Social Affairs

Pandemic - Past, Present & Future

July 02, 2020

Author: Sajjad Umar

HIV/AIDS, FLU, CHOLERA, THE BLACK DEATH, PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN, ANTONINE PLAGUE. Yes, we've survived pandemics before and we will again INSHALLAH (God's Will). But, the future will not resemble the past we have known.

The Past

In the past, our ancestors were able to survive the deadly pandemics without the help of technology we currently possess. History has seen lethal, widespread diseases and plagues before, like HIV/AIDS (Peak years 2005 - 2012) that killed 36 million people worldwide. Around 30 million are still living with HIV.

There were multiple FLU pandemics. In 1968 "the Hong Kong Flu" took over 1 million lives. ASIAN FLU (1956 - 1958) resulted in 2 million casualties. The FLU in 1918 infected over one-third (500 million people) of the world ending around 40 - 50 million lives.

CHOLERA pandemic (1910 - 1911 & 1852 - 1860) took around 2 million lives. The Black Death jumped continents (Europe, Africa & Asia), ending the lives of between 75 and 200 million people.

PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN (541 - 542) with a death toll of 25 million and ANTONINE PLAGUE (165 AD) with 5 million deaths are all part of the history that humanity has survived.

The Present (2020)

Every pandemic the humanity has ever faced is now either completely neutralized or easily manageable, this is due to the advancement in technology.

Now, we are in, yet another pandemic called COVID-19 (The novel coronavirus). The virus took the entire world by surprise and spread globally at a speed we never imagined. According to the South China Morning Post, the first case of coronavirus was reported on Nov. 17, 2019. As of now (May 2020) there are more than 4.1 million confirmed cases around the globe with 282K deaths and 1.4 million recovered (current global stats).

Even though the global death rate is about 4%, COVID-19 outspread caused the world to go into isolation. This isolation is a result of, first, the newness of virus i.e. nobody is immune to the virus because nobody had the virus before late 2019. Second, is the lightening-fast speed. Within a few months, the virus has spread globally and graphs are still growing with every passing day. Another reason is, global media, COVID-19 is everywhere, on every news channel, every newspaper, and every social media platform.

The knee jerk reaction of the world to this outbreak was lockdown because there were no other options. Currently, every country is under some kind of lockdown, businesses are closed, parks are shut, no domestic or international flights and hospitals are on high alert. Governments are trying to implement social distancing by hook or crook.

But, the lockdown was a reaction, not a solution. Every country is trying to minimize the spread by implementing social distancing, because not even developed countries are ready for such a large scale outbreak. The Health system is not good enough to handle such pandemic. Take the case of ventilators: Pakistan has 2400 and it needs 10,000 more; the UK has 5900 and it direly needs 20,000; the US has 172,000 and it needs 742,000 to deal with the respiratory patients. In Italy, for every ventilator, there are four acute respiratory patients.

Side effects of Lockdown

While lockdown is very effective in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, not every country can afford lockdown for a longer period.

A developing country like Pakistan is already in the process of making SOPs for lifting the lockdown as soon as possible because Pakistan has a huge number of daily wagers that are suffering the most. Hunger is a bigger issue than any virus, the government is doing everything in their hand to support such community but that 'everything' is not enough by any means. So the country needs all the business to start ASAP so daily wagers and the poor can survive.

The service sector plays an important role in providing jobs to daily wagers, and with the lockdown in place, all service sectors are closed hence no job opportunities.

Banking systems were not ready for sudden large traffic. Every business is in a race to go online and support online payments. Resulting in the collapse or banking system in certain regions.

Fewer exports are effecting the whole ecosystem, Travel, and Tourism are affected badly. Imagine how difficult it is for a country like the Maldives; where 30% of the economy is dependent on tourism, to service in this lockdown situation.

The oil market is hit hard by the lockdown, as all local or public transport is temporarily closed hence, disrupted demand, and supply. The demand for oil is much lower than production which in return caused the crude oil market to fall below zero for the very first time.

Moreover, everybody is saving the money they have for the worse situation resulting in the lesser sale of non-essential items, affecting business in these categories (Jewelry, handicrafts, etc.).

The Future

COVID-19 will leave an impact on our entire ecosystem, many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life (Author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari).

Just like Work From the Home (WFH) system, the industry will shift from 'presence' to a 'productivity' model. Everything that can go online, will be online. Shipping and Packaging services will see exponential growth.

These tough times will change the politics and voting behavior of people. People with a clear vision for improvement in the health sector, with a focus on eliminating poverty, and having a great sense of survival will be top choices for being elected.

The education system will see improvement around the globe. COVID-19 took the medical workers and students off-guard, they were not ready for this kind of pandemic, many were not able to protect themselves from the virus. Now medical studies will include subjects on handling such large scale pandemics.

The Fearful Side

Inequality will increase at a rapid pace, business going online will result in a skill gap. Small businesses will have a tough time due to a lack of resources and budget to go fully online.

The bad condition of small businesses will result in the migration of job seekers and daily wagers to big cities (more crowded cities).

Things to learn

‘Everyone for himself and God for us all’ (George Canning in 1827) seems to be the order of the day. In a short period, it is very clear that No one is coming over to rescue anyoneChina is out to assist others only after dealing with their own people first. So the whole world should make efforts to handle such issues collectively for the sake of humanity, not for relations.

Armed conflicts must come to an end. The situation in Indian occupied Kashmir and other inhuman actions must be resolved with dialogue.

World Health Organization (WHO) must leave the act of watchdogs and lead from the front in such situations.

Some wise words at the end

Everybody has to be on the same page to survive this pandemic, follow the SOPs provided by your government, stay home, and avoid crowded places. Checkout all safety measures by visiting this link.