Blog: A Pandemic Plateau is False Comfort

by David Harries, May 5, 2020


Suddenly, and now for nearly two months, everyone on earth knows what the issue is: COVID -19. The massive majority of humanity were given no choice but to ‘know’ they had to do everything they could to deal with a deadly powerful and fast-spreading virus. Even the science deniers who ‘knew’ the virus was nothing to be concerned about – an almost identical group is denying humanity-driven climate change – were nevertheless forced to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to demonstrate their genius in the face of criticism of their outlier-ism.

Now there is news of ‘a plateau’, of ‘curves flattening’, of defences being successful. There are still hot spots – Russia, Latin America and Africa may yet host hundreds of them. But more and more countries and their states and provinces are now planning and preparing for the winding-down of the restrictions that have attacked well-being, worsened inequality, hammered employment, ramped up domestic violence, and shuttered virtually every event at which more than a handful gathered.

This relaxation is not necessarily good news, and not only because of the few publicly known re-opening screw-ups; e.g. Georgia, USA, and the fast-fading of apparent early success due to national blindness i.e., Singapore which forgot about foreign worker dormitories. The most demanding and damaging times for the majority of people probably are ahead of ‘us’. Most sensible people know that opening a door that was rapidly and forcefully shut to prevent what is on the other side from escaping must be done much more carefully than closing it and with preparations in place that can continue to contain the ‘enemy’ behind.

The bad news about the immediate future is a combination of three facts:

  1. No one is sure what to do next, and then after next, depending on how successful ‘next’ is.
  2. Globalization is not only no match for COVID 19, but, as structured and operating until now, it both obstructs needed efforts to handle a global pandemic, and reinforces characteristics that make the pandemic powerful and fast-spreading. Globalization has been exposed by the pandemic as a rag-tag patch-work of disconnected and contradictory and sometimes conflicting, social, political, financial, ethical, technological and religious ways and means. The collective appropriateness and effectiveness of this patch-work in promoting a post-pandemic world is, most kindly, uncertain, and more realistically close to nil.
  3. Globalization also fails because there is no organization with a global remit or focus that has offered other than repeated and plaintive calls for cooperation and coordination; calls that not one of them has the wherewithal to tangibly answer. And as for states lead the struggle against COVID-19, the US and the UK, usual candidates and ranked #1 and #2 in Health Security in 2019, are, at time of writing, #1 and #2 in deaths from the virus.

What next, and after next, indeed? Is the genius –stable, or not – who knows what to in the wings?