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What Concepts Are We to Expect in Post-COVID-19 Era?

What Concepts Are We to Expect in Post-COVID-19 Era?

Monday, 30 March, 2020 - 21:30

House-bound, a group of friends including me, have turned to Skype as an alternative means of communication, socializing and thinking about COVID-19, which has suddenly invaded lives.

Each of us has his own experiences and views about the situation; and, of course, each has his expectation of how this pandemic is going to change our concepts, beliefs, as well as our lifestyle, behavior, and social and economic priorities. However, one thing our ‘Skype gang’ is unanimous about is that the post-COVID-19 world will be something totally different from what we have known and experienced.

One example of the concepts and issues we expect to change, one way or another, is the relationship between politics and religion. Another one is what role humans are going to play in a world dominated by hi-technology and AI, and the majority of whose politicians are obsessed with our globalized economy.

Then, of course there is the future of anything related to knowledge and communication, from the field of education to media, and the radical transformation is already in motion there.

The dimensions of the ‘pandemic’ - as it is officially recognized now by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - are frightening. Indeed, after hesitating to use the term ‘epidemic’, WHO has acknowledged the reality after witnessing the astonishing increase in cases and fatalities, and the shift of its epicenter from China, to Iran and western Europe, and from there to every corner of the world.

I believe that Europe’s experience with the pandemic deserves a lot of attention for several reasons, foremost among which is that Europe has solid and transparent democracies. These democracies never hesitate to admit mistakes, and are never late in correcting them. This is not the case with China which is controlled by a policy of secrecy, a command structure mentality, and one-party rule. Neither is it case with Iran, which is a militaristic theocracy, nor the USA that currently engulfed by excessive populism in an election year whereby public health strategy has become part and parcel of electioneering and marketing.

This is why I believe that we in the Arab world need to monitor and learn from the way a badly-suffering Europe is behaving. Among the costliest mistakes the Europeans have learned from are:

1- Their hesitance in enforcing lockdowns two months after the Chinese locked down the city of Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants.

2- Being too late in carrying out tests, which are vital in knowing about the spread of infections, which would help plan quarantines and carry out treatment. Germany, perhaps, has been the exception here, with the proof being the relatively very low fatality rate compared with that of Italy.

3- Failure to adequately invest in the public health sectors, and the ongoing tendency of under-funding it.

Today, Italy’s fatalities have overtaken China’s, with Germany, Spain, France and the UK moving in the same direction lagging behind only by one or two weeks. Relatively high infection figures are being recorded too in much smaller countries like Belgium, Switzerland, and Ireland. All this means that we are going to witness an unprecedented and rapid rise in both cases and peacetime-fatalities throughout western Europe within one or two weeks.

These facts, no doubt, are very worrying; what is even more worrying are the reports coming from Italy, and those expected elsewhere, about a virtual collapse of medical service under the enormity of the pandemic.

Indeed, this collapse has led to open talk about ‘selectivity’ in saving lives, and some hospitals’ refusal to treat the elderly and those with underlying and chronic health conditions.

Furthermore, despite the late-coming curfews, lockdowns and house isolations, as well as retooling factories to start producing ventilators and other ICU equipments, the effect of the last few weeks’ delay will appear in the cases and fatalities figures of the next three months. This is why the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was talking about around 12 weeks before any improvement becomes evident.

This data definitely points to inevitable changes.

Regarding the relationship between politics and religion, some believe that the aura enjoyed by religious establishments – of all major religions – above any other consideration, is almost gone. They argue that putting peoples’ lives above classical everyday worship is a sign of rationalism and realism that would save religions from excessive ritualism. The counter-argument by others would claim that science failed in the past, and has also failed now to prevent this pandemic.

As for the relationship between the private and public sectors, there was an interesting article last week by the London-based staunchly conservative Daily Telegraph in which it said that to avoid socialism, the government must be a socialist for a while to save the liberal free market!

This came in the wake of the generous relief and compensation package announced by the British government for those who are threatened with losing their income as a result of the repercussions of the pandemic. This package recalls the quasi-nationalization measures taken by US President GW Bush administration during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The Western countries have since moved on, and seem to have forgotten what happened in 2007-2008; which is why they have re-elected right-wing leaderships promising better times and low taxes. Well these countries are now facing COVID-19 which is costing them times and times over what they would be spending their tax money on health infrastructures and investment in scientific research.

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