“Public health is really closely tied to the social, political and economic issues of the world. Where they go awry, public health can quickly go awry.”–Michael Osterholm
The world is currently grappling with the yet untamable monster of Covid-19, as the global tally of people infected is on an upward march. Until April 6, more than 1,274,923 have been tested positive for the virus globally; with more than 69,000 dead, and 260,484 recovered. As clichéd as it sounds, the world as we knew has completely changed. Undoubtedly, the post-Covid-19 world will have a different reality, as compared to the one we were living in.
From increased distrust of global institutions set up post-World War-II (especially financial ones), to a growing international skepticism and waning trust among states, rise of authoritarianism, and a surging state surveillance impinging upon citizens’ privacy are some of the long-term impacts of the pandemic, which are going to reshape the world.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the world is officially in a global recession. It stated that the recession would be worse than the one following the 2008 economic crisis with no respite in sight. Undeniably, the pandemic has injected a lot of economic uncertainty across the globe with almost the entire world in a shutdown mode. In the first three months of 2020, the global stock markets have crashed around by 30 percent. The longer the lockdown lasts, the worse the economic conditions will get. The global supply chains have been upended, and it will take time for them to become functional again. An unprecedented level of unemployment is on the rise globally, with no clarity on when businesses will open and normal life would resume. Though researchers are on task to find a vaccine and treatments for the virus but it will take time, from some months to a year or more, until then social distancing and lockdown is the only way forward to break the transmission chain and contain the spread of the pandemic.
The Third World countries will be hit the hardest. As per the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Developing countries, including Pakistan, will be hit hardest by the economic shockwaves caused by the novel coronavirus crisis that has shaken the world and will need a support package of up to $2.5 trillion to cope with the damage.”
The wave of economic distress across the globe will further erode the perception of international organizations, like the UN, IMF, and WTO, etc., which have already been under severe criticism from different quarters. The states will adopt more inward policies in order to protect their interests and it would have a negative impact on global trade and cooperation.
The bilateral cooperation among states, which was already under strain prior to the pandemic, will further weaken. The countries will view each other with more skepticism and the transparency in relations would further erode. The US intelligence has alleged that China hid the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak which aggravated the situation globally and is not revealing the real number of pandemic casualties, so much so that the US President went ahead and termed the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” Moreover, the allegations against China now echo in the rest of the world as well, as they hold Beijing’s silence complicit in the spread of the virus. China has rejected the accusations.
One of the after-effects of the pandemic is going to be the undermining of democracy as an institution and an increase in authoritarianism around the world. A glimpse of this has been seen already in the form of Hungary’s new “Corona Virus laws”, which give the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban sweeping new powers, without any time limit. Although the EU and others have criticized the move, it is worrying that other states are considering implementing similar measures. Authoritarianism is creeping slowly and steadily into the power capitals of Europe and other regions, where populist leaders are “‘using the pandemic as an excuse to tighten control over their countries.”
Another victim of the post Covid-19 world will be the civil liberties and privacy of citizens. Currently, several states, like Iran, China and Israel, have launched coronavirus applications to monitor the location of its citizens. The measures can continue after the pandemic, with states making news laws infringing upon citizens’ privacy with an increased electronic surveillance in the name of protection.
One of the positive impacts amidst all this, which has already been announced, is the ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals by China. The step will help curtail any future epidemic or disease which might spread from the eating or trading of wild animals.
In order to prevent a future epidemic or pandemic, developed countries, multinational corporations and conglomerates will now invest more in research and development, because the novel coronavirus has shaken the foundations of the global economic system and exposed the world’s lack of preparedness to fight the deadly disease. It is hoped that in the post Covid-19 world, states would review their strategies, and give scientists and healthcare professionals their due in protecting the people.
History is witnessing that humanity has overcome a number of deadly pandemics and epidemics over centuries. Undoubtedly, the world will come out of the pandemic albeit shaken but not broken. The human spirit will prevail. The complete financial and political repercussions of the pandemic will only come to the forefront after it is over, but it must not stop the cooperation among states because only by working together, we can achieve milestones and miracles.