What will the world look like after the coronavirus? The COVID-19 global pandemic is rippling like wildfire around the globe. While for most of us, it could be as manageable as a mild bout of the flu, it will be deadly for many of our most vulnerable.
Country after country is declaring a State of Emergency and closing off their borders to contain the virus. Here in Barcelona citizens must stay at home unless they have a strict need to go outside to buy food or medicine. Those who resist even to take their children outside face fines of up to 2000 euros.
Scientists claim the virus is yet to peak in Europe and warns that the highly contagious nature of the disease (you can be contagious up to 4 days before you show symptoms, and still infect people even after you appear to have recovered). This means the virus has an incubation period of up to 3 weeks. Half of this time you will seem to the inner and outer eye to be completely healthy. The transmission rate of the virus shows the number of confirmed cases (the actual number being much larger) doubling every 72 hours.
What does this mean?
The world is on the brink of a global recession. Starting in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China the virus quickly brought national industry to a near halt. Chinese exports fell by over 17 per cent causing a loss of $50 billion dollars to world economies. Many countries are dangerously dependent on Chinese imports and this was a virtual chainsaw attack to the global supply chain.
The impact was seen in the markets. Stocks plummeted as investors panicked and the US Treasury yields reached record lows. The stock market has crashed further and faster than it did in 1929. According to Bloomberg, the wealthiest 500 people in the world lost a total $331 billion on Thursday, and an accumulative 16 per cent of their collective net worth since January. Jeff Bezos the multimillionaire CEO of Amazon lost $.8.1 net worth in just one day. The financial make-up of the world has been wiped off and the next makeover is as yet unknown.
A financial meltdown is upon us. Flights are being cancelled around the world, and panicked holidaymakers are flooding the departure lounges of airports. The tourism industry of Spain is collapsing and may never be the same. Millions of jobs around the world could be lost.
“Andrà tutto bene” – Everything will be alright
Virologists predict that the COVID-19 pandemic could last until June earliest, or September latest. While it could take up to 18 months for it to hit the public market. Nine companies worldwide, including Johnson & Johnson, are working on a virus, and recent progress has been seen on lab animals. A US supercomputer called Summit has done a calculation on drug compounds in 2 days that would have taken ordinary computer months. It is identifying the combination which would stop the novel coronavirus from infecting cells.
The novel coronavirus is here to stay and we will have to alter the way we work as a society to deal with it.
The hyperinterconnected world is under the magnifying glass. Do we really need to fly to business meetings around the world? Or could we just use Zoom. Do we really need so many white collar employees pouring into offices to do jobs that machines will very soon, or can already do?
While the impact on global markets paints a grim picture of the economic stability of the future – there is hope.
Perhaps the exposure of potentially redundant jobs could push more governments into accepting a universal basic income that could decrease the financial divide between richest and poorest.
Perhaps the “social distancing” being practiced now out of fear and concern, will change our behavior patterns as habit in the future. If we go to fewer mass gatherings (events, conferences, festivals) and choose to take vacations closer to home, the global carbon footprint will be hugely reduced in size.
Perhaps the panicked hand-washing taking place to stop the spread of the virus will lead to a global awareness of the need for better personal hygiene. As the fear of potentially virus-riddled doorknobs, lift-buttons and strange hands spreads around the world as fast as COVID-19 itself, so our changed behavior patterns could protect us from future virus pandemics.
Perhaps the voluntarily self-isolation or enforced quarantine will push us apart physically yet bring us closer as a community. The common enemy of the novel coronavirus could be a mutually bonding phenomenon that unites everyone from feuding neighbours to hostile governments as we fight “WWV/World War Virus” as one.
Finally, perhaps the COVID-19 global pandemic will make us be kinder to the Earth. We have already seen from satellite images from Space that the air quality above China is the best in living memory. Pollution levels across Europe are plummeting as capital cities turn into dystopian ghost towns during nation-wide lockdowns.
As thousands of flights are cancelled around the world, so thousands of tons of CO2 are spared from the atmosphere.
This is a scary time. If we are not immediately concerned for our safety, we are worried about our more vulnerable friends and relatives. We should also make sure that the civil liberties we are temporarily relinquishing – by choice or by force – are returned to us in full when the pandemic is in check.
In the face of a global crisis we need to remain cool, calm and a community. Let’s take some courage from the Three Musketeers – All for One, and One for All!
I wish you all the best in this difficult time.