 had on the global economy. All major economies except China contracted over the course of 2020. Other countries that saw their gross domestic product (GDP) grow include Bangladesh (2%), Benin (2%), Burundi (0.3%), Egypt (3.6 %), Ethiopia (6.1%), Ghana (1.1%), Guinea (5.2%), Guyana (23.2%), Ivory Coast (1.8%), Myanmar (1.7 %), Nepal (0.2%), Niger (1%), South Sudan (9.3%), Tajikistan (2.2%), Tanzania (2.5%), Turkey (0.5%), Uzbekistan (0.6%) and Vietnam (2.8%).
This in no way suggests that these countries were better off after the coronavirus. Rather, several of these countries were projected to achieve even higher growth before the pandemic and that several others would rely on loans to prop up their economies.
Global poverty and unemployment
The coronavirus has disproportionately affected the poor. For the first time in 20 years, world poverty is likely to increase significantly. The World Bank estimates that the coronavirus has pushed between 119 and 124 million more people into extreme poverty. That brings the total number of people living on less than $ 1.90 a day to 730 million, which is roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.
In 2020, 114 million people lost their jobs, according to the latest unemployment figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO). But looking at official unemployment figures alone is not enough to measure unemployment. As the ILO points out, many more workers have fallen into “economic inactivity”. This means that they were forced to withdraw from the workforce. Many more may still be employed but operate with reduced working hours or pay cuts.
Women and younger workers are among the worst affected, raising concerns about growing gender inequality and the loss of a generation of workers.
In addition, the United Nations Development Program has warned that almost half of all jobs in Africa could disappear due to the pandemic.
The rich got richer
A report (PDF) published by Oxfam International, a UK-based charity, said the pandemic has harmed people living in poverty far more than the rich. Those most affected are women, blacks, people of African descent, indigenous peoples and historically marginalized and oppressed communities around the world, according to the report.
To put that income inequality into perspective, a report by Swiss Bank UBS found that the world’s richest people saw their wealth increase by $ 3.9 trillion between March and December 2020. The 10 richest billionaires increased their wealth by $ 540 thousand million during this time.
Many of the world’s richest men, including Elon Musk (US), Zhong Shanshan (China) and Mukesh Ambani (India), have seen their wealth more than double since the pandemic was declared.
1.7 billion students out of school
In 2020, the closure of schools and universities disrupted the education of more than 1.7 billion students in 188 countries, or about 99 percent of the world’s student population, according to UNESCO.
Today, nearly 900 million students, more than half of the world’s student population, continue to face severe disruptions in education, ranging from school closings in 29 countries to reduced or part-time classes in another 68, according to reports. latest UNESCO data.
While online education allowed classes to continue virtually, the UN estimates that nearly 500 million children, especially in poorer countries or rural areas, have been excluded from remote learning due to lack of technology or policies.
Oxfam estimates that the pandemic will reverse the last 20 years of global progress in girls’ education, further increasing poverty and inequality.
The worst year for air travel
In 2019, more than 4.5 billion passengers made 38 million flights worldwide. With lockdowns and quarantines for most of 2020, many canceled or postponed travel plans.
International passenger demand in 2020 was down 75.6 percent compared to 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Global flight-tracking service Flightradar24 also saw a 42 percent drop in commercial flights from 2019. Many airlines were forced to operate cargo-only flights to keep supermarket shelves stocked and ordering online.
Locks from space
On the left are images taken before the lockdown, in contrast to images of the lockdown taken in March 2020 to show the effect of the pandemic in cities around the world. Unprecedented closures emptied streets, interrupted travel and slowed economic activity, temporarily reducing air pollution.
Below we see how Mecca, Wuhan and Venice saw a sharp decline in visitors within weeks of the pandemic. See satellite images of more cities here.
In the first weeks of the COVID lockdowns, there were reports of clearer and less polluted skies. For example, residents of Venice, Italy, reported clear running water in their normally bustling canals for the first time in years.
However, this appears to have been short-lived. A recent report by the International Energy Agency found that while global energy-related CO2 emissions fell 5.8 percent overall in 2020, the largest annual percentage decline since World War II, the most recent data show that global CO2 pollution recovered to pre-COVID levels.
Professor Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps CO2 program, explained the situation in May 2020: “People might be surprised to learn that the response to the coronavirus outbreak has not influenced CO2 levels further. The accumulation of CO2 is a bit like garbage in a landfill. As we keep broadcasting, it keeps piling up. “