“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 upwardmarch. Until 9 April 2020, more than 1,519,571 have been tested positive for the virus globally; with more than 88,550 dead, and 331,014 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 erected post-World War-II (especially financial ones), to a growing international skepticism and waning trust between states, rise of authoritarianism and a surging state surveillance impinging upon citizen’s privacy are some of the long-term impacts of this pandemic which are going to reshape the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, the world is officially in a global recession. The fund stated that this 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 per cent. 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 will 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 pandemic. The third world countries will be hit the hardest.As per the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report released on 30 March stated, “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 acrossthe globe will further erodethe perception of international organizations like UN, IMF andWTO 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 will have a negative impact on global trade and cooperation. The bilateral cooperation between 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 will further erode. The US intelligence has alleged that China has 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 Corona Virus as the “Chinese Virus.” Moreover, these allegations against China are now being echoed by the rest of the world as well, as they hold Beijing’s silence complicit in the spread of the virus. China has rejected these 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.Aglimpse 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 this move, it is worrying that other states are consideringtoimplement similar measures.Authoritarianismis 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 stateslike Iran,China and Israel havelaunched coronavirus applications to monitor location of its citizens. Such measures can continue post the pandemic with States making new laws infringing upon citizen’s 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. This step will help in curtailing 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 Corona Virus has shaken the foundations of the global economic system and exposed the world’s lack of preparedness to fight this deadly disease. It is hoped that in the post-COVID-19 world, states would review their strategies and will 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 the centuries. Undoubtedly, the world will come out of this pandemic albeit shaken but not broken. The human spirit will prevail. The complete financial and political repercussions of this pandemic will only come to the forefront after it is over, but it must not stop the cooperation between states because only by working together, we can achieve milestones and miracles.
—The writer is founder of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies