Everyone now knows that at the beginning of this crisis China tried everything to conceal the full scale of the growing outbreak. But after the whistle was blown on the enormity of the task at hand, things soon began to change.
Today, everywhere from Turkey to Russia, America and beyond, efforts have been made to reduce the severity of the virus, as authorities restrict links between countries, quarantining those who have been in contact with the infected, halting travel, postponing holidays and canceling major events.
While the virus spreads around the world, it appears to be retreating in China. This is important news and, according to Beijing, the country has successfully overcome the epidemic. This is what happens when a country works to combat the virus on all levels. Unfortunately, for countries that cannot implement a regiment to the same thorough extent, the crisis looks likely to extend for a month or more.
It is practically impossible to put into words the scale of the tragedy as the virus continues to spread to all corners of the world. Likewise, simply broadcasting the statistics showing the number of COVID-19 victims feels eerily as though we are talking about objects and not people.
With both Brazil and New Zealand seeing cases, it looks like only Antarctica remains devoid of coronavirus, the enemy knocking on everyone's gate.
The good news is that the situation around the world is gradually changing. People are shifting from blind panic to asking specific questions about the problem at hand, asking: What can I do? What do I need to request from my government to survive?
At this point, another major question ought to be asked: Can the coronavirus turn into a more severe form and become a threat to everyone? This is to some extent impossible as if the virus mutates into a more severe form, the person who is infected will die, taking the virus with them and thus stopped a further spread. Thus, the tendency of viruses is to remain on the lighter side to spread more effectively.
Epidemics are not just tragedies in terms of deaths but also the veil of uncertainty and worry they breed, causing a sudden shift in patterns of behavior and beliefs. People become more suspicious and more naive but above all, they become more afraid to communicate with the foreign and unfamiliar.
Nobody knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last and if the virus's spread does not slow as the Northern Hemisphere enters spring, the world may have to wait until a vaccine for this disease is developed and put into action. The most important issue right now is the effectiveness of health authorities in each country.
Closing factories and suspending production disrupts global production chains, and manufacturers have begun taking steps to reduce their dependence on more remote countries. So far, financial experts have focused on calculating the costs the virus will have on individual industries. While automobile factories worry about a lack of components, textile companies are left without fabric, and luxury goods stores are deprived of customers.
The long-term fear
However, few people think seriously about the impact of uncertainty on the global economy, let alone the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals, companies and perhaps even governments will try to protect themselves with the help of complex, emergency contracts that are implemented under specific conditions, and it is easy to imagine new financial products that will be structured in a way that guarantees payment to auto manufacturers in case the virus causes a certain level of deaths. Such new legal devices could allow for more opportunities to gain capital.
It is neither surprising nor unlikely that the COVID-19 pandemic will play into the hands of modern populism. For some Americans, the Chinese origin of this disease will be another confirmation of their belief that China poses a threat to the world and is a country that "cannot be trusted to act responsibly.” This being the case, the Chinese might find that U.S. measures to combat this virus will be driven by racism aimed at preventing the rise of China. Conspiracy theories have already emerged and, as the world plunges into a pandemic of disinformation, the COVID-19 pandemic only promises to fuel this trend.
The coronavirus will make life completely unnatural, with the media feeding off the chaos. We also have a completely unnatural economy set to function in extraordinary circumstances.
*Researcher, political advisor