Coronavirus Complicating Disaster Relief

COVID-19 is snarling the already difficult task of responding to natural disasters.

Disaster response is a truly global effort. As some countries fail to contain the spread of the virus, countries impacted by natural disasters will have to weigh current infection levels with potential future outbreaks when accepting disaster relief aid.

After a recent cyclone struck the island of Vanuatu, which has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Australian government sent humanitarian supplies. But they were left untouched for days due to strict quarantine rules.

When global virus hotspot India was hit by two destructive cyclones, its health systems and infrastructure were disrupted, and social distancing was near impossible among those displaced.

Disasters also stretch government budgets already strained by pandemic response efforts.

Relief organizations distributed hygiene kits in Oaxaca, Mexico after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Mexico’s health sector development has long ranked low globally, and its long-neglected public hospitals have been strained further by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evacuating people from disaster-hit areas to shelters could also add more risk to COVID-19 spread.