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In Grip of the Pandemic and Turmoil

In Grip of the Pandemic and Turmoil

Monday, 7 September, 2020 - 09:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

A person has no right to plunge into despair because a pandemic has invaded the world and laboratories have been late to find a cure that eliminates the incoming killer. The world has already seen more painful experiences that generated twice the number of victims.

It is early to talk about the defeat of scientific progress, because the world will always face new problems that have not been previously solved, and new epidemics with underlying secrets. It is not possible to survive without having the necessary amount of resilience in the face of surprises.

The number of Covid-19 victims is still far less than the number of those who have died in global wars caused by reckless policies and furious races of interests. Faced with the delay in responding to the new challenge, it is worth remembering that science has succeeded several times in overcoming challenges and saving millions of lives.

It is not appropriate to question the capabilities of science in finding the required answers. It is not possible to use the outbreak of a pandemic as an argument to underestimate human progress as a whole. On the other hand, one cannot underestimate the losses caused by the coronavirus onslaught on the world.

Unemployment rates are registering a continuous increase, especially amid talk that the pandemic will not leave us any time soon. The economic losses are frightening, with unprecedented figures. It is important to point to a loss - the effects of which may become evident in the coming years – that is the disruption of education worldwide and the catastrophic damage, especially in countries that do not have an infrastructure that allows them to resort to distance learning.

This flood of losses on several levels heralds widespread unrest, if the world fails to launch a serious recovery plan. Countries, which were known to be generous, might limit their aid to the less fortunate, given the losses their economies have incurred as a result of the shutdown and disruption of the business cycle.

Another aspect of the crisis haunts the world. The pandemic struck mighty auras. China, from which the virus spread, could not contain it at birth. This great power paid the price for the emergence of this killer on its soil. Were it not for the strict measures provided by the nature of the system, the “factory of the world” would have been deactivated for a longer period, with all its implications on the supply and import chains, and the availability of goods in a world of intertwining destinies.

Covid-19 struck the auras of great powers. The staggering rise in the number of deaths and infections in America has left a feeling of bitterness and disappointment. We are talking about the greatest force on Earth; about the country that has the most modern laboratories and the most prestigious universities. The pandemic has shown that there are battles that cannot be conquered quickly, even by major powers such as the United States. The pandemic shook the world’s only superpower and confused its days and possibly its electoral accounts as it entered crucial weeks without a vaccine in the markets.

It can also be said that the epidemic has disturbed the aura of Russia, which constantly reminds the world of its ability to produce hypersonic missiles that do not miss their targets.

The horror of the pandemic, however, did not ease the conflicts that preceded it. On the contrary, it contributed to the escalation of some disputes and revealed implicit intentions, as is the case with US-China relations.

The climate of the world has not changed despite the shock caused by Covid-19. The best evidence is what the eastern Mediterranean region is currently experiencing due to the race for wealth sparked by Erdogan’s insistence on imposing a new fait accompli in this region. But the clearest evidence comes from the new crisis looming between Europe and Russia due to the poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

The story is simple. Alexei Navalny is a well-known Russian blogger, writer and political activist. He does not hide his opposition to the president, and takes any opportunity to denounce what he describes as the corruption of the current era and its apparatus. He did not hesitate to describe Vladimir Putin’s party as “crooks and thieve”, who “suck the blood out of Russia…”

Despite the threats and attempts to employ the judiciary to create files incriminating him, he decided to proceed with his opposition until the end. Navalny got on the plane in Tomsk, Siberia, and was hoping to fly to Moscow. However, during the flight, he became ill and lost consciousness, so the plane had to land in another city, where he was rushed to hospital. Three days later, the authorities accepted his wife’s request to transfer him to Germany for treatment.

Before his departure, doctors in Russia denied finding any traces of poisoning in the body of the man lying in the intensive care room. But the resounding blow came from Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel personally said that the man was the victim of an attempted murder. She noted that someone “tried to silence him,” pointing to “serious questions that only the Russian government can answer, and is required to do so.”

German investigations showed that Navalny, who only had a cup of tea at the airport before the flight, was poisoned with Novichok, a chemical agent that was mentioned in 2018, when Moscow was accused of poisoning a former spy and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury. Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian. It is a chemical substance developed by the Soviet Union to have a more toxic effect than other chemical weapons.

The great powers did not learn the lesson that they were supposed to have been derived from the coronavirus pandemic, which is the need to freeze conflicts to confront the disaster of human and economic losses. That is why the world is currently living in the custody of both the pandemic and the turmoil, which have exorbitant costs.

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