The Cheat Sheet

Welcoming the post-Covid world

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on July 22, 2020 Published on July 22, 2020

Ha, that was fast!

Oh, why?

You seem very optimistic that there is going to be a post-Covid world!

There is going to be one and many. We’re not doomed and we anchor on our hopes.

But isn’t it too early to have ‘hopes’ about a post-Covid world?

Well, as the Bard sings, “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings.”

Well, Shakespeare is not an ideal candidate to quote during Covid.

Jokes apart, I’m not being falsely optimistic. All signs point towards a recovery waiting for us in the immediate horizon. There are vaccines being developed and there is significant progress on that front. The Oxford University’s ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine is being tested on human volunteers and soon there will be mass tests in Africa and South America; China has also made significant progress on its vaccine, as reports suggest. And globally, the number of cases are coming down in geographies that were once ravaged by the coronavirus.

So, there’s hope?

Indeed there is. Science is doing its bit. The rest is up to the society. In all likelihood, we have reasons to believe that the world is pretty well prepared to live with the virus for a little longer from now, despite the fact that callous policies and careless collective behaviour are causing concerns across the world. Now there is some consensus on the fact that in the short term we will be cohabiting with the coronavirus while taking care of the weak and vulnerable and letting the able and the well-off to go about their essential affairs without hassle.

Fine, but that’s not the post-Covid world.

Agreed. But how we cohabit with Covid is going to have a telling effect on how we will build and run the post-Covid world. And in this scenario, history has some lessons for us.

Like what?

Spanish Flu throws some clues here, say historians and medical experts. The similarities between the pandemic of 1918, which many consider the deadliest in human history, are well discussed. For starters, it infected some 50 core people across the globe. Mind you, this was a third of the world’s population then. The Flu killed anywhere between two to five crore people. It started in Europe, spread to the US and parts of Asia and then became a globetrotter at will. Like today, no effective medication was available then to treat the virus. People wore masks, shut themselves out and stayed home.

So how did it end?

The Flu ended in the summer of 1919. Many of its victims died and those that were left gained immunity. It took nearly 90 years for science to figure out what was behind the deadly nature of the Flu. In 2008, scientists delineated three genes powered the Spanish Flu virus to attack and emaciate its target’s bronchial tubes and lungs and trigger bacterial pneumonia.

Ha, 90 years!

On that cue, we’re on a much stronger footing today than in 1918, when the world was going through a war. Today, there is relative peace and technology has made physical distancing much easier and science has progressed in leaps and bounds from where it stood in the early 1900s. Still, the 1918 Flu offers great learnings that can help us prepare for a post-Covid world. And one of the most important lessons is about the need to be altruistic, individually and collectively — as persons, as people, as societies and as governments.

How?

The post-Covid world will be extremely unequal given the way wealth creation has stagnated for most people in the world now. Sparing a few of the super-rich and those with reserve capital, most people are staring at blank income numbers. The UNDP’s latest estimates show that global human development (a measure that combines factors such as world’s education, health and living standards) has declined this year for the first time since the concept was developed in 1990. Several studies and reports have confirmed this impending doom. Here, governments must make sure workers, women, children and other vulnerable communities are not left in the lurch. Social security network should cover more.

How, again?

A great example is Frances Perkins. She is the architect of the New Deal that helped save America after the Great Depression. She devised robust social security and public works programmes in post-war America that helped millions of people to get out of poverty. Given that Covid-19 has exposed chinks in the public health infrastructure (even) in Europe and the US, one of the major thrust areas in the post-Covid world will be the need to enhance public health spending. Another key feature will be the dire need to go frugal in our own spending, a touch of Gandhian austerity can help there. In sum, the best vaccine that is going to help us in the post-Covid world is how compassionately we are going to take care of each other.

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Published on July 22, 2020
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