Much has been written about the negative economic and social impacts of coronavirus, which cannot be denied. Parallels have been drawn between the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the great depression of 1929. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have devastating consequences for economies around the world. However, some positives may come out of the current situation.
Most of us are locked in our homes, holed up with family members for durations longer than we are used to. Even as we transit to working or studying from home, the humdrum busy-ness that envelopes our lives has abruptly ceased. No Monday morning scrambles, no traffic snarls, no have-to-go-here, have-to-buy-that. Life suddenly is stripped to its essentials. We need to cook, clean, eat and sleep. Those who are fortunate to have the luxury of working online, continue to plod away at screens. We try to keep kids engaged with online and offline activities. The new-normal that we are trying to maintain is unsettling, in troubling and cathartic ways.
Unnerving because we really don’t know what tomorrow will be like. Despite models and predictions by epidemiologists, global health experts and policy wonks, nobody is certain what tidings we might wake up to or when. Though most of us are at home, the very familiarity of our environment increases our disquiet. Our new routines are unfamiliar to us. Apparently, for humans, living with uncertainty is harder than living with pain. According to writer and psychotherapist, Bryan Robinson, participants in an experiment who were told they would definitely receive a painful electric shock were calmer than those who were told that they had a 50% chance of receiving one. Our brains, argues, are wired to equate uncertainty with danger.
First, as universities have been desperately trying to turn to online education in the wake of widespread lockdown, it will become a permanent feature of our education system. Major universities in the developed world were already investing a huge amount of funds in developing e-learning platforms to offer the increasing number of online courses; this trend will be immensely followed by the rest of the world to cater for any other shock happening in the future. This will not only provide unprecedented access to large segments of society that were neglected before, such as those with restricted access to university campuses (i.e., physically disabled), working professionals and people with limited resources but will also improve social welfare, especially in the resource-constrained economies.
Second, the lockdown will provide a further impetus to the already growing share of online trade/e-commerce around the world. Much of this impact will also be felt in developing countries that were lagging behind the advanced economies. According to the latest e-commerce statistics, the share of online trade is currently about 2.4 trillion USD (https://www.statista.com/outlook/243/100/ecommerce/worldwide), which is set to increase tremendously in the coming years. The number of users in the e-commerce market is expected to increase to more than 5 billion users by 2024, which will be more than 60% of the projected world population of around 8 billion people(https://www.populationpyramid.net/world/2025/) in the same period. This implies that virtually every one of us will be exposed to online trade in the future. This will create enormous opportunities in the area of e-commerce and will offset some of the negative consequences of COVID-19 on the employment numbers around the world. Remember, most online businesses have survived amid the COVID-19 lockdown. Amazon even went for a hiring spree of 100,000 more workers in the US to meet the rising demand of online shoppers during the crisis.
Third, the focus of the developing world in particular and mature economies, in general, will change from implementing large scale infrastructure projects to build and expand the capacity to scale up health services. This will also propel growth in indigenous research and development activities in the medical science. One example of such activities can be seen in countries like India and Pakistan where many research groups of multidisciplinary areas have rushed to develop medical equipment such as ventilators and surgical masks in the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis. These solutions are aimed to be more affordable and robust for the developing countries, which will also help such countries to improve public health facilities to withstand any future pandemic or natural disaster. COVID-19 has also given rise to more open-source medical engineering solutions and has brought professionals from different disciplines and countries together, a trend that is set to continue and will have a positive impact on the R&D efforts, especially in the less developed countries.
Fourth, the COVID-19 has had such a huge impact on our environment that greenhouse gas emissions in Europe – for example – which has been most severely hit by coronavirus, will drop by 24.4 percent in 2020 because of the lockdown. As the world comes to realise that many of our businesses can continue through remote work, which may even be more time-efficient and less stressful for employees – the trend to work from home will continue to grow even after we are done with COVID-19. This will give a much-needed breathing space to our earth by reducing the commuting to work, among other things. If this trend continues, it would also reduce the number of road accidents globally. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 3,700 people are killed every day around the world in road traffic accidents (https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/global-road safety/index.html). On average – one month of lockdown will have saved about 110,000 lives worldwide that could have otherwise been lost due to such accidents.
Fifth, due to some initial disruptions in the global supply chain during the initial phase of COVID-19 in China, countries will focus on developing local capabilities to ensure the sustained supply of essential items to cope with such shocks in the future. This will be detrimental to globalisation, but we were already seeing the rise of nationalistic policies and the rise of far-right politics around the world. The current episode of coronavirus will only strengthen the resolve of inward-looking policymakers. Nevertheless, this may result in the re-birth of some local industries that will give much due boost to national employment statistics around the globe. Moreover, once the coronavirus is gone, people that will have survived through thick and thin will bind together better and it will bring a sense of renewed nationalism.
Finally, as most of the fatalities have been among the elderly people – a very upsetting fact though – it will nevertheless reduce the burden on the pension payments especially in much of the European nations that were already struggling with aging population problems. This will also result in a reduced burden on health care facilities in the post-coronavirus period.
Let us hope and pray that the current episode of COVID-19 will be over soon and life will get back to normal. A debate has already started as to which economies will rebound first once the current pandemic is over (http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200405-covid-19-how-global-economies-will-recover-from-coronavirus). There are already some positive signs that peak might already be over in some countries. If we stand united, let there be no doubt that humanity will win over the disease and we will have a big smile again.
My personal conclusion:
I do believe however that the Flue was more dangerous than this current COVID-19 pandemic.
I cannot believe that people could be so naive about this and at this moment the world stand still, now we have to see to get it back spinning again with all consequences and lots of companies’ wo will be bankrupt, even more people will be unemployed and only because world leaders made COVID-19 an external enemy! And yes, I do see the risk of it but not convinced about the measurements taken by World leaders. For example; Aviation will be impacted tremendously and I believe that traveling will be having a complete other experience as ever before.
Stay safe and in good health, let’s see what the near future will bring to us.