The coronavirus pandemic has caused and continues to cause widespread economic havoc to everyday lives and livelihoods throughout the world.
Social distancing measures imposed in countries required all but the most essential employees to either work from home, or not to work. Governments worldwide have sought to help businesses cope in various ways by offering employment subsidies, cost subsidies, and tax payment delays.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported on the pandemic saying it has pushed economies into a Great Lockdown, which helped contain the virus and save lives, but also triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Over 75 per cent of countries are now reopening at the same time as the pandemic is intensifying in many emerging market and developing economies. Several countries have started to recover. However, in the absence of a medical solution, the strength of the recovery is highly uncertain and the impact on sectors and countries uneven.
In other words, there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will get us out of the mess we are in today. In fact, many are predicting a second and possibly third wave over the winter that will be even more deadly than the first wave of the spread of virus we are presently experiencing. Many politicians are frightened to share the truth as they worry about how people will respond to the facts.
There is good news, and a trial of the Oxford University vaccine in South Africa began in June with Wits University collaborating with the eyes of the world firmly upon Professor Adrian Hill and his team at Oxford University. Last month, the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced a $1.2 billion deal with the US government to produce 400 million doses of the unproven coronavirus vaccine first produced in Prof Hill’s Oxford lab.
Peter Daszak, a British zoologist and an expert on disease ecology, in particular zoonosis, is someone who’s done extensive research on emerging viruses and was recently interviewed by The Scientist. He said, “there’s a few clues as to why this coronavirus virus jumped, but there is a very big diversity of these coronaviruses in the wild. We’ve been looking at bats ever since the Sars outbreak, after we found that bats are the real reservoir for Sars, not civets, as was originally thought. And what we found is there’s this big diversity. We’ve found over 50 Sars-related coronaviruses in bats. The worrying thing is some of the viruses you can treat with vaccines and therapies that have been developed against Sars and it works, but with other viruses from bats, those therapeutics don’t work.”
Back to the IMF report I referred to above and they have estimated that by the end of 2021 this pandemic will have cost the world economy around $12 trillion. The truth is we are going to see a reversal of many of the gains we have made in the decades since the great depression of the 1930s. The IMF is predicting that Italy will experience an economic decline of 12.8pc with Spain and France just behind at 12.5pc. The US will decline by 8pc and in the GCC, Saudi Arabia will decline by 6.8pc.
Everyone of us wants to get back to living something close to a normal life, but without a vaccine we have to accept this coronavirus will not just magically disappear. Since lock downs started in March, we have seen people ever more reluctant to follow the coronavirus rules. We must somehow get people to behave and reduce the spread until we hopefully one day have a vaccine.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]