There is going to be a lot of pain over the next 18 months, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
I remember asking myself last year on September the eleventh, when is the next world changing moment going to happen? I didn’t have to wait long. I’m 32, and nothing in my life time has impacted the world like COVID-19. Unfortunately, things are going to get a lot worse over the coming months as nations try and adapt health care systems that are not equipped to deal with the millions of new cases that are likely to come.
Beyond the sheer number of deaths this virus will bring, there will no doubt be significant impacts to the global status, as nations break away from multilateralism in favour of strengthening their own domestic supply chains. Small nations with poor health care systems will find themselves more susceptible to strong arm politics and will likely accept unfavourable loans and agreements. China will no doubt see this as an opportunity to close the gap with the Unites States as it vies for the coveted World Leader status. With such dark days ahead of us, what then could the benefits be?
COVID-19 has shown us that when forced to, world leaders can make drastic decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens, even when those decisions come at great economic cost. This behaviour is absolutely necessary to combat climate change, but it has been previously difficult to mobilise world leaders to act in the immediate term when the eventual disaster is well beyond their time in office. In responding to COVID-19, world leaders have now written into policy many avenues that could also be used for combating climate change. It should therefore be easier to execute similar policies again, that is if we can convince leaders to weigh both the long and short term consequences equally.
Here in Australia, the Government made the decision to fully subsidise childcare. While this policy was written in a bid to save the economy, it has drawn attention to a social issue that parents have been struggling with for decades. When the Government does lift the current restrictions, it will need to make the decision to force parents to once again pay for childcare. They may find this harder to do now that they’ve designated childcare as ‘essential’. If we can retain this policy beyond COVID-19, we will be reducing a significant financial burden experienced by many Australian families. The high cost of childcare forces women to choose between staying home with their children or returning to their careers, albeit with limited financial benefit to their family. If we are able to convince politicians to keep this policy in place, we will achieve a major step forward for gender equality, which is a key reason why the Government will find it hard to step it back.
If you are anything like me, you have only just learned how to properly clean your hands. COVID-19 has, by sheer necessity, forced people all around the world to learn proper hygiene methods. These newly learned behaviours will hopefully have become indoctrinated in many people by the time we are able to get the virus under control. The spread of other common viruses like influenza, which kills approximately 400,000 people each year, will hopefully be reduced in the coming years as a result.
A key reasons this virus spread so quickly was that until now, the modern world has not been tested with a true pandemic. Many nations under appreciated the severity of the virus, as politicians quickly compared it to previous epidemic like Ebola and Bird Flu, which were able to be contained and therefore did not pose the same level of risk. Accusations have also been made that many of the nations that were affected early, misrepresented their number of cases and deaths, which also impacted how Government’s assessed the risk level of COVID-19. Having now dealt with a true world wide pandemic in the modern age, and seen first hand the damage it can do, future Governments will not be so quick to dismiss the threats posed by new epidemics. Governments will also view the statistics coming out of other countries with a healthy level of scepticism, resulting in them taking the threat more seriously. By learning from these key mistakes, the world should be better placed when the next pandemic occurs, where quick intervention is essential in containing the virus.
Companies have been forced to adapt in this new COVID-19 era, and find innovative ways to allow their staff to work from home or facing doing business without them. Having made these changes out of necessity, companies will soon realise that in many situations, employees can work from home and are often more efficient when given the opportunity. Once restrictions are lifted, business owners will also be looking at what efficiencies they can introduce in order to survive a COVID-19 recession. As many have now introduced new technologies that allow their staff to just as effectively work from home, letting them do so may just well increase overall productivity, as well as provide the opportunity to cut costs associated with leasing large office spaces. If my experience is any indicator, working from home certainly had a positive impact on my level of happiness. We may therefore find ourselves more satisfied and content with more flexible working arrangements in a post COVID-19 world.
COVID-19 will no doubt change the world. For some of us, that might mean the loss of a loved one, others might have only lost their job. The ripple effects of the virus, most of which are not well understood yet, will continue to filter through the world for many years to come. Not all of these need to be negative, though it will be up to us to learn from our previous mistakes and ensure we are better prepared for future outbreaks. There is also opportunity here. Opportunity to repaint the canvas and shape the world we want to live in.