How coronavirus can change the world

By Gurmukh Singh | OPINION |
  • There will be life-style changes in how people live, work and behave.
  • Economic impact can be catastrophic: some states can collapse with knock on effects leading to increase in regional conflicts.
  • There can be law and order problems as people at the fringes of society starve.
  • Yet, human loss can be environmental gain as there is slow-down of polluting human activity.

In an article, ‘Can life return to normal after Covid-19?’ (The Malay Mail, 30 March 2020), two Malaysian doctors, Amar-Singh and Lim Swee Im, predict that return to normal life as we know it, is highly unlikely.

The aftermath of Covid-19 can be compared to the consequences of World War II. Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 is found, it will take a long time to produce on a global scale.

In this process the world will only recover from the pandemic if all countries recover. Thus the global human interdependence becomes a practical reality. The Malaysian doctors conclude that there is no immediate return to the old ways. We cannot continue indefinitely with some form of lockdown. The impact of the changes forced by Covid-19 on the way we live, will be permanent.

Massive economic impact will continue to be felt for some years. Many will die from other diseases as medical facilities are taken up by Covid-19. The poor will die from starvation and suicides will increase. Human beings have to face a new post coronavirus reality and learn how to adapt to and survive this reality.

The authors list three exit strategies: 1) Countries can give up and return to normal life and allow the pandemic to spread. The capacity of the health service to treat people will be overrun, and the death toll will be enormous, but it may be relatively shorter-lived. There is no certainty that Covid-19 will not return in follow up waves of infection.

Exit strategy 2 can be segregation of old people and children/adults with chronic conditions. This is not a practical option when all aspects are considered.

Exit strategy 3 is more realistic and is to allow the virus to spread at a controlled rate while we get back to some normality in life. That is happening in most countries. However, the virus will return after we control each wave until it fades away over a period of time.

Human behaviour will need to change quite drastically due to the need for social distancing in most areas of human activity. Just think of all the places where human beings come close together – travel, sports and recreational activities, office work, education, meetings, social events, worship, public services including health and medical services etc – the list is almost endless. Innovative ways are already being found to be able to do much online from home. Thousands of office premises will be vacated! Fewer cars on roads and, maybe, more cycles? Even children should feel safer on the roads.

There will be massive advances in communications technology as more people work and shop from home. Electronic commerce will take a quantum leap. The economic impact can bring about own global consequences due to world trade interdependence. The aerospace and tourism/hospitality industries with their pyramid structures will be hit hard and may not recover for some years. Single product countries like those depending on oil can face major challenges which will need to be faced through global arrangements. There can be law and order implications.

There will be a plethora of new laws at national and international levels.

There is already a pause in the destruction of the environment due to a massive slow-down of human activity and waste. It is just possible that human beings will become more conscious of the flora and fauna and the interdependence of life on earth. Already, many are switching over to a life style which is more in consonant with nature.

The above are just some pointers to a very different world as we continue to face an uncertain future. Yet, human beings are resilient and innovative and have survived such challenges before.


Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: Click here for more details on the author.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.



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