Most of us have been closely watching the world’s reaction to the corona virus pandemic. I must say, there is a lot of learn from the actions, reactions and inactions.
For example, I have looked at China’s overall approach to combating SARS-COV-2 for a few months now, and my heart goes out to the families who have lost their loved ones. Also I am immensely proud of the tirelessly work that the healthcare professionals have done to protect people. The country had to deploy the entire resources available to stop the virus from getting out of control. But we have not won the fight against the virus, not at all. Quite clearly the containment effort hasn’t worked out, as we hoped it would, and therefore WHO has declared SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic. The virus has managed to spread across the world. And this is where I feel, we all need to introspect, if we are to learn something from the ongoing crisis.
I am now eagerly studying the ongoing efforts of the US Government in dealing with the spread of the Virus. The effort to ban flights from Europe, relying on the private sector to help out with testing as well as treatment, announcing initiative to help people with their financial situation etc are all aimed creating a response to fight the spread of the virus. You can clearly see a real difference already, in how various governments around the world are trying to respond to the ongoing crisis.
The Italian approach has mostly been public sector driven, whereas the U.K.’s approach has been more or less predictable or shall I say expected. In short, governments are doing whatever it can to protect people, and yes while their approach or response is obviously different. This also makes a good study case. And while doing my personal introspection on the overall situation around the SARS- CoV-2 pandemic, I do wonder, what should be our approach going forward and also what’s missing ?
And if we observe things closely, the answers are all there. My own sense is that, public health and well-being as a key priority should be embedded in the whole of the government function and agencies, not just the department of health. Also the policy makers including of the central banks as well as regulators should give public health and well-being the same priority, as they would do give to the stability and well-being of the global financial markets. There are clear lessons from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, in my view, the crash of Lehman Brother probably saved the global financial markets. The reason being, before the Lehman event, the policy makers were quite complacent. In fact, they were caught napping.
My sincere hope is that, the governments in the developed won’t be called out for their initial response to the crisis. So in way, the tragedy unfolding in Italy is probably the Lehman event for the governments, in terms of corona virus related pandemic. Countries in the developed didn’t really learn much from China’s experience. I believe, a solid response for combating the pandemic will have to consist of whole-of-the-Govt and whole-of-the- society including the global financial markets. And that’s why, personally I am in favour of suspending the stock markets for a period of two – three weeks, so all the focus could then be deployed on combating the pandemic, and keeping people safe. Without people, there will be no nation, economy or financial markets for that matter. Also people will have to be given tangible relief, in terms of helping them manage their expenses and loss of income, and here financial institutions as well as utility companies can help by being more pragmatic.
Also technology will have to play a key role in helping us create and conceive faster response. I believe genetic profiling of the population will become a necessity, so the most vulnerable in the society could be given immediate priority, in case of a future pandemic or virus, and therefore get ahead or stay head of the crisis.
We also need to sustainably fund agencies looking after public health and well-being. This is why public health should be embedded as a key priority in the whole of the government function and agencies, and policy makers including of the central banks will need to give public health, the same priority as they would give to economic and financial stability of the global economic system.
As a society, we will need to revisit our priorities. For example, we pay our scientists peanuts, and worship sports stars and actors. There is nothing inherently wrong in that. But the reason why I say this is, if not for scientists, where would we be today ? We never hesitate donating to our religious franchises, but we are not that generous when it comes to donating an organisation that supports the development of science.
Humans always intrigue me, I know I am my biggest project and also the biggest investment. I look forward to seeing how my fellow beings react to this global pandemic- the Corona Virus. I must add that, what I have seen so far has been quite predictable. But I am hopeful and to an extent also certain that, the virus will teach us all a lesson or two, so let’s see. This is one of the reasons why I decided to conceive this piece also. I hope, we can get a genuine conversation going.