So much has happened during the past week on the contagion of COVID 19. Among the most sensational are the slowing down of the spread in Northern Italy; the surge in the USA, especially in New York; the record US$ 2Trillion stimulus package in USA; and the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021. There are however signs of health emergencies in other areas of the world like in South Africa for example. In other smaller countries like those in the Caribbean, there are gradual increases in numbers especially the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. What has emerged as a vital outcome is that the coronavirus is not only a health crisis of immense proportions, but also requires an imminent restructuring of the global economic order.
The Need for a Global Humanitarian Plan
Mr. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General in a statement issued on March 25 captures the enormity of the challenges. “COVID is menacing the whole of humanity and so the whole humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough. Wealthy countries with strong health systems are buckling under the pressure. Now, the virus is arriving in countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.” He called for a Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID 19.
Implicit in the UN Secretary General (UN SG)’s plea is that traditional metrics and assumptions are being rendered irrelevant. More starkly Christine Amanpour, Chief International Anchor for CNN, in the interview with the UN SG (BBC March 25), pronounced : “it’s our turn to answer a question that many of us once asked of our grandparents: What did you do during the war?”
Wall Street Journal editorial “Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown” (March 19) proclaimed that no country can safe guard public health for long at the cost of its economic health.“ if government shut down continues ... the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most imagine". What it advises for USA applies elsewhere: “unless federal and state officials start adjusting their antivirus strategy now to avoid an economic recession, [the outcome] will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009". In other words, the dilemma we may soon face is the terrible choice to either severely damage our livelihoods through extended lockdowns, or to sacrifice the lives of thousands, if not millions, to a fast-spreading virus. It is with this realization that the call for a global humanitarian response to militate against inequalities, is a feasible solution.
The Next Normal or What Next
Nowhere else have I seen more viable solutions than in an article by Mc Kinsey Analysis in collaboration with Oxford University (March 25) which poses 5 scenarios for the new normal that will emerge in the post-viral era: the “next normal.”
It is increasingly clear that this new Decade will be defined by an unprecedented new reality. Even before a solution to COVID 19 is conceivable, we are witnessing the beginning of discussion and debate about what the next normal could entail and how sharply its contours will diverge from those that previously shaped our lives. The question to be answered urgently is, how to begin navigating to what’s next ?
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.