It’d be a massive understatement to claim that the COVID 19 pandemic has bolstered change. It has uprooted our existing economic and social practices and replaced them with the ‘the new normal’. The virus has wreaked widespread havoc across the globe initiating in December of 2019 and is unlikely to be going anywhere, anytime soon.
A relevant question then arises out of this predicament. Is the COVID 19 pandemic different from all the other ones that we’d encountered in the past? More importantly, how should we deal with it differently?
A Drive Down Memory Lane
Humanity has dealt with several other disease outbreaks throughout history. Some of them that closely resemble the COVID 19 pandemic include the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). However, distinct differences are evident when these are compared with how the COVID 19 pandemic has unfolded.
First of all, the COVID 19 is considered to be significantly more contagious than both MERS as well as SARS. One common misconception is that the COVID 19 isn’t as deadly since it has a lower mortality rate when compared to the other two viruses. However, what is of relevance here is the absolute number of deaths caused by these viruses globally, which if we look at, tells us that the COVID 19 has resulted in close to three times the total number of deaths when compared to the other two. Hence, the word ‘deadly’ is a moot point here, and should rather refer to the reproduction rate of the virus which is significantly higher for the COVID 19 than the other two.
Another common virus that is commonly compared to the COVID 19 is the Influenza virus, or the “flu”. It’s evident where the comparison arises from. Both of these cause fever, muscle aches, cough, and fatigue. However, the key difference lies in their mortality rates. The COVID 19 has a mortality rate of around 3% on average whereas the Influenza exhibits a mortality rate of a meager 0.1% as the global average.
Another point of contention between the two stems from the fact that the COVID 19 can be transmitted via asymptomatic conditions, which isn’t possible for the Influenza virus. What it signifies in real-time is that the COVID 19 is capable of both infecting as well as killing a larger chunk of the population when compared to the Influenza.
A Saga of Economic Disruption
Apart from disrupting our social lives and killing millions, the COVID 19 has also shattered economies worldwide. If we look at India, the economy has received a fatal blow. Multiple industries have been severely affected due to the pandemic including airlines, tourism, entertainment, retail, and real estate. Most of these have been the victims of stringent checks on movement worldwide, whether locally or internationally. Esteemed economists and the International Monetary Fund have declared the current economic status to be headed towards a recession; the worst we’ve encountered since the great depression.
Moreover, the world had reached the epitome of globalization recently with every nation relying on goods and services transmission across borders to maintain its fiscal standing. With the advent of social distancing measures, however, industries that relied heavily on the movement of people such as the tourism and airline industries have received a tremendous blow. Other industries such as the entertainment and retail industries relied on customer engagement for generating revenue. Massive lockdowns have resulted in a sharp decline in customer engagement and have pushed several of these businesses to the point of expiration.
What Can Be Done
The only possible solution to this predicament is to adopt change. Change in ways of doing business, of delivering goods, and in lifestyles. A new and more robust strategy that addresses both these aspects is the need of the hour.
For starters, the COVID 19 has made it evident that our healthcare systems aren’t adequate to deal with such overarching pandemics. Higher governmental investment into constructing a robust healthcare system is the need of the work. This includes building better hospital infrastructure, training doctors in pandemic prevention strategies, and to come up with a contingency plan for manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators for taxing times. Another requirement is to incorporate artificial intelligence and big data in healthcare research and testing to reduce the response time while developing a potential antidote for a virus. Humanity will survive this pandemic, just like we’ve survived the ones before. We’ll adapt, merge into a different society, with different rules of survival. Some businesses will flourish while others will cease to exist. However, the core of humanity will remain intact and a new dawn will appear, shining bright like it always has.